Napoli’s disastrous season explained: Three managers, struggling stars and 27 points off top


The Blues in freefall 

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Less than a year ago, the skies above Naples were illuminated by fireworks and the streets filled with joyous supporters celebrating Napoli’s first Serie A title in 33 years. That famous Scudetto win, however, now feels like an eternity ago as Italy’s most volatile club has endured an unthinkable fall from grace. Napoli currently sit ninth in Serie A, an incredible 27 points off leaders Inter Milan as they prepare for their Champions League last 16 clash with Barcelona.

Club Comparison

€535.15m

Market Value

€863.50m


First Tier

League Level

First Tier


€125.00m

Expenditures 23/24

€43.40m


Francesco Calzona

Managers

Xavi

Full Club Comparison

And the disorder in Naples this campaign is perfectly encapsulated by the fact that they’ll have their third manager of the season in the dugout against the Spanish giants. Walter Mazzarri lasted just sixteen games in charge after being appointed in November and Francesco Calzona will take over the reins in combination with his role as Slovakia manager. The extent of Napoli’s demise this season is almost unfathomable but what has gone wrong?

What has happened to Napoli this season?

Luciano Spalletti’s decision to quit after guiding Napoli to their first title since 1990 was the main catalyst behind Napoli’s dismal season. Napoli tried to activate an extension clause in his contract until 2024 but the manner of the Neapolitan club’s actions frustrated the experienced coach and he left. “I no longer have the energy to be up to the standard of what people love so much, so I have to take two steps back and leave,” Spaletti said when confirming his departure. “I am not someone who changes ideas easily and I decided to leave because I feel that I’ve given all I had.”

Napoli’s decision to replace Spalletti with Rudi Garcia raised eyebrows, especially after a recruitment process that saw Aurelio De Laurentiis speak to several candidates, including Thiago Motta and Luis Enrique. De Laurentiis is renowned as an enigmatic and unpredictable character but Napoli’s owner’s assertion that he should have sacked Garcia immediately after his first press conference as manager provided an insight into the chaotic working conditions at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

De Laurentiis was perplexed over Garcia’s revelation that he hadn’t watched one of Napoli’s games from their title winning season. The 74-year-old owner wanted a coach to adopt a similar approach to Spalletti’s successful 4-4-3 formation but Garcia lasted just 16 games after falling out with several key players. Mazzarri returned for his second spell with Naples ten points behind Inter Milan but he departed with them trailing the lead leaders by 27 points. Napoli are the lowest scorers in Serie A in 2024, alongside Empoli, with just six goals – a sign of their troubles under Mazzarri.

While Spalletti’s departure is rightly cited as the main reason behind Napoli’s demise this season, Cristiano Giuntoli’s exit to become sporting director at Juventus was also problematic. Napoli lost some key players in the summer and their replacements have failed to fill the considerable void. Min-jae Kim was a colossus in defence but he departed for Bayern Munich and his replacement Natan wasn’t afforded enough time to adapt to his first experience of playing in Europe after arriving from Brazil, aged just 22. Hirving Lozano also departed while Jesper Lindstrøm, their biggest summer arrival, who joined from Frankfurt for €30 million has failed to nail down a regular starting berth. Eljif Elmas’ departure in January for RB Leipzig was also a baffling decision.

As displayed in the graphic above, the contrast between Napoli’s form last season in Serie A compared to this campaign is startling. They picked up an average of 2.37 points per game (ppg) on their way to the title compared to just 1.5 ppg this season. Napoli were also more prolific as an attacking force last season, registering 2.03 goals per game, whereas they average just 1.38 in 2023/24. Their defensive record was also far superior last season as they conceded 0.74 goals per game, compared to 1.17 this campaign. Napoli had the best defensive record in Serie A across the last two campaigns but they’ve already conceded as many goals as last season (28) with 14 games remaining. Napoli also overperformed their xG by six goals in Serie A last season, but they are underperforming in that area this season by 12 goals and a major reason is the form of their two star attackers. 

Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia: Napoli’s two attacking stars underperforming 

Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s attacking output drove Napoli to the title in 2023 but they’ve both failed to replicate those performance levels this season. The duo combined for 67 goal contributions under Spaletti but they’ve only provided 22 so far this season.   

As illustrated in the graphic above, Kvaratskhelia scored 14 goals and provided 17 assists in 43 games but he’s only netted six goals this term and five assists. Kvaratskhelia has registered an xG of 8.7 this season but he’s underperforming after only finding the net on six occasions. Conversely, the Georgian winger massively outperformed his expected assists (xAG) of 10 last season as he delivered 17 assists in all competitions. Kvaratskhelia’s relationship with Mário Rui down the left flank was fruitful for Napoli last season but time has caught up with the Portuguese veteran, while a hamstring injury has limited his availability. 

 

Osimhen surpassed his xG total of last season (26.3) as he netted an impressive 31 goals, with the Nigerian undoubtedly the talisman behind Napoli’s success. The 25-year-old has cut a frustrated figure all season, especially after he was rightly outraged by a social media post on Napoli’s official account. Osimhen put pen to paper on a new deal in December but it’s increasingly unlikely that his form will tempt any European giants to activate the reported €120m release clause in his contract. Injuries have plagued the striker this campaign and he’s only scored five non-penalty goals in the league and endured a disappointing AFCON that yielded just one goal.


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