Napoli are celebrating a win in their return to the Champions League, an important 2-1 triumph over Dynamo Kyiv in Ukraine — but they aren’t celebrating too hard, because neither Maurizio Sarri nor his players are not satisfied with their performance on Tuesday.
We played well in fits and starts, but I really don’t like that. I got the feeling some players were a little over-awed with the occasion.
There were a few more errors than usual, hopefully down to the emotion and tension of such an important match.
After taking the lead, we remained in the perennial uncertainty between wanting to finish it off or control the lead. We discussed it in the locker room and I am happy that they see it the same way I do – they weren’t very happy with the performance.
-Translated quote source: Football Italia
While it’s easy to just look at the final score and be thrilled with the win, it’s good to see that Sarri and company aren’t happy with their imperfect performance. There were a number of sloppy moments that nearly cost Napoli dearly, and despite the strong overall team performance, not everything was sunshine and roses.
Of particular concerns were the struggles of Dries Mertens and Raul Albiol, both of whom had team-based and individual woes on the day. If we’re putting it kindly, Mertens struggled to link up with his fellow attackers all match long. To put it bluntly, he mis-placed almost every pass, forcing Arek Milik and Marek Hamsik and Jose Callejon to abandon their runs or ideal positions to race over to collect the ball in a much worse place. He had finishing woes as well, like when he took a close-range shot that would have made the match 3-1 and hammered it off the post instead.
Albiol was partly at fault for Dynamo’s lone goal in the match, losing his mark far too easily to a fairly straightforward move -- which was problem in the end because his mark was Denis Garmash, who scored off a cross from Andriy Yarmolenko. Albiol also struggled with the ball at his feet, with more than a few shaky passes that Napoli could have been punished for.
Otherwise, the bigger concerns were mostly just the moments of inconsistency that Sarri was worried about, especially from the younger players who have never been in the Champions League before. They got steadily better on that front as the match went on, though, and the most encouraging part was how they responded to going down and found a way forward.
As long as Napoli learn and apply their lessons against the other teams in the group, especially in their road matches, they should be just fine. But first let’s see how well they learned those lessons before we get too cocky.