With a big game ahead of us on Sunday, we decided to do the Q&A with our sister blog, The Siren's Song. Connor Dowley was nice enough to give us his insight on Napoli and offer his opinion on what we can expect of the partenopei on Sunday.
Viola Nation: What happened to turn Napoli's season around, or at least to suggest that it might be turning around. Benitez supposedly on verge of sacking, and then everything changed. You were impressive in the last couple of games, and, in my opinion, are the biggest favorite for third place (and even not that far away from the Scudetto battle)
The Siren's Song: While I appreciate the vote of confidence, there's still a long road ahead. Napoli have recently seen a fortunate reversal of luck of late, with several situations where Napoli would have failed a month or two ago coming up partenopei.
More than just luck, though, there's been better decision making by Rafa Benitez. More defensive responsibility has been placed on Kalidou Koulibaly, letting the impressive Frenchman shoulder some of the burden that Raul Albiol was faltering under. David Lopez has been preferred in midfield to Walter Gargano and Gokhan Inler, and he's risen to the occasion when called on. Between those choices and several other players finally finding their form, things are, slowly, turning around for Napoli.
Viola Nation: Few players were particularly good recently. Kalidou Koulibaly is on his way to become one of the best central defenders in the league, Lorenzo Insigne finally looks like he player he's meant to be. And Callejon is perhaps the best Serie A player at the moment. Who do you think is most "to blame" for their performances?
The Siren's Song: Watching this side as a whole improve over the last six weeks or so has been fun. As you said, Koulibaly has been a beast, Insigne has been crucial, and Callejon's been in a rare run of goalscoring form. David Lopez, too, deserves a lot of credit, as he's been a force in midfield of late.
As for who to blame for the poor form of others... many want to pin that on Rafa, but I don't buy it. Marek Hamsik wasn't misused, he was finding his form again after spending much of last season hampered by an injury. Gonzalo Higuain was frustrated, but about his lack of goals, a problem that has dramatically evaporated of late. If there was any Rafa-generated issue, it was a reliance on some of the wrong players, like Miguel Britos and Walter Gargano.
If any one player can be blamed for poor form, it would probably be Raul Albiol, who isn't near the player he was a year ago. He's made some mistakes and mistakes in central defense that have directly lead to goals, and even when he's not making mistakes he looks like a shell of what he was when he got to Naples.
Viola Nation: Both teams absolutely want to win, Napoli to continue the good run, Fiorentina to avoid serious problems. Who do you think is closer to get a result and why?
The Siren's Song: Napoli have been so mediocre on the road that I can't guarantee a win no matter how badly I want one. I think that on neutral ground, Napoli are still the better side, but for the time being this one winds up as a draw because the partenopei can't seem to get their act all the way together away from the San Paolo.
Thank you very much, Connor! Let's hope we have a great game on Sunday, and may the best team win.
For the other part of the conversation, head over to The Siren's Song.