Today was supposed to be a day off for the Napoli squad as they work their way through a congested period in their match schedule. Thanks to a poor run of form in the league filled with mistakes, however, Rafa Benitez has elected to cancel that day off so that the players can put in extra work focused on correcting their flaws.
The sessions today reportedly included a focus on tactical shape, support, and possession, as well as a series of situationally-focused mini-matches on a smaller field. Rafa also held the squad back at the end of the training sessions for almost an hour of extra time to go over video of mistakes made during the Palermo match to help try and illustrate and bring focus to what needs to be changed.
La Gazzetta dello Sport is reporting that the mood is dark at the Castel Volturno, though interviews given by Gonzalo Higuain, Marek Hamsik and other players over the last couple of days would suggest that while things might not have the rosy glow of happiness right now, the squad is merely focused on the task at hand.
La Gazzetta and other Italian news outlets have been quick to blame Rafa's trip home to Liverpool during the last international break for leaving the squad "confused and uncertain," but that seems to be reaching desperately for more reasons to blame Rafa for Napoli's failures this season. The fact is that Rafa's wife and children live in Liverpool year 'round, and that he made several trips back home during international breaks last season with no apparent ill effects or even note from the press. This season, though, things are being put under the microscope more as people point fingers every which-way.
Truth is, while Rafa's done a lot in terms of match-day decisions to make things harder on Napoli this season (hi there, Walter Gargano!), there are few managers better suited to leading the work needed in training to get Napoli out of the hole they've dug for themselves. His discipline, knowledge, and drive to succeed is exactly what's needed to get the best result out of this situation, as long as the players buy in to what needs to be done. Given that there's been little to no sign of the players switching off from Rafa's methods, things should start looking up soon.