Milan have a huge match this weekend, with surging Napoli coming to the San Siro to face off with Sinisa Mihajlovic's squad. Given the two teams' places in the table right now, there's a lot on the line, so we wanted to know a little bit more about Napoli's season and what to expect. Who better to ask than our sister SB Nation blog, The Siren's Song, and their managing editor Conor Dowley? We asked, he answered, and now we're sharing the results with you.
One in, one out this summer in Napoli's midfield, with Gokhan Inler leaving and Allan taking his place. What is your evaluation of Allan so far?
The Siren's Song: Allan has been nothing short of fantastic. His all-action style has been just what Napoli need a lot of the time, and he's been immensely valuable in a defensive capacity in midfield, serving as an excellent shield. The switch to a 4-3-3 from Sarri's preferred 4-3-1-2 has been the real eye-opener, though, as it's freed Allan up to join the attack with greater regularity, something it turns out he's quite excellent at. He's got a deft passing touch to help build up an attack, and he's got a real knack for that late run into the box to pounce on a rebound or pullback cross. He's been Napoli's best summer signing by a mile so far this season.
Napoli may be riding a high after beating Juventus last weekend, but is the Europa League game against Legia Warsaw this past Thursday going to have an affect on the way they approach the Milan game, or are the two days off all Napoli needed?
TSS: Such a quick turnaround, especially having to come back from Poland, will definitely be a little rough, but Napoli planned ahead for once. They rotated heavily for that match, and left three regular starters behind in Italy in Marek Hamsik, Lorenzo Insigne, and Elseid Hysaj. Gonzalo Higuain played, but only limited minutes at the end of the match, and the regular starters who went from the first whistle on Thursday are all guys who have shown the ability to start long stretches of matches before. Napoli should be fine in terms of fitness and preparation for this match.
Maurizio Sarri has been a managerial journeyman since the early 90s, primarily with lower-level regional clubs. He took Empoli to Serie A, and Napoli is the first job he’s taken over in already in the top flight. Has there been—or is there—concern about his ability to lead the club?
TSS: There definitely is, though those concerns are somewhat muted at the moment thanks to a strong recent run of form. But they creep back in after every loss -- do the star players respect him, can he make effective changes when he needs to, how will he perform under real pressure? The answer to the first two questions is, so far, "yes." Napoli's biggest players all seem to genuinely like Sarri quite a lot based on interviews, and the squad's mood is a stark contrast to what it often was under Rafa Benitez. As soon as it was clear his 4-3-1-2 wasn't working, Sarri dropped it for a 4-3-3 that suits the squad much better, and Napoli's form has skyrocketed since.
As to the last question, we just don't have enough pressure-situation evidence to know yet. The pressure was definitely rising after Napoli's slow start to the season, with even Diego Maradona railing against Sarri, but until we see what he does in cup elimination matches or with the end of the league season approaching and important finishing places on the line, we just won't have enough to really answer that question yet.
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Thanks to Conor for taking the time to answer our questions. We also answered some for him, which will be up on The Siren's Song soon. In the meantime, you can follow Conor on Twitter, and give a follow to the site as well.