After such an incredibly optimistic start to their Serie A campaign, it seems Maurizio Sarri and his Napoli squad have been struck with a harsh dose of reality in the form of a devastating injury to their new hitman, Arkadiusz Milik, along with an unexpected home defeat to Roma at the San Paolo.
Initially, Napoli and their passionate fanbase were heading into the new season optimistic to say the least. Gonzalo Higuain had left the club for fierce rivals Juventus, adding fuel to the already fierce rivalry the two clubs possess. However, with Paul Pogba rejoining Manchester United, it wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility to suggest that the Partenopei could lift the Serie A title come the end of the year, but has all of the early optimism and expectations been extinguished already after a torturous few days?
Arkadiusz Milik seemed to have replaced Higuain with ease, scoring 7 goals and assisting 1 in just his first 9 games for the Italian giants. Napoli looked in good form, beating Milan, Palermo, Bologna and Chievo domestically, aswell as trumping both Dynamo Kiev and Benfica in their opening 2 Champions League ties. It could have been argued that Napoli were set to push Juventus in the same way they pushed them last season.
However, it quickly went downhill for the Italians, after Milik suffered an injury setback on the International scene for Poland. The former Ajax Striker tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, an injury which many expect will take at least 6 months to heal, despite his agent announcing plans to see his client back on the pitch within “100 days”.
“I think the attitude of my client will accelerate the healing time. We talked about 4-6 months but I’m willing to bet that in less than 100 days he will be on the pitch.
Would it make sense to take someone on a free transfer? How much would it take to return them to match fitness and integrate them into Sarri’s squad?”
In my own, and in the opinion of many others, these direct quotes from Milik’s Agent are scare tactics designed to prevent Napoli from signing another forward during his clients injury absence. Names such as Emmanuel Adebayor, Dimitar Berbatov and Miroslav Klose have all been rumoured as replacements, but with that being said, it seems the Everton target, Manolo Gabbiadini, will be the one selected to replace the injured Milik. The worry however, comes in the form of his goalscoring record- he is only able to boast 14 goals in 50 domestic appearances for the club, meaning Napoli could find themselves comprehensively short of Juventus (and maybe Roma) upon Milik’s return, whenever that may be.
If things were looking bleak for Napoli off the field, they looked even bleaker on it, after being gunned down at home to Roma 3-1 this past weekend. Roma never looked in any real danger of losing the game and saw Edin Dzeko score twice along with Mohamed Salah late on to seal the victory after Kalidou Koulibaly scored a consolation. The season looks like it could be a long one for Maurizio Sarri’s side, especially considering his side will have to contend with the Champions League (or Europa League) and the Italian Cup for many of the coming months without an out-and-out goalscorer.