It wasn’t quite the 5-0 loss that Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini had predicted earlier in the week, but it was a loss nonetheless. Palermo fell victim once more to their usual sloppiness as they gave away a penalty that was dispatched by Gonzalo Higuaín who once more keeps Napoli in the hunt for the Scudetto.
Despite their dominance, Napoli failed to capitalise on a host of chances, with most falling to Higuaín and Lorenzo Insigne (6). It was the Italian though, that will be left rueing his missed opportunities, especially in a week in which his inclusion in the Italian squad for Euro 2016 has been in question.
With the 24-year-old managing 11 goals and 10 assists so far this season, for many he is a shoe-in to travel to travel to France this summer. However, Insigne’s involvement at Euro 2016 has been thrown into doubt with rumours surfacing stating that the national team manager, Antonio Conte, doesn’t wish to take him as part of his 23-man squad.
Napoli undoubtedly dominated the game with 75% possession to Palermo’s 25%. Despite this however, they weren’t able to convert any chances from open play with all of their usually potent front-line falling short of expectations.
It was in defence though where Napoli, and Kalidou Koulibaly in particular, really shone. Napoli’s back-line kept Palermo’s chances to minimum and the hosts’ rare sights at goal were merely half-chances if anything. Admittedly, for much of the match the ball was held in Palermo’s half by Maurizio Sarri’s side, thus leaving Napoli’s defence with very little to do, but when called upon they made no error in keeping Palermo quiet.
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) March 13, 2016
It isn’t against teams like Palermo however in which a championship is won or lost; if Napoli wish to catch Juventus they will have to shore up at the back against the better teams, as what is possible is that fatigue may be hitting their hard-working forward players. In recent weeks the partenopei haven’t been firing on all cylinders, with that being most evident in the form of Lorenzo Insigne.
In the chase for a league title consistency is key and Napoli have already allowed Juventus to retake the top spot. If they are to leapfrog the champions they will need players like Insigne to regain their lost form. Out of Insigne’s six efforts on goal only two were on target, in fact, out of Napoli’s 18 total shots on goal just seven brought the Palermo goalkeeper, Stefano Sorrentino, into action. The usually clinical Napoli didn’t have their shooting boots on it seems.
Despite the lack of ruthlessness in front of goal, Higuaín once again found himself on the scoresheet with his 27th goal in the league so far. With his latest goal Higuaín joins an elite club alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimović on 27 goals in the league this season, yet despite his 12 goal advantage over any other player in the league, the nearest being Juventus’ Dybala, Napoli still trail the champions with results like the match against Milan and Fiorentina in recent weeks being their downfall.
It seems that as the season draws to a close Sarri’s style of football has worn down the partenopei and that fatigue has gotten the better of them. In a bid not to sound too gloomy; Napoli can still win the Scudetto, but it will take better performances than the one they put in tonight to do so. Palermo are, for the most part, toothless and in total disarray, yet Napoli failed to truly put the tie to bed. The difference between them and Juventus come the end of the season may only be a few points, so results like this need to be tied up and beyond doubt.
Next week Napoli face Genoa away from home in a very winnable match, whilst the champions travel to Torino after a mid-week trip to Münich in the Champions League. If there’s any time to retake the top spot next week that could be it.