Napoli needed a win, and they didn't get one. A point away to Fiorentina isn't a bad result, but Napoli could and should have done better, but could only manage a 1-1 draw after a blistering start turned into both teams scrambling desperately and coming up with nothing.
The match got off to a frantic start that quickly turned disastrous for Napoli, with a bad breakdown in their defending of a corner that gifted a goal to Marcos Alonso just six minutes into the match. Their response, however, was absolutely magnificent -- pushing hard off the restart, Kalidou Koulibaly looped a high ball over the top that Fiorentina responded poorly to. Alonso headed the ball down right in front of Gonzalo Higuain, who didn't even blink before rifling his shot home past a diving Ciprian Tatarusanu.
That was all of 45 seconds after Fiorentina went up. The pace was high, the chaos was extreme, and things looked set for a wild, exciting game.
Too bad we didn't get one.
Neutrals probably enjoyed the hell out of it, but Napoli and Fiorentina fans were left frustrated. Fiorentina couldn't get their shots to not hit the bar, and Napoli struggled to get shots at all. When they did, Tatarusanu was on point again and again, including a wildly impressive double save late in the match that kept Napoli from scoring a winner.
The rest of the time, though ... ugh. Remember that "sound of flatulence" reference that I've been making in recaps lately? We got more of that.
Napoli gave up the ball too much, and were incredibly wasteful when they did have it. Fiorentina weren't any better. This match was ripe for a single huge goal to give the three points to either side, and while both teams were plenty interested in scoring it, neither could pull it off.
It stunk, in other words.
Napoli had to win. They had to. Juventus are threatening to pull away. Roma are catching up. This skid in form has to stop, but Napoli couldn't do it. Were there things that were better in this match than they were in the last four? Sure. Marek Hamsik looked better than he has in awhile. Raul Albiol too. But there were still half a dozen players showing a clear decline in their form, and Maurizio Sarri's responses through subs were ... not stellar.
Case in point? Jose Callejon went down in the first half with a leg injury, and though he popped back up shortly after and kept working hard, it was clear that something wasn't right. He'd lost a gear and couldn't push as hard to reposition as he normally does, and that cost Napoli several times during the match. He was eventually taken off for Dries Mertens in the 77th minute -- but that was at least 40 minutes after it was clear that something was wrong, and was too late for Mertens to make a major impact in the match.
That's becoming a pattern, and it's getting old.
Napoli have to play better, and they need to start playing better now. Their next match is against Chievo, which is probably a good thing, but it doesn't change that Napoli need to pick up the pace and get a hell of a lot better than they've been.
February sucked. Let's leave it in February and start kicking asses and taking names again in March.
On to the next.
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Jorginho, Hamsik; Callejon (Mertens 77'), Higuain (Gabbiadini 90'), Insigne
Goal: Higuain (7')
Fiorentina: Tatarusanu; Roncaglia, Rodriguez, Astori, Alonso; Vecino, Badelj; Tello, Borja, Fernandez; Kalinić
Goal: Alonso (6')