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Goals and Highlights: Napoli 5-1 Juventus in Serie A 2023

Clashes between Napoli and Juventus at the Stadio San Paolo tend to be amongst the bigger fixtures of the year in Serie A. Saturday’s game was exactly that—but not for the usual reasons.Goals and Highlights: Napoli 5-1 Juventus in Serie A 2023

With both sides struggling, this game was seen as crucial as the teams attempted to gain momentum for a climb up the table.

In the end it was the home side who did so, coming out on top 2-1 and putting Juve deeper into the hole they have dug themselves early on. The four-time defending champions are going to have to take a long look at themselves before Wednesday’s Champions League game against Sevilla if they want to get their season back on track.

Who distinguished themselves in Naples? Who had a day to forget? Let’s take a quick look at the winners and losers from Saturday’s big match.

It was a day to remember for Gonzalo Higuain.

The Argentina international was consistently a menace in the attacking third and provided Napoli’s primary threat. According to WhoScored.com, Higuain put two of three shots on target and added two key passes. The result of his efforts—a goal and an assist—proved decisive in the game.

In the 26th minute he sucked several Juve defenders to him, allowing Lorenzo Insigne to burst into space on a quick one-two and score the game’s opening goal. After the break, Higuain was alert to a horribly misplaced pass from Hernanes and drove into the box, finishing with a powerful shot that made it into the back of the net despite an authoritative hand from Gianluigi Buffon.

Higuain made a huge statement in this game after being dropped from the Argentina roster for the upcoming international break. While his track record is against him, he showed for the first time in a long time that he could handle the pressure of a big game without cracking.

Loser: Paul Pogba

 

Goals and Highlights: Napoli 5-1 Juventus in Serie A 2023
Goals and Highlights: Napoli 5-1 Juventus in Serie A 2023

CARLO HERMANN/Getty Images

It’s clear that something is wrong with Paul Pogba.

Expected to take on a leadership role after the departure of Andrea Pirlo and his receipt of the No. 10 shirt, Pogba has looked shaky all season long. Saturday was probably his worst performance of the year.

The young Frenchman constantly lost possession, and his usual ability to dance around a challenger deserted him. Even worse was his play in the attacking third, where he was constantly making the wrong play. He passed when he should have shot, he shot when he could have passed, and late in the game he barged around Alvaro Morata to get his head to a cross when his teammate was in a much better and more natural position to take the shot.

It’s obvious that in the absence of experienced hands such as Claudio Marchisio and Sami Khedira, Pogba is putting far too much pressure on himself. It will be interesting to see how his game will change when those two return, which won’t be long coming. Massimiliano Allegri expects to have a full squad to choose from after the international break, which will relieve a lot of the pressure on his 22-year-old star.

Until then, though, Pogba will need to start trusting his teammates and settling himself down to avoid more performances like this one.

Winner: Lorenzo Insigne

 

This could be tamped down a little bit depending on the severity of the injury that forced him off the field, but Lorenzo Insigne looked every bit the player that Napoli was hoping he would be for the first 39 minutes of the game.

He was constantly a menace on the left, and the one-two he played with Higuain to score the opener was a thing of beauty.

It’s a huge turnaround for the 24-year-old, who just over a year ago was booed off the field during the first leg of the Champions League playoff against Athletic Bilbao.

Insigne’s actions tend to be magnified in the eyes of fans because he’s the only native Neapolitan in the squad and in the conversation for the national team. His rocky relationship with Rafael Benitez certainly didn’t help matters over the last few years.

But now the young winger is finally in full flight, and fans of the Azzurri should hope that the injury is not serious enough to keep him out of Antonio Conte’s team two weeks from now. With the last stage of Euro 2016 qualifying coming up, he is exactly the kind of player Italy needs to breathe life into a flagging attack.

Loser: Hernanes

 

Goals and Highlights: Napoli 5-1 Juventus in Serie A 2023
Goals and Highlights: Napoli 5-1 Juventus in Serie A 2023

Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

Hernanes wasn’t all that bad a signing considering how last-minute it was.

In order to prove that, though, he’s going to have to do better than this.

The Brazilian was clearly uncomfortable in Andrea Pirlo’s old regista role. He constantly made mistakes with his distribution and committed a ton of fouls in midfield. Yes, he was signed to play higher up the pitch, but he’s adaptable enough that this shouldn’t be an issue for him.

It was his unfathomably lazy pass that let Higuain in to score what proved to be the winner. With Khedira and Marchisio approaching returns from injury, Hernanes looks like he’s going to have a real fight for playing time, especially if this is what the end product is going to be.

Winner: Roberto Pereyra

Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

Not many Juve players looked good Saturday, but Roberto Pereyra was one of them.

Following a good performance in midweek against Frosinone, Pereyra was again incisive, driving the ball into the attacking third and proving to be the only Juve player on the field capable of taking on a man and winning.

WhoScored.com clocked him with one key pass, six dribbles, one of three crosses completed and 90 percent passing accuracy.

So much talk this summer revolved around buying a trequartista for Allegri’s 4-3-1-2 system, but the man for the job may have been on the roster all along. Pereyra is certainly proving himself worthy, and if he continues to play at a high level like this, he should be a lock for the job behind the strikers.



Loser: Massimiliano Allegri

 

CARLO HERMANN/Getty Images

It’s time to start asking Allegri some serious questions.

While he certainly has some alibi for the season’s tough start due to injuries and the massive team shakeup, he’s now had close to three months with this team, including the beginning of training camp, and there is absolutely no chemistry forming anywhere.

He has been missing key pieces, particularly Marchisio, who in the absence of Pirlo is probably more important to this team than anyone gives him credit for.

But in his absence Allegri has constantly shuffled the midfield about, not giving any one combination the time to start getting a feel for one another and develop the kind of relationship that made the vaunted “MVP” midfield of Marchisio, Arturo Vidal and Pirlo—plus Pogba a year later—the most dangerous unit of its kind in Europe.

His in-game decisions have been no better either. His decision to insert Alvaro Morata into the game was a no-brainer, but his choice to replace Paulo Dybala rather than Simone Zaza when the former was having the better game left some people scratching their heads. Even Dybala looked perplexed when his number came up on the board.

Of course, there’s no shame in losing at the San Paolo, and full judgment should be reserved for when he has his full roster playing for him. But right now Allegri seems unable to instill the kind of killer attitude—the grinta—that Antonio Conte did four years ago when he was presented with a team that was far worse off than the one Allegri had coming into the season.

Once his team is at full strength, Allegri needs to show he too can inspire that kind of play—or else his tenure will be a lot shorter than people thought at the end of last season.

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