Mazzarri: ‘Napoli on right track, Roma did nothing’

Walter Mazzarri was fuming at Jose Mourinho’s comments after defeat to Roma with two red...

Mazzarri: ‘Napoli on right track, Roma did nothing’

Walter Mazzarri was fuming at Jose Mourinho’s comments after defeat to Roma with two red cards. ‘I am convinced we were the only team who could win at that stage.’

The Partenopei came into this match off a humiliating 4-0 Coppa Italia defeat to Frosinone, but this was a head-to-head for the chance to stay in the hunt for European places.

It was a chaotic encounter with 13 yellow cards and two red, both for Napoli players, as Matteo Politano was sent off for a reaction foul on Nicola Zalewski, followed by Victor Osimhen for two bookable offences.

Lorenzo Pellegrini scored on the half-volley from 12 yards before a Romelu Lukaku counter-attack with the last kick of the game.

Mazzarri was in a foul mood from the off, as when told that Mourinho claimed within five minutes it was clear Roma would win, the Napoli coach refused to respond.

“Try asking questions to me rather than telling me what someone else said. Once you ask me questions, I will try to answer them,” he told DAZN.

“I am convinced that the way we were playing, and Politano’s shirt was tugged on the attack into space, that was our best period of the game and we were the only team who could win at that stage.

“We were not clinical enough in the final third with some weak finishes, but we dominated possession. Other than Andrea Belotti creating that chance which was our mistake, I don’t think Roma did anything.

“We were in control, we thought that we would take the lead and win the match, then it went the way it went, so let’s move on.”

Once Napoli went down to nine men, Mazzarri moved to a three-man defence, so could they bring in players suited to a different system?

“It seems absurd really, but the moment I arrived people have been asking why I don’t use three at the back. I signed because I liked the way Napoli played last season and, aside from a few players who are not in good form, this is basically the same team.

“The side was just getting stretched out, so we had some adjustments to make, but I like the overall approach. A team that comes to Roma, has 68 per cent possession in the first half, is on the right track.

“If in future I see that we must reinforce the defence, then we can change, but I don’t think Napoli are playing badly. It is very similar in style to last season, just with a few individuals who are not in good form. We need to convert more than one out of six scoring opportunities, that’s all.”

Even down to nine men, Napoli still had 60 per cent possession overall at the Stadio Olimpico, but just two shots on target.

Mazzarri came in to replace Rudi Garcia and his staff on November 14 and fully admits he hasn’t had time to really transform the squad.

“I was just saying today that if you go to a big club at a certain moment of the season, you do not have time for any training. When you play every three days, there’s nothing the fitness coach can do to get specialist work done to bring sharpness back. You have to wait for a break.”

It was put to the coach that Napoli cannot repeat the performances of last season because Kvicha Kvaratskhelia and Osimhen were surprises, whereas now all opponents double up the marking on these stars, so they need more options to create chances.

“I agree, we have already tried a few things, for example Raspadori, but also movements from the wingers. We are trying those.”

Napoli are leapfrogged in the table by Roma and slide down to seventh place, already four points adrift of Bologna in fourth.