There's no skating around this topic: this season for Napoli has been bad. It's been brutal. It's been tough to take. Right from the very get-go, Napoli have disappointed far more often than they've amazed. To some extent, you can blame poor luck, but eventually, you've got to start pointing fingers, and when it comes to Napoli, most of those fingers are pointed at manager Rafa Benitez.
Recently, we got a report that Aurelio De Laurentiis had decided he'd had just about enough, and that comes in the form of the ultimatum delivered last weekend: win the next three matches or else. The first match after that declaration went brilliantly, with Napoli pounding Hellas Verona by a 6-2 scoreline that easily could have been even more tilted. On Wednesday, though, the inevitable happened: Napoli dropped points, only managing a draw against Atalanta despite dominating the flow of the match.
So now Napoli fans are faced with a pair of questions: will De Laurentiis fire Rafa before the Roma match this weekend? Does Rafa deserve to be fired?
The answer to both: maybe.
Frankly, firing Rafa before as big a match as the Roma tie seems like a mistake. It would take a match that Napoli are already likely to struggle in (Roma being very very good and all), and making it almost certain that they'd lose while the team struggles in disarray. The timing is just all wrong, especially as there's really no good candidate to replace Rafa right now.
Roberto Mancini is on the market, but he's overrated as a manager and probably wouldn't join Napoli anyways, especially since he seems to have an eye to replace Walter Mazzarri at Inter. Mazzarri is highly unlikely to return, at least as long as ADL is in charge of the show in Naples. Fabio Pecchia is a good assistant, but his record as a manager leaves much to be desired.
There's also the aforementioned luck factor. Look, Rafa's made mistakes this season. His players have made mistakes. There's been some moments when poor preparation have been apparent. But for all that, if Napoli's luck was just a little bit better, their season would look a whole lot better than it does today.
In the Champions League playoff, Napoli drew the one team that was actually likely to beat them, and sure enough Athletic Bilbao whipped the partenopei. Against Chievo Verona, Napoli dominated the run of play, then gave up a fluky goal to lose the match. Ditto against Udinese. Just one extra moment of awareness of bounce in Napoli's favor turns either the Palermo or Inter Milan draws in to wins. If even half those things go Napoli's way, we're talking about how successful this season has been instead of whether or not Rafa should stay on.
So should Rafa go? Maybe. There's certainly plenty of reason to toss him to the curb. but whether or not that will actually help the team for the rest of the season is a massive gray area at best. And really, isn't doing the best thing for the club what we all want?