Rafa Benitez recently referred to Napoli's training retreat in mid-April as "unnecessary" and something that "only angered the players." Interviews with a number of players during and after the retreat put the lie to second point, and now the club's play seems to be proving the manager's first point wrong as well.
Let's take a quick look at the numbers:
- Durung the almost two-week retreat, Napoli played three matches. Two were on the road, one was at home. They won all three matches, scoring a combined ten goals and surrendering just one, for a plus-nine goal differential.
- In the week and a half since ritiro ended, Napoli have played three more matches. Two have been at home, and one was on the road. They've won one match, drawn one, and lost one. They have scored eight goals and given up eight, for a goal differential of zero.
- The strength of opposition during the two three-game periods are roughly similar. They played Wolfsburg in each period, with one match against a challenger for fifth place and one against a team in or near the relegation zone.
Those numbers paint a pretty stark picture. Even beyond the simple stats, looking at the quality and style of play on the pitch, you can see a noticeable difference. During the retreat, Napoli were sharp, organized, and aggressive. Since then, they've slowly morphed back in to the nebulous, sloppy side with every player on a different page than the rest.
Maybe, just maybe, the retreat had a positive effect after all. Who'd have imagined it? Certainly not Rafa.