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Napoli 2 – Fiorentina 1: Match Recap

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Today in Naples Fiorentina took an early lead in their league match but, much like so many games last year, proved unable to hold on to their lead. In an open, attacking match that was fun to watch, the Viola’s wounded back line proved their fatal weakness, as they let in two goals on the counter-attack. Still, this is not the end of the world; we knew going in to the match that Napoli was a tough team, especially at home, and while I personally wanted four points from our first two difficult matches, I will take the one we in fact got and hope the club can regroup in time for their Champions League group tie later this week.

I didn’t take my usual careful notes on the match (I had a squirmy, if happy, 3-month-old future Viola fan in my lap) and watched the game on a shaky online feed, often reducing the game to little more than purple and blue blobs running around chasing a white blob on a big green blob. Still, a few impressions persist. First is that Mutu was quite good coming off the injury and should be fine on Wednesday. He scored a nice goal and almost got another on a sweet free kick that hit the bar. Gila looks more dangerous each week and was the author of the sublime flick that led to the Mutu goal. I’m not crazy about Donadel as the holding midfielder (like so many others, I am already sold on Melo) but he was fine today and created some moments of danger, even if he was responsible of Lavezzi’s cross that led to the goal.

There were also a few discouraging signs; for instance, I was pleased as punch to see Monto back today but his influence on the action was negligible at best. We must have more from him vs. Lyon. I also was discouraged by the lack of creativity in the second half, especially after Napoli scored the second goal; I expected a more attacking, free-flowing performance. I was also concerned, obviously, by the performance of the centerbacks (Dainelli and Da Costa today) who did not control the area in front of the net as well as a Champions League level team should. They certainly have excuses, including the absence of a full international (Gamberini) and in front of them the clubs starting midfield stopper (Melo). It should also be acknowledged that Lavezzi was magnificent, something that obvious from the first moment of the match, and would have wrecked havoc in the best of defenses.

Regardless, all teams will have injuries and suspensions. The best teams will overcome them, something Fiorentina was unable to do today. Napoli was deadly on the counter-attack, and twice the Viola could not stop them. This particular tactical flaw, combined with the teams depressing inability to hold onto leads, is something that must be addressed by the Great Man as we move forward.

Speaking of the Great Man, I am loath to question most of his tactical and strategic decisions, as I do believe he is the best coach on the peninsula. I am sometimes puzzled, however, by his continued loyalty to Mario Santana on the right. Now I believe I understand why; for one, Prandelli’s 4-3-3 is very flexible and requires the front wingers to fall back to defensive duties in an occasional 4-5-1 as the situation demands. Santana works hard, covers that ground, and can be a link between the midfield and the attackers. The second reason Prandelli sticks with him, obviously, is because he believes he has no one better.

Santana frustrates me at times, however. Mostly it is just because he creates so little danger from the right; he is a poor crosser, infrequently beats people off the dribble, and makes questionable decisions with his long passing. I think it might be more interesting to see Osvaldo, Pazzini (traditional center-forwards, I know) Kuzmanovic (probably more comfortable as a midfielder) or even Papa Waigo more regularly. I am wondering what you all think.

Anyway, like I said, there is nothing here to panic about yet. Napoli is a good team that played a good game. It is still early days. At the very least, Milan keeps losing, so we shall stay ahead of them for another week.

I will be back in a day or so with the Lyon preview. Hope you all had a good weekend, in spite of the loss, and hang in there until the next match. Forza Viola!