The new campaign is embryonic, but early indications suggest it could be a challenging year for Victor Osimhen.
On the one hand, three goals in four league games seem to be a good return, especially as the Napoli centre-forward has netted only two fewer than top-scoring Lautaro Martinez, whose form was highlighted by Pulse Sports before Inter Milan opened a can of whoop-ass on their rivals in Saturday’s 5-1 derby win.
But a closer look shows that Osimhen’s last goal in gameweek two came from the penalty spot against Sassuolo. The striker fired blanks in the defeat by Lazio before the hiatus and looked lost and isolated in round four’s 2-2 draw with newly promoted Genoa after the international break.
By contrast, the Super Eagles striker netted a hat-trick against Sao Tome and Principe six days earlier, albeit with one strike coming from the spot and the 6-0 victory secured against lowly opposition.
13:50 - 11.09.2023
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Back in Serie A action over the weekend at the Marassi, Osimhen had little joy against Alberto Gilardino’s promoted side, attempting one shot all night that came in the eighth minute of proceedings.
The centre-forward was not helped by his colleagues — and Rudi Garcia’s incoherent approach in possession — for much of the evening.
How Victor Osimhen toiled against Genoa
Even though Napoli’s no. 9 is one to chase lost causes and make the most of unfavourable situations, even he must have been exasperated by the frequency against Genoa.
As early as the fourth minute, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s clearance fell to Osimhen, who was forced to take on retreating defenders by himself.
Unsurprisingly, possession was lost.
In the 17th minute, Andre Zambo Anguissa cleared the ball upfield to Osimhen, who had to contend with two opposition players. Again, that situation resulted in a ball loss.
Another first-half action that underlined Napoli’s approach came just before the interlude. After Juan Jesus regained possession and passed to Kvaratskhelia, Napoli’s wide attacker opted for a long ball to Osimhen, but the pass was overhit, and the away side lost the chance to construct a threatening move.
Napoli's intent seemed to have Osimhen stationed forward to utilise his pace in transition situations, but it was unforgivable to repeatedly lump the ball up to the Nigerian.
On one occasion, when the Napoli striker beat his opponent to a 50-50, with Kvaratskhelia joining up in the attack, the centre-forward’s decision-making and delayed pass meant the Georgian was offside.
For much of Saturday’s game, it did look like Napoli were improvising, as there were no discernible patterns. When players were not getting in each other’s way, the Partenopei’s moves were rushed and inevitably broke down — a noticeable flaw at the start of the season under Garcia preceding Saturday's draw.
17:24 - 18.09.2023
Napoli's manager believes Victor Osimhen and his teammates were distracted by Champions League football during the recent slip-up against Genoa.
Osimhen’s toils continued after the break when Jesus sent a needless long pass to the Nigerian even though the visitors had good possession.
Unsurprisingly, the Partenopei frontman was crowded out before he could bring the ball down.
Garcia’s team frustratingly passed to Osimhen early, hoping the striker made the most out of situations, but the quality was often lacking.
This was again evident on two occasions after the hour involving Mathias Olivera…
…and Mateo Politano.
The game unsurprisingly closed out with a disappointing action for Napoli. A pass to Osimhen was played into space…
…but the cornered striker neither had passing options in that area of the pitch nor bodies inside the penalty area despite holding on to the ball for several seconds.
Napoli’s two goals materialised when they stayed composed to construct moves in the opposition half, emphasising the team’s dip in coherence from last season and the underutilisation of their no. 9, who endured a tiring night at the Marassi.
Underlying Victor Osimhen stats: 2022-23 vs. 2023-24
Even if concluding after four Serie A games is ill-advised, Osimhen’s league numbers compared to last season already reveal a drop-off.
Napoli’s marksman is shooting frequently, but those efforts are low-percentage attempts.
This is an upshot of the quality of chances created by Garcia’s men, revealing a broader problem early doors under the new boss.
Garcia’s Napoli side are struggling to create high-value chances
Another look at the data gives credence to the eye test, albeit after four matches. Napoli’s seven big chances (five if penalties are excluded) ranks ninth in Serie A, eight adrift of unblemished Inter (15) and six shy of Frosinone (13). , only AC Milan outdid the Scudetto winners’ tally of clear-cut chances.
08:33 - 19.09.2023
Victor Osimhen struggled to make an impact in Napoli's 2-2 draw with Genoa.
While Napoli have lost last season’s element of surprise when they were not given a prayer to win the league, there is an incoherence to the team’s attack that pales to the evident attacking patterns under Spalletti.
This came to a head in Saturday’s draw at Genoa. The international break serves as mitigation, but there were worrying signs before the hiatus — notably against Lazio when the Partenopei took little care in constructing moves in the attacking third in the opening half and collapsed after halftime.
Admittedly, nothing screams small sample size than last season’s relegation-threatened Lecce occupying fourth spot and new boys Frosinone placing sixth after the fourth gameweek — both sides either side of Garcia’s Napoli, who are five points shy of early-season frontrunners Inter.
The Partenopei’s first loss of 22-23 came in gameweek 16 against the Nerazzurri but they have already been beaten in this one, only narrowly avoiding a second loss after a late comeback at Genoa.
More underwhelming performances devoid of identifiable tactical instruction will only lead to increased questions about the treatment of Spalletti at the backend of last season, even if the official word claimed something different.
Napoli could be in for a problematic season, and it will be a shame if last season’s Capocannoniere suffers as a consequence.