After a tumultuous summer transfer window, Napoli’s dominance this season has been unheralded.
The Serie A side lost captain and talisman Lorenzo Insigne to Toronto FC on a free transfer while all-time leading scorer Dries Mertens, a key fixture within the squad for nine seasons, joined Galatasary after his contract in Naples expired. After years of rumours linking him with a move away, defensive colossus and vice-captain Kalidou Koulibaly swapped the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona for Stamford Bridge.
In the blink of an eye, Luciano Spalletti lost three instrumental players, three players responsible for 34% of the goals scored by the Partenopei last season.
It looked like that signified another rebuild for Napoli after an impressive third-place finish last season.
But fast forward to February 2023 and Spalletti’s men are on the cusp of their first Scudetto in 33 years.
And they’re smashing records along the way.
Here’s a quick stat attack on just how dominant Napoli have been so far this year.
Taking Serie A by Storm
With 62 points from 23 games so far, Napoli are the runaway leaders in Serie A this season. In fact, their start has been so impressive that only two sides have ever won more points than the Azzurri at this stage in a league season, with Internazionale (2006-07) and Juventus 2018-19 winning 63 points after their first 23 games.
Spalletti’s men are currently 15 points clear from second-placed Internazionale in the table which is the biggest gap between the top two teams after MD23 in a Serie A season in the three points for a win era.
When you compare their domestic record to those around Europe’s top five leagues, they’ve amassed more points than any other team. Only Barcelona, who have 59 points from 22 games, could equal their points tally after 23 league matches.
Napoli have risen to the top of Italian football by blitzing opposition defences while being utterly dominant at the back. They’ve scored more goals (56) and conceded fewer goals (15) than any other Serie A team this term, while their goal difference of +41 is the best across Europe’s top five leagues.
That offensive firepower has come as a result of Spalletti’s attractive, possession-heavy style of play.
Napoli are excellent at maintaining possession under pressure, and they’re able to progress the ball upfield patiently through long spells of possession. A look at the team style comparison chart below shows just how much of an outlier Napoli’s in-possession style is. They average more passes per sequence and progress the ball directly upfield slower than any other side in the league.
Without the ball, Napoli are aggressive and press high up the pitch, looking to turn the ball over in dangerous areas. No side have forced more shot-ending or goal-ending high turnovers than the Azzurri.
As expected, Spalletti’s side dominate Serie A in all key offensive metrics:
Champions League Dominance
Napoli’s electric form has not been limited to Italy so far this season, with them also running amok in the Champions League. They finished first in their group for just the second time in the club’s history, scoring 20 goals in the process – the highest tally for an Italian team in the competition’s history and more than any other side in the group stage this campaign.
Some of their victories were stunning. On MD1, they thrashed Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool 4-1 (inflicting the Red’s joint-heaviest defeat in UCL history) and then went on to eviscerate Ajax 6-1 on MD3. On that giddy night, the Azzurri became the first Italian side to score six goals on the road in a Champions League game.
With a 2-0 away victory over Eintracht Frankfurt in the first leg of their last 16 tie, Napoli look in pole position to go deep in 2022-23.
The Magical Duo of Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia
Crucial to Napoli’s success this season was their shrewd transfer dealings in the summer.
Min-jae Kim joined from Fenerbahçe to replace Koulibaly, André Zambo Anguissa turned his loan move into a permanent one and Mathías Olivera was signed from Getafe. Giacomo Raspadori and Giovanni Simeone moved to the club on loan with the duo bolstering Spalletti’s options in attack, having scored a combined 27 goals in Serie A last season for Sassuolo and Verona respectively. Tanguy Ndombele was signed on loan from Tottenham Hotspur. But it was the arrival of Khvicha Kvaratskhelia that really caught the eye.
The ‘Georgian Lionel Messi’ signed from Dinamo Batumi just four months after moving back to Georgia following the suspension of his Rubin Kazan contract.
He has formed a deadly partnership with fellow forward Victor Osimhen. Together the pair have scored 28 goals in Serie A this term. Only Man City duo Erling Haaland and Phil Foden (33) have scored more in the top five European Leagues this season (and in fairness, Haaland has 26 of these.)
Of those 26 goals the pair have scored, Osimhen has 18 of them in just 19 games. Only the aforementioned Haaland (26) has scored more goals across the top five European leagues.
The Nigerian hasn’t had the luxury of availability so far this campaign, after suffering a facial injury at the start of the season. After making his return in Serie A midway through October, he’s found the net in 12 of 14 league games, including each of the last six. Over that same time frame, Osimhen has scored more goals than any other player in the top five European leagues (Haaland and Rashford next highest with 11).
Osimhen’s partnership with Kvaratskhelia has been a real threat so far this season. The Georgian has delivered six assists for Osimhen in Serie A this season, which is more than any other player to a team-mate so far.
Kvaratskhelia himself is enjoying an incredible debut campaign in Naples. Thanks to his goal last weekend, the youngster (22y, 005d) become the third youngest player to score at least 10 goals in a single Serie A season with Napoli, after Attila Sallustro (21y, 154d) and Carlo Buscaglia (21y, 150d), both in 1929-30.
With 12 goals and 13 assists to his name in all competitions in 2022-23, Kvaratskhelia is just one of four players to have reached over 10 in both categories. And of those players, the winger is the youngest.
Napoli fans’ hope of a Serie A crown, their first since the Diego Maradona-led 1989-90 season, looks like it’s starting to become a reality.