Saturday's match brought bitter disappointment to Napoli fans, with the 1-0 loss to AS Roma coupled with other results sinking Napoli to sixth place in the table and a full nine points behind the second place club -- something that apparently surprised Rafa Benitez.
"Am I shocked to be nine points behind Roma? Yes. Our team is growing and plays good football," Benitez said in his post-match comments. Why that's suddenly a surprise is something of a mystery, as this development has been building for weeks. Napoli have been in poor form, and while Roma haven't played well themselves, they've still been able to reopen their lead on Napoli.
Benitez also mentioned that he feels his players sometimes "lack the maturity to deal with certain situations," which is true to a certain extent, but also isn't helped by some tactical decisions that he makes. Leaving Marek Hamsik on the bench all match long when Roma were set up in a way begging for his passing to exploit seems naive at best. There was so much space between Roma's center backs and fullbacks that was just aching for Marek to put balls in to for Mertens or Callejon or Gabbiadini to run on to, but instead Napoli had Jonathan De Guzman flailing around passing the ball straight to defenders over and over or running himself way out of position.
Rafa's not entirely to blame for the situation Napoli find themselves in -- repeated poor performances from several players account for a lot of it too. But Rafa's the one who keeps putting them in position to fail rather than setting the team up to succeed, so him saying that he's "shocked" at the club's fall in the standings is ... curious, at best.