Luciano Spalletti praised Napoli’s attitude when dominating Lazio 4-0. ‘The players wanted it to last as long as possible, because they were thoroughly enjoying their football. We don’t want to just play for the result.’
The Partenopei needed a result to go clear at the top of the table after back-to-back defeats to Inter and Spartak Moscow.
Dries Mertens turned on the style in his centre-forward role, filling in for injured Victor Osimhen, scoring two spectacular goals after the Piotr Zielinski opener, then Fabian Ruiz added a fourth late on.
The atmosphere was also special, a year on from Diego Armando Maradona’s death and with the unveiling of a life-size statue of the icon.
“It is our best performance, especially as it comes after a couple of performances that were not up to our standards, so it means something that we beat a big club like Lazio this way,” Spalletti told DAZN.
“Mertens brings that quality to the finishing, but it would be reductive just to praise him. The whole team was wonderful, it had been a long time since we had this possession football with short, quick passes.
“Zielinski found the quality within his power and technique. You’d have to really be looking for a needle in a haystack to find someone who wasn’t great tonight.”
There were 21 touches in the build-up to the second goal, scored by Mertens, reminiscent of the style of goal created under Sarri’s tenure.
“We were impeccable on the choices, on where to circulate the ball and Lazio struggled to close us down. It could’ve become a different game, which we saw recently when we didn’t make the right decisions, but I saw great stuff tonight.”
Dries Mertens doubles Napoli’s lead against Lazio! 😝
He sends Patric to the shops before curling a composed finish beyond Pepe Reina! 🥶 pic.twitter.com/7eBpMSTL1U
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) November 28, 2021
Napoli are now three points clear at the top of the table, so Spalletti was asked if the mentality of this team has grown and their self-belief is at the right level?
“In my career, I often found situations where the players want the game to end as soon as possible so they can check the result. We felt a bit of that recently.
“Tonight, the players wanted it to last as long as possible, because they were thoroughly enjoying their football. We don’t want to play just for the result, or hoping someone else makes a mistake. We have to enjoy every moment of our matches, not be afraid of getting it wrong.
“If you have the right attitude and try to get the best out of yourself as a player and a man, the way we did tonight, nobody can complain, regardless of the result. Football is beautiful and for the first time tonight we really felt like we were playing at home, the fans united with the team and this can be a remarkable strength going forward.”
Indeed, it wasn’t just the atmosphere created by Maradona’s tribute, but also the first time the Curva returned to the stadium, having previously boycotted games in protest against COVID restrictions.
“From the moment I arrived, you could tell at Napoli they need football heroes to hail. They don’t hold back their passionate sentiments and our victory is giving joy to the people of Naples.”