It's been a hell of a year. 2014 brought wins, losses, trophies, disappointment, players in, players out, cheer, and heartbreak. With 2015 almost here, it's time to sit back and take a look at what we've done.
Since this is a blog, a place where things are written and read, it seems the most poignant way to take that look back is to pull up some of our favorite stories of the year. Memories of big wins, deep looks at games or players, silly moments, tender moments, and somber moments. We've covered a lot of ground this year. Let's take a look at what was on the path.
While Napoli's form suffered and losses mounted at times during the year, fans have gotten to celebrate some truly epic wins. In March, with the end of the season approaching at a screaming pace, Napoli rose up and stole the walker out from under the Old Lady, beating Juventus 2-0 in a match that they controlled from start to finish. That victory also ultimately helped to herald the eventual departure of Antonio Conte from Juventus, so you're welcome for that, Italy.
May brought us the Coppa Italia final, where Napoli rose to the occasion and won the Coppa Italia trophy after the chaos and violence that preceded the match. There was so much emotion running all over the place that trying to process it all was virtually impossible, but the end result was the same: Napoli players lifting the trophy in wild celebration.
That wasn't the only trophy win Napoli would celebrate this year. Despite the new season's many frustrations, Napoli went blow-for-blow with Juventus in the Supercoppa Italiana, overcoming goals that could easily have crushed the confidence and belief of a lesser side. They fought all the way through penalties and emerged victorious, lifting another trophy high in the air and leaving Qatar with another notch in their belt and swagger in their step heading in to the winter break.
Of course, with big matches comes analysis, both of the matches and of the players in them. The most fascinating match Napoli had to break down all season was the one that put them in to the Coppa Italia final, when they overcame a 3-2 first leg loss against Roma and absolutely humbled the Romans at the San Paolo in the second leg of the semi-final. Pulling apart the plans, tactics, and vision that lead to that victory was so much fun, because you could see the masterwork of planning behind it.
Watching players rise from unknowns to being vital is a treat too, as we saw with Jorginho and Kalidou Koulibaly. One became a vital cog in midfield, the other a monstrous force in defense. Without them, Napoli aren't the team they are today. Of course, sometimes we have to defend players from an overabundance of criticism, such as poor Rafael Cabral, who is a fantastic goalkeeper despite the negative impression too many people have of him.
There's also off-field things to analyze as well. Finances are a huge part of how football teams operate, especially with the specter of Financial Fair Play looming over clubs these days. A friend of the site happens to have his finger on the pulse of Napoli's financial state, and gave us a fantastic breakdown of why spending was so limited in the summer transfer window.
Also, if you want to read the best damn writing on this site all year, look no farther than Kirsten's take on why Diego Maradona will never be eclipsed by Lionel Messi in Naples.
The Laughs and Fun and Awwwww
Of course, we aren't always so serious. We like to have fun, too! Like when a player takes the boring way out of questions about his old boss, we don't just get disappointed and kick grass over not getting juicy quotes to write about. No, instead we make crap up for your enjoyment. Even when things get a little emotional and someone starts crying, we find it's best to crack jokes to lighten the mood. Once we're sure the crying wasn't because someone was a jerk, that is.
There's some tender moments, too, like when Dries Mertens gave a heartfelt interview this summer. He made it clear that he had fallen head-over-heels in love with the city, going so far as to declare that he wants to adopt a child from Naples. Even once players are gone, their returns to the city are often heartfelt, so much so that even the mighty Edinson Cavani was afraid he'd be left in tears when he returned to the San Paolo.