Napoli go 13 points clear at the top of Serie A

Quick roundup of what’s happening in Serie A.

First, my favorite story of the season is Juventus. Many of you know that they have been deducted 15 points for, umm, well, the official reasons haven’t been published yet but reports are using terms like “financial irregularities”. It’s important to note that there are ongoing criminal charges as well as sporting charges against the club and its former executives. Many former execs have actually been banned from Italian football with current Spurs director (Paratici) getting the longest ban, 30 months.

Paratici could be banned from holding a football job in England also. The Italian football federation (FIGC) are asking that their bans be honored across all other leagues in UEFA and FIFA.

It’s also the case that some players might also get banned from the sport. This is related to salaries paid during the COVID lockdown but that’s still under investigation. You can read more about the case on the Athletic (archived here, avoiding the paywall).

On the pitch, Juve have had a shocking few weeks. Twenty days ago, they were being hailed as “the best defense in Europe” because they had only let in 7 goals in 17 matches. But anyone with an ounce of knowledge (or a rudimentary understanding of xG) could tell that their record was, like their balance sheet, a fugazi. According to Understat, Juventus had been overperforming xGA by 10.28 goals at the time. Unfortunately, they then went up against Napoli on 13 January and got ripped 5-1. At the time, they were 2nd in the League and a mere 7 points behind Napoli. The Neapolitans opened up a 10 point gap and haven’t looked back. Juventus followed their loss to Napoli with a 3-3 draw at home to Atalanta and this weekend, a 2-0 loss to Monza. Even if they hadn’t been deducted 15 points they’d be in 5th place, on 38 points, 15 points behind Napoli.

Former Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczęsny has had a nightmare three weeks.

This weekend the Serie A leaders Napoli battled Jose Mourinho’s Roma and walked away with all three points in large part thanks to their superstars Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. Kvara played in a delightful cross to Osimhen, who separated himself from the defenders, chested down, and struck on the volley. It was a goal worthy of winning a game but in typical Mourinho fashion, Roma wouldn’t just give up. They got one back through Stephan El Shaarawy, who looked like his former self and not the player so dogged by injuries.

What happened next, however, was quite incredible; Napoli manager Luciano Spalletti took Kvara and Osimhen off and put on Giovanni Simeone and Giacomo Raspadori. Simeone scored the winner when Zielinski played a neat little pass to him and Simeone just had time and space to turn and shoot, which he did. Raspadori almost added a 3rd goal which would have been icing on the cake.

Napoli are a special team, folks. If you can get your eyeballs on their games you really should (next match is away to Spezia on Sunday, if you live in the States you can catch them on Paramount Plus). It’s rare that you can watch a team take off two superstars and throw on a couple of guys like Simeone and Raspadori and then get better but that’s exactly what they did.

Meanwhile in Bergamo, la Dea defeated Samp 2-0 thanks to goals from Maehle and Lookman. I have to admit that when I saw Atalanta signed Lookman, I was baffled. Here’s a player who has never scored more than six goals for any team in his career (last season at Leicester) and was kind of thought of as a bust. But this is just what Gasperini does, folks. He takes unwanted or underperforming strikers and forwards and turns them into goal scorers. Prior to Lookman he’d polished up Zapata and Muriel, turning them into 20+ goals scorers in their first season. Lookman is well on his way to repeating the pattern, he’s got 12 goals this season.

Atalanta also have a young Dane named Rasmus Højland. He reminds me a bit of Haaland, but only much rawer if that makes any sense. Højland is also much better with ball at feet, I think, than Haaland. But the big difference is that Højland doesn’t really score many goals (yet). I expect Gasp to fix that!

In other Serie A news, no one wants to challenge Napoli for the title! AC Milan have lost two in a row, 4-0 away to Lazio and then followed by a 5-2 home loss to Sassuolo! Napoli’s closest rivals are Inter, they pulled out a 2-1 win over bottom of the table Cremonese on Saturday but lost 1-0 away to mid-table Empoli a week ago Monday. Will Inter mount a title challenge or will Napoli walk away with it? I have a feeling it will be the latter.

P.S. Arsenal signed Jorginho for £12m on an 18 month contract with an option for a third year. Jorginho is 31 and has never won any of the leagues he’s played in. Hopefully Arsenal are his first league title. Debate rages about whether this is a good signing and frankly at this point, I don’t care. He’s an Arsenal player now and I’ll support him.



  1. A Napoli thread is actually very topical with the Jorginho acquisition. We are getting a player trusted by top coaches like Sarri, Tuchel, and Mancini who came in 3rd in the Ballon d’Or voting and has won the European championship and the Champions’ league plus who knows how many cups. This is a coup!

    –A press resistant buildup master

    –Defensive output much better than you think

    –A move that Man City wanted in 2018, Arsenal wanted in 2020 and pushed for now by Mikel himself

    –Despite playing in a suboptimal structure under Potter this season, he’s still a top player by the metrics.

    –A coach’s player with absolutely no attitude issues and part of the leadership group everywhere he’s been.

    –NOT a starter. But he could easily be, like Trossard. He is a hand in glove fit for Arsenal’s system, and Mikel will surround him with the structure he needs to thrive.

    –All this for 18 months, 12 million pounds!!! Low, low risk that won’t impact long term solutions at the position (Declan Rice).

    Balanced deep dive for further reading:

        1. His “opinions” are dogshit and culled from other people’s work. And he’s an asshole. Fuck that guy.

    1. Thanks for doing the homework, doc.

      This transfer reminds me of Mikel’s… we werent enthused, but man did he ever prove us wrong playing the deep pivot.

      The difference is age — Jorg’s 31 versus Mikel’s 29 — plus the memory of the last thirtysomething we signed from Chelsea; but as you say, he’s not going to be first choice. He’s going to back up.

      For the reason that they’re similar, Im going to trust Mikel on this one. And also trust that PV4 takes good care of Sambi. Wish him luck in SE London, but a mid-season loan when we’re short in midfield doesn’t bode well for him.

    2. I agree with this guy, ahead of his time: —- Sample line for 2023: “I like Jorginho. Probably a controversial opinion but there it is.” —- Sample line for 2023: “People complaining about Jorginho at Arsenal need to sit down with themselves for a bit…”

      Also, I know we’ve had the conversation before, but I much prefer the parody account –

    3. When seen as an alternate target to Caicedo, Jorginho is a let down. However, he is not a replacement for Caicedo (never been an Arsenal player…yet) but for Elneny. Jorginho seems to be an improvement on Elneny, while we keep powder dry for the summer.

      We are ahead of Arteta’s & Edu’s schedule, if they knew this, they would have arguably pushed for a midfielder during the last summer window.

      We are not Chelsea to throw silly money. We have tried to do our summer business early & willing to spend big money but not silly money. January is tougher to make those important deals.

      1. I think a lot of us wanted them to push for a midfielder in the summer because of Partey’s ongoing situation and injury record.

  2. Our primary transfer target should be Brighton’s chief scout. If you’re looking to buy 10x the price from clubs who bought dirt cheap 2 years before, you’re not doing this thing right. How the hell do they turn straw into gold so consistently?

    All that said, I fully understand and support our strategy. We have to max our position for the title run in, and needs must.

    1. There’s a difference in risk-reward profile between Brighton and Arsenal. The same scout at Arsenal is going to identify good players, but they’ll automatically be 400% as expensive just because it’s Arsenal. And paying 15 million for a guy who only has a record in Ecuador or Japan is by definition a difficult risk to take. We’ve done stuff like that before – Martinelli worked out, but gambles like Miyaichi, Mavropanos not so much. We also poached the Leicester scout when they were hitting everything out the park, but the team we’ve built is still not cheap (but good, and maybe cheaper than it might have been?).

      I’m optimistic about the youth recruitment guy we’ve just poached from Spurs.

  3. I’m not thrilled, but the Caicedo fees were getting silly, and it’s not clear that we could have gotten him for any fee, as it sounds like Brighton are intent on competing for the rest of the season. Sounds like Mo is perhaps done for the season, and Partey is a risk for a couple reasons. So Jorghino, while not ideal, does give us PL-experienced cover, and we’re not paying a huge amount over a long time to get it. Still keeps the Declan Rice door open for the summer, which a very expensive Caicedo probably wouldn’t.
    Sad for Elneny, who has kind of been a model backup. Might mean he’s played his last minutes for Arsenal.
    Also seeing rumors that Sambi might go to Fulham on loan, which probably makes sense from a development standpoint.

    1. If we were light in midfield (a direct quote of Arteta last week), then why would we send Sambi on loan if we just brought in a one-for-one replacement for the injured Elneny? Sending Sambi to Crystal Palace or Fulham leaves us light again – unless this was always about Sambi Lokonga not being good enough. In which case, just sell him, take the money and bring in another young midfielder to ride the bench and learn.

      1. Probably a falling out. Unless he produces something Saliba-level, I suspect he’s done at Arsenal. Agree it leaves us light again, I don’t know why we do these snap exits. But we’re top of the league.

        1. Yeah, there was something wrong at the end of the game against Man City.

          Hopefully PV4 squares him away.

          1. He would definitely be about as good a role model for central midefield as Sambi could hope for. And yes, I meant to say Palace, not Fulham.

        2. The All or Nothing documentary showed him grousing about his lack of playing time. Nketiah scolded him for feeling sorry for himself. Then he’s had a mediocre string of outings ending with Odegaard giving him sh*t on the field for not holding his position against City. Been there, been on the receiving end of teammates reading me the riot act. He’s starting to resent his own failings or the success of his teammates, or both, and might not be sure how to resurrect his path forward. Not everyone’s ego is made of steel. He looks down on himself – he’s not been bad, but the rest of the team has been excellent. Vieira would not be too sympathic imo, that man is Tough. Kompany would be better for him, he knows him and would I believe try and nurture him along. Such is the nature of great teams – there’s little to no time to accommodate the “softer” personalities. Sambi is probably as good as gone, same with Nuno Tavares.

    2. Relationship is in the pits, confidence is shot. He can’t play in this team right now because the stakes are too high. Farm him out to play and away from this pressure cooker. If he does well, reintegrate. If not, sell.

  4. The stretch of games from $h*tTy through Brighton will most likely determine league and I, for one, hope that it is Partey back behind Xhaka!

    If that does not occur, then it could very well be true the jorG could be the reason AFC does NOT win the league.

    Remember AFC have two Europa games on March 9th and 16th and a AFC win would cram in a few two sided ties before the end of the season.

    Know this is not a popular opinion, but Edu has had 2 Windows to get Partey some competition!

  5. Anybody got a resource about Chelsea’s financial situation that’s allowing them to do this, a la Swiss Ramble? Beyond reason, that club.

    1. Bonkers. I guess it’s because these deals are being amortized long-term, but even then hardly believable. It’s a very big risk throwing these kind of long-term contracts and huge numbers at couple of players that have played only a very small amount(or arguably none at all in Mudryk’s case) in top European leagues. How many of these players turn into legit superstars?

    2. I hazard Boehly bought Chelsea at below book value as Chelsea was sold at a distressed price. I think for USD 500m below book.

      So on the books, it may be in layman’s terms Book Value = Acquisition Price + Negative Goodwill

      So he is able to book the new player acquisitions in and not bust the Book Value FFP cap. I haven’t studied the FFP regulations enough but I am guessing it’s something like this.

      1. The Guardian threw out an even more ridiculous point that shows how much things have tipped not only to Chelsea, but to the PL. I haven’t checked this, but the quote was that Chelsea spend in January was more than the spend for all teams in the other top European leagues COMBINED.
        Which is bordering on unbelievable.

      2. When Boehly bought Chelsea, there was a $1.75bn investment component. That’s supposed to include for stadium upgrades and other infrastructure, but what it did was dump a lot of cash into a coffer that already included millions from player sales the past few years. So, Chelsea have a lot of money burning a hole in their pockets. i.e. Barcelona after they sold Neymar and then went and bought Coutinho and Dembele at absurd prices. Chelsea’s thinking might be that the transfer market and salaries will continue to inflate over the coming years. Spend what can this year while there is cash, put young players on long contracts at modest salaries, set up team for the next 5 to 6 years and then concentrate on the infrastructure upgrades. In meantime, hope Potter can get them back to the top so they can reestablish top revenue streams (TV, Champions League, sponsorships) and an improved stadium brings in more match-day revenue. And Boehly isn’t alone – he’s got a number of billionaire backers in his consortium.

      3. Hmm…negative goodwill is, um, an interesting concept. Never really seen that approach to a balance sheet reconciliation.

        1. Re: Negative Goodwill

          Lonestar, it happens when we need to reconcile an undervalued acquisition of another company. Interestingly, it’s recognized in the PnL as a gain on purchase (revenue). If FFP regulations are based on revenue ratios, possibly Chelsea enjoyed a revenue boost from Boehly’s underpriced acquisition, allowing them to make this massive player acquisitions without busting a cap.

          Farooq, yes there was the $1.75b investment commitment which was a sneaky tactic of Abramovich to avoid sales proceeds heading to the Ukrainian cause. Very ironic that the Mudryk transfer actually gave the Putin administration a semi-assist.

  6. I’m satisfied with our January business. And even if I wasn’t, I would support the team enthusiastically and try to derive as much joy as I can.

  7. So this is not a Chelsea blog but that club has been incredibly impactful on this transfer window as a whole and on Arsenal’s business in the window as well.

    Lots of people have talked about the money they’ve spent and that’s a huge angle, but I’m also trying to figure out what their plan is. What kind of football do they want to play and how do these players fit into that? Or is it simply a case of throwing money at the best young talent they could find throughout Europe and hoping Potter figures out the rest?

    I think it’s mostly the latter. The Mudryk transfer shows that best of all. This was not a player they identified ahead of time. It was only when Arsenal’s interest was concrete that they decided to really go for him. Arguably their greatest areas of need were CF and GK and they did not address those with top end talent.

    Looking through the players they actually got, I don’t see a single player who I would regard as a sure thing. They are all between 19-22 and don’t have much of a track record. Enzo is probably the closest to that category, but even he got his fame while abusing teams in the Portugese league and his value is grossly inflated by the WC win. I watched a lot of Argentina and he did not jump off the screen for me. That team lived and died by the individual brilliance of Leo Messi, not Enzo Fernandez. I’ve spoken about Mudryk at length and I think he’s absolutely brilliant, but the environment at Chelsea will be less than ideal for him. That goes for all of these young players. Patience will be in short supply and expectations will be enormous.

    Melding all these players into a cohesive unit will be a challenge. Unlike Mikel, Potter doesn’t have a single system he has been using and coaching since he’s been appointed. Instead, he’s tinkered with different formations and different personnel. That will have to stop now. He will have to know his best team and be consistent about how he wants them to play. That’s what separates this project from Arsenal’s. Instead of identifying players to perform specific roles in a specific setting, they shotgun signed 11 of the biggest talents around Europe and will try to figure things out later.

    1. We should all laugh at the stupidity of Chelsea – no plan, no structure, too many players, it’s insane. But they’ve also done severe damage to the market. Enzo Fernandez is not worth even half that amount of money they paid. He’s not the second coming of Zidane. But now, the same way Shaktar made comparisons to Antony’s transfer fee when discussing Mudryk, any team going for Declan Rice can expect to hear how he’s a better, Premier League proven midfielder than Fernandez, how can West Ham let him go for less? If it’s true we’re in for Rice this summer, we had better pray West Ham are relegated and need to sell.

  8. Doc et al, the kind of churn that Chelsea is presenting Potter with is not something that he’s used to. He will have to re-arm and en-tactic what’s in effect a completely different first XI of players. That’s not how he got the best out of Brighton. He was not a manager of team of assembled superstars, let alone a manager of a team of high churn superstars.

    What I hear from Chelsea fans is that they plan a clearout, but it didn’t go well with Ziyech, did it?

    I could be wrong, but I don’t get the impression that Potter has much input in player recruitment. Football is about fit. Sometimes a player of lesser ability and lower transfer fee is better suited to a particular role and to overall complementarity. Potter has barely had time to get to know his first XI, and it’s nearly all change.

    Arsene believed that you should at max bring in about 3 players, if you want to maintain stability

Comments are closed.

Related articles