The historic 2022-23 Scudetto won by Napoli last season is increasingly only a memory for the fans. The new season started off with less positivity around the club, a team that dominated the Serie A campaign from the very beginning until the end last season. Napoli won the Scudetto 33 years after the last time and managed to do it for the first time after the Diego Armando Maradona era thanks to the incredible work of the club and of the coach Luciano Spalletti.
But Spalletti is gone now. After winning the long awaited title, he decided to step down from his role and was replaced by former Al-Nassr Rudi Garcia, who returned to Italian soccer for the first time since his spell at AS Roma from 2013 to 2016. Later, during the summer, Spalletti was appointed as the new Italy coach, after Roberto Mancini decided to leave his role.
Looking at the roster of Napoli, most of the players are still there, and this is why the owner of the club Aurelio De Laurentiis decided to appoint a coach with similar tactical ideas of Spalletti, that could possibly continue in the same way. Garcia plays with a 4-3-3, as Spalletti did at Napoli. The only big change in the starting lineup is the center back. Napoli sold Korean defender Kim Min-Jae to Bayern Munich in the summer 2023, after the German giants paid his release clause.
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Napoli lost a key player, it's hard to replace the man who was named Best Defender of the 2022-23 Serie A season, and they decided to try with former RB Bragantino Brazilian defender Natan, who joined Napoli for €10 million, hoping that he could also replicate the success of the Korean center back. Apart of this change, Napoli's team is the same, with both Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Victor Osimhen staying at the club despite the multiple interests coming from outside the country.
So, if the players and the tactical ideas are pretty much similar, what changed? Napoli started the season with two wins, two draws and one defeat in the first five Serie A games, and won the opening Champions League's game against Braga away, though it was a close run thing, needing an 88th minute own goal from Braga to give them the 2-1 win.
More than the results, some attitudes of the players showed some issues that have to be solved as soon as possible.
Two key players such as Kvaratskhelia and Osimhen showed some irritation after they were subbed in the recent games. In particular the Nigerian striker, who faced coach Garcia while he was going to the bench and told him directly that he should have tried to play with two central striker, pointing at him with two fingers. A clear message to the world that the Napoli's dressing room is not solid as the past season. The player apologized to the coach and the other players, but this is a signal that there is something that needs to be fixed very soon.
On top of everything, there is another important factor that needs to be considered when we speak about the new era at Napoli. The former sport director of the club, Cristiano Giuntoli, also left in the summer and was appointed by Juventus. Giuntoli was one of the minds behind the success of Napoli, the man who signed players like Kim, Kvaratskhelia or Osimhen but also a figure that could help in this moment of transition to a new coach and management. The fact that Giuntoli also left the club, is an issue for Napoli right now.
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The numbers of Napoli show that they are missing some chances but performing as they should in the box with eight goals scored in five games with an overall xG of 9.33 but also conceded five goals in the opening five clashes. They keep the control of the games, with an overall possession of 59.4%, but it's clear that they are not as clinical as they were in the past season. Players such as Kvaratskhelia and Zielinski are still not at their best form and need to be back to the usual level.
The feeling is that this squad is still capable of winning, but they already lost some points, with Inter going at full speed as they won the first five games and are now seven points ahead already. De Laurentiis, the owner of the club, was definitely expecting a slow start and he's keeping the trust he has on the coach. Right after the draw away against Bologna, and what happened with Osimhen, he tweeted: "Napoli restart from Bologna, well done everybody". However, we all know that in soccer results define the future of the coaches. Garcia still has time to turn things around, but he needs to win games to bring back the fans and the whole dressing room on his side before it will be too late.