The decline began last season. The date is March 19th: the Georgian hasn’t scored a goal since then. Without him, it’s another Napoli
Db Dimaro (Tn) 07/24/2023 – friendly / Napoli-Spal / photo Daniele Buffa/Image Sport in the photo: Rudi Garcia-Khvicha Kvaratskhelia
March 19, 2023. A date, a simple date, except that it is now circled in red on the calendars of statisticians across Italy. It is the date of Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s last goal. A penalty, in reality, achieved as part of a majestic performance that the Georgian, on a great day, offered against Juric’s Torino. Kvara also had an assist and a near-assist that day. The most attentive will remember.
From that moment on, it is undeniable that something went wrong. There’s no use putting hams in front of your eyes and pretending not to see it. And it is equally useless to lay the blame for an obvious involution on the unfortunate Rudi Garcia. An involution which certainly does not only concern the player but which concerns Napoli, all of Napoli, because Kvaratskhelia’s period of oblivion was not matched, either with Spalletti or Garcia, with truly credible alternative tactical and technical solutions, capable of bringing the Napoli at the same level of play and results. But on the other hand, as Mourinho also recalled yesterday, it is the players who are the coaches. And some, very strong like Kvara, become essential.
Well, as in truth it was already underlined after the match against Lazio, the selective memory and the heady celebration of the Scudetto perhaps did not allow us to look carefully at what happened from that March 19th until the end of last season. Let’s retrace the journey together: Napoli-Milan 0-4, Lecce Napoli 1-2, Milan-Napoli 1-0, Napoli-Verona 0-0, Napoli-Milan 1-1, Juventus-Napoli 0-1, Napoli-Salernitana 1 -1, Udinese-Napoli 1-1, Napoli-Fiorentina 1-0, Monza-Napoli 2-0, Napoli-Inter 3-1, Bologna-Napoli 2-2 and Napoli-Samp 2-0. A cycle of thirteen matches in which Spalletti’s Napoli scored only fourteen goals, without – frankly – ever playing such noteworthy matches. Someone thought about relaxing, with the scudetto in their pocket, but whatever the reason, this is the fact. And he’s merciless, mind you. To give an idea, Napoli scored less than half of the goals they had scored in the thirteen previous matches, which instead were thirty-two (always between the championship and the Champions League).
But let’s go even more specifically. In those fourteen goals there are two penalties, an own goal, a gift from Skorupski and four goals after the 85th minute (more the result of motivation than of play). In the last thirteen Kvaratskhelia, as is known, has never been on the scoresheet, neither with goals nor with assists. In the previous thirteen, however, again for comparison, the former Batumi player had scored 6 goals and 6 assists, as well as causing Ismaijli’s own goal against Empoli with a shot from outside. A completely different impact, sublimated in the amazing goal scored against Atalanta.
And so, trying once and for all to get out of the ambiguity, if many clues prove it, the proof is that Napoli, if they don’t find the best Kvaratskhelia, are – in terms of offensive danger – another team. There’s little to do. This summer there was a lot of talk about Napoli with Osimhen and Napoli without Osimhen, about Spalletti, about Giuntoli, about Kim. However, perhaps too little has been said about the Georgian’s importance for this team.
Now the case is officially open. On the pitch, with the Genoa squabble after Garcia’s incomprehensible substitution, and off the pitch, with the degrading tweet about the “bullshit” written by Napoli regarding a candidate for the Ballon d’Or who earns less than half of Demme – because even this is a given.
Rudi Garcia, barring catastrophes, will not be sacked. And in reality the data shows that his Napoli’s problems are not so different from those of the last part of last season, whatever anyone says. His hiring didn’t excite anyone, because it showed a lot of confusion and little of planning. But today he is the coach of Napoli. And his priority task, if he wants to turn the Azzurri’s season around, is to find solutions (tactical and not only) that will bring Kvaratskhelia back to his scoring levels as soon as possible. Let them put him back in the center of the village immediately. Nothing but management, nothing but changes to the ninetieth. Napoli’s season depends on the recovery of the best Kvara.