Position: 3 (Champions League)
Comparison with previous season: +2 (5th)
The 2021-22 season was another campaign of ‘nearlies’ for Napoli. It was a fitting end to a campaign that has had a fair share of ups and downs for a club that has become accustomed to situations like these in the title race and in the races for the top four. Whenever Napoli had the chance to capitalise, they missed out despite some impressive performances across the season from a host of players. Despite everything, the season will always be reminiscent of the 2020-21 season, when the Partenopei missed out on a Champions League spot due to a result against Verona.
Turning point of the season
Napoli did have some excellent moments in the season, but the point where everyone gave up on the Scudetto was the defeat at home to Vincenzo Italiano’s Fiorentina in March. This wasn’t just a defeat to forget, it led to dropped points against Roma and the dramatic loss to Empoli as the Partenopei players lost all the momentum. Despite a terrific atmosphere at the Maradona Stadium, Napoli failed to muster a single point against Fiorentina and it wasn’t the first time that they were run ragged by La Viola. Italiano’s side had knocked Napoli out of the Coppa Italia in January and they essentially delivered a double blow to them across the season.
Coach – Luciano Spalletti
Luciano Spalletti has had a reputation for getting teams to overperform. There was a point in the season where it seemed like he would do it again when Napoli were at the top of the table. But once AFCON kicked in, things fell apart for the Partenopei. A case can be made because Napoli had one of the best squads in Serie A and more could have been made of the resources they had with them. They lost games at vital points of the season and that let them down massively, which is something that will come down to Spalletti’s inability to get the most out of the squad. It was a good season where Napoli reached their primary target, return to the Champions League, but many will remember it as a season where they could have aimed for something more.
Player of the Year – Victor Osimhen
Victor Osimhen was Napoli’s most important player in the season despite Kalidou Koulibaly’s solid performances. His cheekbone in injury in January affected the Partenopei massively and the Nigeria striker didn’t participate in AFCON after testing positive for COVID. He played the remainder of the season with a protective mask, but his presence up front helped the Partenopei secure a top-four finish with a few games to spare. Spalletti’s team revolved around Osimhen’s movement and hold-up in the final third and missing him made the whole team change their playing style. Osimhen has shown what an expert he is at leading the line and a complete striker. He is a constant menace to the opposition and never lets them have a moment of peace.
Disappointing Player of the Season – Piotr Zielinski
Piotr Zielinski was one of the best midfielders in Serie A over the last two or three seasons. However, this campaign has been poor for the Poland star, as his performances dropped off when Napoli really needed some of his goals from the midfield. The likes of Stanislav Lobotka, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Fabian Ruiz all impressed. But it was Zielinski who never quite reached the levels of the past, looking like a shadow of himself and failing to turn up. It is barely a surprise that he is being linked with a summer exit and it remains to be seen if Napoli will continue to count on him in 2022-23. He remains one of the best players in Italy and any team, including Napoli, would need his quality in the middle of the park. What he showed this season was simply not enough.