Emirates Cup: What to Expect from Napoli
Napoli will be out to make a strong statement at the Emirates Cup.
They are a team on the rise, looking to make the jump from plucky overachievers to genuine powerhouses.
Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has signaled his intent with frantic activity on the transfer market. Incoming manager Rafael Benitez will get his first chance to parade his vision for the Partenopei at the Arsenal-hosted mini tournament.
Though the exit of Edinson Cavani will undoubtedly hurt, the names who have been added to the squad list make for impressive reading.
Pepe Reina, who joins on a one-year loan, was a surprise drafting, while Jose Callejon, Raul Albiol, Dries Mertens and Rafael Cabral are all top-quality players.
The biggest statement of all came with the capture of Argentina international Gonzalo Higuain, who will replace Cavani as the Italian side's main strike weapon.
When Napoli take on the Gunners, Galatasaray and Porto in what promises to be a hotly contested competition, Benitez is likely to test out the players at his disposal in his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.
Most interesting to watch will be how "Pipita" Higuain performs in his opening games for his new side. The ex-Real Madrid man will be hoping to hit the ground running in the most resounding way he knows: by scoring goals.
Any Argentine who follows in Diego Maradona's footsteps in Naples is under a certain amount of pressure to live up to his national heritage, but at the same time, Neapolitans are quick to adopt them as one of their own if they show the required passion and, of course, the ability to continue the illustrious tradition.
Belgian international Mertens is another to watch. The former PSV man has no guarantee of a starting berth with Napoli fan-favorite Lorenzo Insigne likely to be the player he is competing with on the left side of midfield. However if given a chance in this tournament, he has the capacity to thrill the crowds and impress Mr. Benitez.
The 26-year-old is a deadly finisher who can cut in from either wing to cause serious problems for opposition defenses.
Having largely played with three or five men at the back last season under Walter Mazzarri, Napoli's readjusted defense may be the area opponents try to exploit.
Probable full-backs Christian Maggio and Juan Zuniga are more comfortable playing as midfielders or wing-backs, so their ability to fit into a back four could determine how well Benitez's system functions in these early outings.
Other squad members will be waiting in the wings to step in should either fail to handle the task to the manager's satisfaction.
With so many quality players challenging for starting roles, the Italians will not be lacking in intensity at the Emirates.
With perhaps the most to prove of all the sides competing, they will also be the toughest side to beat.
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