Napoli needs evolution not revolution under Ancelotti

MILAN (AP) — Carlo Ancelotti’s return to Serie A is proving less impressive than expected.

In Ancelotti’s first news conference as Napoli coach he said he wanted this to be remembered as the year he came back into Italian football as well as Cristiano Ronaldo joining Juventus.

Both have yet to set Serie A alight.

But while Ronaldo’s chance of finally grabbing his first goal in Italian football is increased by his Juventus side hosting Sassuolo this weekend, Napoli faces another tricky test — against Fiorentina.

Napoli is still reeling from a surprise 3-0 defeat to Sampdoria in the last match before the international break.

That was preceded by two victories against Lazio and AC Milan, but in both games Napoli had to come from behind.

“We can’t always concede first. We have to change our attitude already from the next match,” Napoli captain Marek Hamsik says. “You can’t always come back.”

Hamsik and Jose Callejon didn’t feature in the match against Sampdoria, while another one of former coach Maurizio Sarri’s main men, Dries Mertens, started from the bench in an experiment which clearly failed.

Napoli needs evolution not revolution. After all, this is a side which pushed Juventus all the way last season in one of the most exciting title races of recent years, before eventually finishing second as the Bianconeri clinched a seventh successive scudetto.

One of Ancelotti’s first moves at the start of preseason training was to shift Hamsik back to a deep-lying playmaker role, known as “regista” in Italy.

Ancelotti deployed Andrea Pirlo in a similar role in his last stint in Serie A, at AC Milan, and the Rossoneri went on to win a host of trophies, including two Champions Leagues and Serie A.

Hamsik has a good awareness of the game around him and appears ideally suited to being deployed in that way but the Slovakia international needs time to adapt to his new role, and Ancelotti is likely to test him out again in that position against Fiorentina.

“It’s going well,” Hamsik says. “Ancelotti told me right from the first phone call that he wanted me there, in front of the defense. I believe it can work, I’m giving everything to improve and I hope I can do so with time.”

Napoli has bad memories of playing against Fiorentina. The last time it played the Viola, it lost 3-0 — a week after beating Juventus in Turin — and effectively handed the title to the Bianconeri.

“We’re still upset over last season’s defeat,” says Hamsik, who is in his 12th season at Napoli. “Before that match we believed we could do it, the whole city believed. We have a sense of revenge because that defeat still hurts us.

“But we’ll fight not just on Saturday but for the whole year. The dream remains the same, the city deserves it. This is the most compact group I have played in.”

___

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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