Since the end of September, Napoli have managed to keep just one clean sheet in the eight matches they’ve played, a run of poor defensive form that includes all four losses the team has suffered this season. While many fans have been quick to judge the defensive tactics employed by manager Maurizio Sarri, veteran defender Christian Maggio has another theory.
We’ve been on a poor run of form, but if we analyse every match, it’d show that there have been more individual mistakes than anything else. At a team level, we’ve always done well. Over the space of a year, there can be times when things go wrong, but it’ll pass.
Albiol is close to returning. Raul’s an important player for our defense. Since he’s been gone, we’ve been a little less [sharp than usual], but I don’t know if this has been due to his absence or our carelessness.
-Translated quote source: Football Italia
It would be easy — and not at all unfair -- to refute what Maggio is saying by pointing out that he makes a handful of those individual errors every time he steps on the pitch, but he’s also not wrong. Most of the problems we’ve seen from Napoli’s back line lately are moments of individual hesitations, mis-steps, and other errors, rather than issues with Sarri’s general tactics, which have served Napoli well in defense more than they’ve hurt they team.
The problem with that theory, though, is that when the individual mistakes pile up despite the tactics seeming to work, one has to start wondering if there’s something going on with the team’s training that’s leading to so many miscues. Maybe something isn’t being drilled right, or communication is breaking down, or whatever else, but something is going on that’s leading to a huge spike in these errors.
And while it’s easy to say “well Albiol is coming back that will fix everything,” don’t get your hopes up too high. Given the injury he suffered and the amount of time he was out, it will take some time for the veteran Spaniard to get back up to speed — and it’s not as though he was immune to the error train. There’s a reason Napoli fans were happy to see Nikola Maksimovic and Lorenzo Tonelli signed this summer, after all.
Regardless, hopefully Napoli can get to the bottom of the cause of these errors soon, because the sooner the defense can get back in form, the sooner the rest of the team can start playing to the level they’re capable of again.