It's been a tough season for Lorenzo Insigne. Pushed out from his natural second striker position to the wing, the local-boy-made-good spent a long time struggling to adapt to the new system brought in by Rafa Benitez. There have been long periods of underwhelming play, and while he's been much better of late, Insigne has been subject to abuse from the tifosi in the stands of the San Paolo.
Now, this far in to the season and with that discontent stacked on top of a brutal run of matches for Napoli, the negativity seems to be getting to Insigne. "Having a Neapolitan playing for Napoli should bring more love and affection," he said in an interview with Radio Kiss Kiss. "Here the fans are unusual, as they only see who scores the goals and often don’t see what players do for the team. At Napoli if you’re a striker and you don’t score, then you’re nobody. I work so hard and sacrifice myself for the team, even when I don’t find the net."
While Insigne's effort certainly can't be faulted, his effectiveness in front of goal has been sorely lacking this season. Where last season he could just float in to the spaces in the defense created by the presence of one Edinson Cavani, creating danger from rebounds or switching passes, he hasn't been able to do that this season. Insigne has had to work his way in from the wing, beating not just the fullback facing him but frequently a center back or defensive mid as well. Moving in to spaces just hasn't been an option like it was, and finding ways to be effective without that has taken Insigne awhile to figure out.
Based on his appearances over the last two months or so, Insigne has figured out what he needed, but now his finishing touch has escaped him. Plenty of shots that would normally have gone in for him in the past have either been scuffed over the bar or gone in to the arms of the keeper. He's scored just twice in 31 league appearances, and while Insigne has done better in European play (three goals in ten matches), the quality on the final touch has too frequently eluded the young attacker this season.
Where Insigne has excelled despite his issues adjusting this season has been in the creation department. He actually leads the club in league assists with eight so far, and has consistently done well to pop up past the far post and center the ball for Gonzalo Higuain or Dries Mertens or Jose Callejon to capitalize on. If he can't score, at least he can contribute that way.
Unfortunately, despite that contribution and despite being a native son of Naples, Insigne has been one of the most frequent targets of the fanbase's ire this season. While he's certainly had his poor runs, that negative attention is largely undeserved, as even when Insigne hasn't played well he's rarely been a liability like some others have been with far more frequency (Valon Behrami and Christian Maggio, I'm looking at you).
Hopefully Insigne can turn around this frustration and channel it in to more positive performances down the stretch, including some goals. He deserves the reward for the tough job he's done this season, and equally deserves to have the fans off his back. Insigne is a talented young player with a bright future ahead of him, the last thing any of us need is for him to become disenchanted with the club before he finds his greatness. If his big, title-deciding goals come in another uniform, this is the moment Napoli fans can look back on and curse at.