Napoli have been on an incredible run since they got their season turned around in late September, winning 13 of their last 15 matches with a stellar defensive record and impressively consistent play in midfield and the attack. They've arguably been the best team in Italy over the last two months, and they can cement that status with a win over Inter Milan on Monday. Napoli have been so good, in fact, that their quality has caught Marek Hamsik by surprise.
"I honestly didn't expect Napoli to be this successful," Hamsik said in an interview after their 1-0 win over Club Brugge. "Although there was some good material to work with last season." That latter remark would seem to be yet another thinly-veiled barb at Rafa Benitez, something he works in during seemingly every interview this season.
Still, though, it's easy to agree with his larger point. Napoli certainly had a number of talented players coming into this season, but with an untested manager and a squad that many were unsure of, hopes weren't exactly high. Those hopes sank even lower when Napoli got off to a terrible start, losing their first match and drawing their next two to considerably lesser opposition.
Then they got rolling, and good lord have they been impressive since then. Hamsik has been impressive as well -- while his two goals and three assists this season aren't incredibly impressive numbers in and of themselves, there's little doubting that his performances have been vital to Napoli's successes. Aside from a brief downturn in form a few weeks ago that looks linked to fatigue, Hamsik has been a key part to building Napoli's attack, linking play, driving play into the box, and using his runs from deeper in midfield to keep defenses off balance.
That quality is a big part of why Napoli are in the scudetto chase right now, something Hamsik believes Napoli can stay in the thick of all season. "We can believe [in the scudetto] if we continue to play well," he said. "There’s a very long way to go, so we can’t say, but if the results arrive and we keep playing like this, then we can believe in the title."
Suffice it to say, it would fulfill the dreams of players and fans alike if the season ends with Hamsik lifting the Serie A trophy high above his head. Napoli have certainly been putting in the work to make that a possibility this season -- let's hope they can keep it up.