Sunday 22 September 2019

Napoli boss Sarri needs to find formula to help everyone else to stop City

Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri. Photo: Getty Images
Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri. Photo: Getty Images

Miguel Delaney

After all the praise that Pep Guardiola showered on Napoli on the eve of their first Champions League meeting, Maurizio Sarri was very willing to return the favour ahead of their return match - as he talked about how the very difficult challenge of actually trying to stop Manchester City.

"They were outstanding at the start of the reverse fixture," the 58-year-old said of that 2-1 win at the Etihad.

"We're up against something huge and they are often two goals to the good after half an hour, so we've got to keep things right because they're not used to that. The start (of a game) is City's strength."

In other words, don't let them score early, so you don't then have to step out and give City the opportunity to further strip you for parts in the extra space.

It is fairly rudimentary, but then there's no denying it's necessary against football that sophisticated, and it's not like the supreme tactician Sarri - who Guardiola does genuinely so respect, even beyond his hyperbole - was giving away the more intricate details of his game-plan. He will likely come up with something.


Its success might also mean more than just success in this match, and potentially preventing City winning this group. It might also prevent them running away with the Premier League. There will be a lot of sides looking on.

Because, as utterly supreme as City have been this season, there is still one question that has lingered through this multitude of goals and chances.

What will happen when they are disrupted; when they face a roadblock?

It is genuinely a fair question because of how instinctive their intensely gloriously play has felt, as if they are on one of those rare spells of form where a side just finds a glorious rhythm without even having to think. Kevin De Bruyne personifies this.

The potential problem is when there's a setback, though, and that rhythm is broken. A team suddenly has to think again, and they thereby start to second-guess themselves, leading to a hesitation that wasn't there before.

That has been the grand caveat to this run, why some have been reserved in their praise.

City actually looked this good at the start of last season, winning their first 10 games in all competitions. They ended up winning nothing, though.

Sarri needs to come up with something similar, as with the praise for City, that is all too easy to say.

Doing it is very different, but could yet prove the difference in this game, this group - and, just maybe, this season.

© Independent News Service

Independent News Service

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