There haven't been many disappointments for Napoli this season, but one of them has to be Manolo Gabbiadini's lack of impact. He joined the team in January of last season and came in roaring, helping prop up an ailing Napoli attack and making a huge impression on the team. This season, though, his opportunities have mostly been limited to substitute appearances and sporadic starts, and his form has suffered for it.
While it's unfortunate, there are perfectly reasonable causes for Gabbiadini to not play as much as he did last year. When Napoli switched to a 4-3-3, it removed the most likely place for Maurizio Sarri to employ him, especially when Gonzalo Higuain hit the divine form that's seen him score a club record tying 29 goals so far this season. Gabbiadini could have been used as a wide forward on the right, but with no other center forward options to serve as a reserve for Higuain and with Sarri valuing with defensive workrate of Jose Callejon on the right, there was precious little opportunity for Gabbiadini outside of the Europa League.
With Napoli out of the continental competition, though, the Italian's minutes have dried up, and the rumor rags have been trying to push a story of a frustrated player trying to force his way out. In spite of that, though, Sarri showed faith in Gabbiadini against Genoa before the international break, giving him more significant minutes off the bench -- and by playing him on the wing, instead of as a central striker, a role he's struggled in recently. Gabbiadini rewarded that faith with a storming performance, creating several dangerous chances for himself and others, including setting up Omar El Kaddouri's stoppage time goal with a gorgeous pass.
That performance brought back memories of what Gabbiadini was doing this time last season, and apparently Sarri liked what he saw -- enough that he's reportedly considering giving Gabbiadini the starting nod out wide against Udinese next weekend. It would be good to see Gabbiadini get the chance to thrive again, especially with Callejon's form sagging in recent weeks, and if he he can keep his performance level high, it would be a huge boost to Napoli's chances in the scudetto chase. That little bit of tactical diversity, the different look Gabbiadini gives on the right compared to Callejon, might be just the spark Napoli need right now.
Hopefully Gabbiadini does get the start, and hopefully it turns out well. It'd be wonderful to see Gabbiadini playing well again, and him improving Napoli's chances of winning the title would be a huge benefit as well. Fingers crossed.