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    Opinion: Just who is the right fit for Napoli's front-line?

    Opinion: Just who is the right fit for Napoli's front-line?

    As Napoli prepare for their weekend trip to Udine the question of who will form the Partenopei strike force is once again the main topic of conversation. 
    With just three goals scored in their last 270 minutes of football, it is arguable that the wheels have come off the side once regarded as the great entertainers of Italian football. Even more concerning however, is that two of those three goals have come not from a forward player, but from captain Marek Hamsik, who in recent weeks has appeared to be on a one-man mission to try to drag his side to victory.

    Opinion: Just who is the right fit for Napoli's front-line?
    While the free flowing football continues to create opportunities, the issue remains putting them away.  Maurizio Sarri has tried numerous combinations of his much lauded front three, however only Jose Maria Callejon has consistently carried any kind of goal threat having scored 7 goals in 987 minutes of playing time; an average of one goal every 141 minutes.
    As Lorenzo Insigne continues to struggle, the onus has been placed on Dries Mertens to provide a focal point to the Napoli attack although on reflection, the little Belgian appears to be taking too much responsibly upon himself, opting to shoot when team mates are in far better positions. 
    Mertens will undoubtedly return from the international break high on confidence having bagged a hat trick against Estonia in an 8-1 Belgium win, but can he bring that form back to Naples with him to reignite a campaign that has seen more missed opportunities than goals. 

    Opinion: Just who is the right fit for Napoli's front-line?
    Mertens’ work rate cannot be faulted and he, along with Marek Hamsik, is arguably the one man who leaves everything on the pitch come full time. Sadly however, effort alone does not win games and every Napoli fan will be able to look back on the past weeks and highlight several key misses that a true number 9 would almost certainly have put away.
    So we move on to the soap opera that is Manolo Gabbiadini; a player who caught the eye of so many during his time at Sampdoria, he has become a shadow of his former self, a player bereft of confidence yet who, ironically, is having faith placed in him time and again by Sarri, faith which by and large has been grossly unrequited.
    While it can be argued that Gabbiadini has benefited most of any in the Napoli squad from Milik's injury, the constant missed opportunities in front of goal and the petulant sending off against Crotone has seen Sarri's patience with the player run out, and it looks extremely likely he will make way in the January window, as Napoli look to strengthen their front line for the second half of the campaign.

    Opinion: Just who is the right fit for Napoli's front-line?
    Milik's injury came at a time when the city and fans were beginning to get over the loss of former icon, Gonzalo Higuain. With 7 goals in 9 appearances, the Polish international was laying the foundations for a fantastic debut season until that fateful night against Denmark. However, hopes of an early comeback have been crushed as it was revealed the striker would be out for a further 4 to 5 months, essentially ruling him out for the remainder of the campaign.
    The flip side of this is that for whoever comes arrives in January, will have an opportunity to stake a claim for a starting berth next season when Milik is fit and while options for Napoli are plentiful, very few are attainable. 
    Numerous names have been mentioned; Pavoletti, Belotti, Immobile, Bacca, Falcao, Zaza, Giroud, Drogba; the list goes on and will likely be added to come the new year.
    Genoa president Enrico Preziosi has already dismissed the notion of Pavoletti leaving in the winter window and the chance of Torino parting company with Belotti at this stage of what is looking like being a fruitful season, are next to none. 
    As revealed on this site last week, Simone Zaza's agent, who is also his father, has made it clear that his son will be leaving London, however this may hinge on whether West Ham trigger the purchase clause in their deal with Juventus.

    Opinion: Just who is the right fit for Napoli's front-line?
    Zaza is not a favoured option for many Napoli fans; in part due to the goal he scored last season in the 88th minute at the Juventus Stadium which effectively ended Napoli's title challenge. However, a more statistical approach shows why Zaza may not be the ideal option for Napoli, especially at the kind of sums being mentioned, and with no goals so far for West Ham he has struggled to recapture the kind of form which saw him gain plaudits at both Ascoli and Sassuolo.
    A more sensible option would be veteran Didier Drogba who will quit MLS side Montreal Impact in December and has already stated that he is looking at his options. Drogba is a winner but most importantly he is cheap. He would bring a winning mentality, a wealth of experience at the highest level, and a notable physical presence which Napoli sorely lacks. A six month deal would leave both parties knowing exactly where they stand and would leave Napoli with much needed funds for a proper assault on the transfer market come the summer.

    Opinion: Just who is the right fit for Napoli's front-line?
    Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It could be argued that Napoli should have signed a second striker in the summer and indeed they did make advances towards Pavoletti, who later revealed he would have gone to Naples but did not want to sit on the bench as back up to Milik.
    No one could have foreseen the injury to Milik or the goal drought which accompanied it, nor the drop in form of Gabbiadini who appears to be more and more of a failed De Laurentiis project with each passing week.
    Napoli must now ensure they remain in touch with the top four as the winter break looms and with games against Inter and Torino, as well as make or break Champions League ties with Dynamo Kyiv and Benfica to negotiate, the Partenopei must hope that someone hits a run of scoring form sooner rather than later.

    James McGhie

    James McGhie (@jrmcghie) is the founder of @SemprePodcast,the original & best SSC Napoli podcast for English speaking supporters across the world. 

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