Share

Napoli are Winter Champions but can they keep the momentum till summer?

The final round of 2017 was also the midway point of the season and for the first time really started to look like a two-horse race. Napoli have seemingly managed to ride out their difficult spell and clinch the title of Winter Champions, while Juventus rediscovered Paulo Dybala’s confidence to stick with the leaders and power into 2018. As for the rest, they’re stuck in 2017.

This was meant to be a far more competitive Serie A campaign with several clubs vying for the Scudetto, but already there’s a six-point gap opening up between the top two and chasing pack.

In truth, it might be less than six points, because Roma still have a game in hand against Sampdoria and winning that would put them in third place above Inter. That is, of course, assuming the Giallorossi still remember how to earn a victory, as they seem to have lost their way of late. Once Edin Dzeko stops scoring, they seem utterly toothless. It’s a predicament Inter can understand, as when Mauro Icardi doesn’t find the net, neither do the Nerazzurri.

Some suggested I was just waiting for Inter to fail. Not true. I was just waiting to see what would happen when they hit their first bump in the road. Was this a new, more mature team under Luciano Spalletti, or the same old Pazza Inter who spiral out of control? We got our answer: some things never change.

It is to Napoli’s genuine credit that they are able to ride through all the traditional pitfalls and emerge still on top. Grinding out results against relegation-threatened opposition like Crotone was something they tended to struggle with. They were completely reliant on their star centre-forward, yet Dries Mertens hasn’t found the net in eight Serie A games and nobody is panicking. Lorenzo Insigne was injured for a few games and the world did not end. Marek Hamsik pushed through the goal drought and now can’t stop his record-breaking run. This is not the usual Napoli.

This was a round of freak occurrences, the kind you get on a full moon, or when everyone was freaking out about the imminent Y2K crisis (ask your parents). Benevento won a match. Dybala scored not one, but two goals with his right foot. That’s as many as in his entire Serie A career up to now. For the first time this season, Milan came back from a goal down to earn a point. Above all, and this is truly a sign of the end times, Simone Padoin was on the scoresheet.

Udinese notched up their fifth consecutive victory and, with apt culinary precision, the winning goal in Bologna was scored by Kevin Lasagna. Write your own bad food puns, I’m done with 2017.