It is time to throw away the American inferiority complex with its place in the sport, where many blindly claim that technique should come above all in choosing and developing the best prospects and that the U.S. is not an international power because it cares too much about athleticism.
Far-Fetched Friday: Napoli Win the Treble
By: Jake Lofgren
The story of the 2022-23 season has been that historic team in Naples. Napoli is almost halfway through what could become one of their best-ever seasons. Fifteen games into the season, Napoli is yet to lose. Napoli finds itself on top of the table in Serie A, three points ahead of AC Milan, and has been truly dominant in the Champions League, beating Ajax 6-1 and Liverpool 4-1 so far. I think this Napoli team has the talent to win the Serie A, Champions League, and Coppa Italia.
Welcome back to Far-Fetched Friday, where every Friday we give you a bold prediction that we believe will come to fruition. This Friday, we look at a rising giant.
Predicting Napoli will win three trophies that nobody really expected them to win is a pretty tall task for an underdog team. These underdog teams have existed before, like the Ajax 2018/19 team and the Monaco 2016/17 team that both went down in the CL semis. I have had my fair share of failures predicting these underdog teams, as I picked Ajax to make the final last season and Club Brugge to be the underdog story. But this is "Far-Fetched" Friday for a reason, and the reason for the confidence in Napoli is its sustainability.
Dominant Start to 2022
As mentioned earlier, Napoli are yet to register a single loss in their first fifteen matches. Most underdogs have a little luck or play in a way that should be unsustainable. That is absolutely not the case with Napoli. So far this season, Napoli have only lost one game when looking at XG. That game was against defending champions AC Milan at Milan's home in San Siro. Napoli won the game 2-1, despite losing the expected goals battle 2.66-1.36.
Other than that one game of fortune, Napoli have created more XG than their opponent in every single match, meaning that nothing about Napoli's success can really be attributed to luck.
Even in Napoli's statement victory against Liverpool in the Champions League, Napoli scored four goals from an xG of 4.1. That shows the domination was not down to an incredible finishing display- Napoli created their own luck in that win. Understandably a win against Liverpool is not the most impressive considering their shocking start to the season, but they are still a team that beat Manchester City, who look like the best side Europe has to offer thus far. It also appears that Napoli are the best team in Italy this season. AC Milan is only three points off the top, but they seem to be experiencing their own championship hangover. Key players such as Mike Maignan and Davide Calabria are injured, and last season Milan were helped by being knocked out of European football in general by coming fourth in last year's group stage. Milan will likely at least make the Europa League knockouts this season, adding more games to their schedule.
Talent of the Squad
So can this Napoli side take them to a place that the previous generation of Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne was never able to? Well, perhaps, because this squad might be even better. Napoli completed the signing of the summer when they bought Georgian international Khvicha Kvaratskhelia from Dinamo Batumi. How Napoli found this player for only eleven million is unbelievable business. Khvicha has become a walking mixtape in Naples and already has five goal contributions in four Champions League games and eight more in eleven league games.
Napoli also spent big money on Victor Osimhen back in 2020, and that money is starting to look like it was well spent. Similar to how Erling Haaland dominates games with his unique combo of strength and speed, Osimhen also has those same characteristics. In the seven games Osimhen has played in Serie A, he has generated an xG of 5.96. Despite only scoring four goals, Osimhen has the highest xG/game ratio in the Serie A, meaning that the chance creation around him and his ability to get into dangerous areas are there.
Napoli also signed Kim Min-jae from Fenerbahce this summer, who already looks like one of the best defenders in Italy, winning the POTM trophy in September. Giovanni Simeone has been one of the most efficient strikers in Italy, scoring 17 goals last season from 11.99 xG. Tanguy Ndombele, who was once a highly tipped young player that was exiled from Tottenham, now shows his class on a consistent basis. Giacomo Raspadori is one of the most exciting young attackers Italy has to offer that continues to grow. Piotr Zielinski and Stanislav Lobotka have been two of the better midfielders thus far in Italy. The team still has plenty of quality experience in club-captain Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Matteo Politano, and Hirving Lozano. This squad has the quality and depth to be a problem across all competitions.
World Cup Schedule
A lot of big clubs will also see many of their best players going to the World Cup next month, adding a lot of extra stress and games to some of the best players around the world. Looking at Napoli's squad, Alex Meret, Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Stanislav Lobotka, Matteo Politano, Victor Osimhen, Giocomo Raspadori, and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia all did not qualify. And players like Giovanni Simeone, Tanguy Ndombele, Juan Jesus, and Mario Rui may not even get called up. It could become a valuable period of rest for the majority of Napoli's squad and give them an advantage for the rest of the season.
Predicting the winner of tournaments is hard enough; predicting a team to win the treble is almost impossible. Teams like Manchester City, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich look like they have the quality to win it, but all three squads have already looked vulnerable this season.
Napoli will win the treble.
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