The bad news from the Manchester City match has only gotten worse for Napoli and their fans: Faouzi Ghoulam has been diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, and has been scheduled for surgery on Friday morning.
Ghoulam is expected to miss at least four months of action, putting him back in the lineup in early March if everything goes well with his rehabilitation. ACL injuries aren’t the season-ender and year-plus absence that it used to be — advances in surgical procedures and rehabilitation processes have dramatically sped up the timeline.
But Napoli have a lot of mixed recent experience with ACL injuries — Lorenzo Insigne missed four and a half months with an ACL teal several years ago, and Arkadiusz Milik missed about the same amount of time a year ago. However, it took Insigne several months before he looked like his old self again, and Milik was only just starting to look like himself again almost a full year after his injury before he got hurt again.
How Ghoulam bounces back will be of great concern to Napoli, who have been enjoying the fruits of his excellent season thus far. The Algerian left back has been a lockdown presence in Napoli’s defense this season, but more importantly he’s been a key part of Napoli’s attack, helping create many of Napoli’s goals during their blistering start to the campaign.
This injury is going to sorely test Napoli’s depth in the coming months, who will have to turn to Mario Rui as the full-time starter at left back while Ghoulam is out. Rui has seen the pitch just once this season in a substitute appearance that lasted all of three minutes, so we don’t really have a feel for how well he’ll fit in, but his past suggests that he’s a step down defensively and a big step down in attacking play compared to Ghoulam. Napoli also now have no fullback depth, with only Christian Maggio sitting in reserve now. That’s far from an ideal situation, and we might just get to find out how well Nikola Maksimovic and Vlad Chiriches can still play at fullback before long.
Hopefully things work out and Ghoulam comes back fit and firing. In the meantime — let’s just hope Napoli don’t miss him too much.