Against a Napoli side that was in its worst form in years, Juventus strolled into the Stadio San Paolo as heavy favorites. Even with all of the attention surrounding Maurizio Sarri heading back to Naples for the first time as Juve’s manager, it was his team that had every incentive to make this trip to Southern Italy a successful one like so many over the last five years have been.
As it turned out, Inter dropped points on Sunday yet somehow got closer to Juve in the standings.
That’s because we saw the worst Juventus performance in weeks in the Bianconeri’s 2-1 loss to Napoli on Sunday night. And don’t let the scoreline fool you — this was about as poor of a Juventus showing as we’ve seen in a good chunk of time, with Sarri’s squad looking as disjointed as they’ve been probably since the November struggles. Passes were completely mishit. The attack was about as stagnant as its been a while. The good vibes we saw from convincing wins earlier in the month of January was just totally thrown out the window.
Based on simply the performance alone and without any kind of knowledge about the form both of these teams were in entering the game, you might have thought it was Juventus that was sitting in 13th place, not Napoli.
But, because how ineffective Juve ended up being against Rino Gattuso’s well-drilled Napoli side, it turned out to be the Italian champions just laying an egg in Naples.
You wonder if Blaise Matuidi hadn’t played an absolutely horrendous cross that led to the counterattack that resulted in Napoli taking a 1-0 lead if that goal even happens.
You wonder if Wojciech Szczesny had parried the ball closer to the goal line and not back into the fray that if Napoli’s first goal even happens.
You wonder just how Juventus, a team that has scored plenty of goals over the last couple of weeks, could have been so incredibly ineffective going forward.
You wonder what would have happened if Juventus hadn’t allowed that late-game volley to Lorenzo Insigne and if Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal actually counted.
Just take a look at this:
- Five Juventus players were issued yellow cards against Napoli.
- Juventus managed all of eight shots all game against Napoli.
Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret had to make all of three saves on the night, none of which were all that difficult. His last save, right before the final whistle, was on a last-ditch overhead kick by Gonzalo Higuain, who somehow gave Juventus its best scoring chance outside of Ronaldo’s goal about 15 or 20 seconds before the game ended.
It was just kind of night for Sarri’s side. What could go wrong did go wrong. Outside of a brief spell in the first half, there wasn’t really anything all that memorable to take place. Juventus’ defense fell asleep a couple of times and Napoli, rightfully, made them pay for those mistakes. That’s what Juventus has been doing to teams for years now.
And while Napoli wasn’t dominant on the night, they were good enough to slow down a Juventus team that had shown a good amount of improvement over the last four weeks.
So much for that.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- RIP Kobe. RIP Gianna.
- Big win for Napoli. They move up into 10th with the win.
- I started my day by checking my phone and laughing at Inter. Thank you very much for ruining the good mood that I had, Juventus.
- Rodrigo Bentancur’s pass to Ronaldo on Juve’s goal was quite pretty, though, so there’s that.
- Juventus attempted 20 crosses against Napoli. They were successful with six of them. That doesn’t exactly sound like a very good conversion rate.
- Blauise Matuidi’s cross that led to Napoli’s first goal just summed up his night.
- Losing Miralem Pjanic to injury sucks and I hope that he’s healthy for the Fiorentina game next weekend, but it’s not like Juve were all that great with him on the field, either.
- Here’s a sign of just how little width Juventus have going forward: The two players who led Juve in touches against Napoli were Alex Sandro and Juan Cuadrado. If there was ever a game where Douglas Costa would have been useful from the start or at least earlier in the second half, it would have been this one. (However, it’s not like Costa was all that great when he was brought on midway through the second half.)
- Gonzalo Higuain played all 94 minutes and touched the ball 24 times. TWENTY-FOUR!
- Wojciech Szczesny, in comparison, touched the ball 22 times.
- What else is there to say about this one? Well, not much. So, happy Sunday, I guess.