The Nigerian star was clearly absent against Parma, and there will be more eyebrows raised if he is unused against La Dea on Wednesday
As Gennaro Gattuso made the substitution after the substitution on Sunday, Victor Osimhen was visibly unused as the Napoli side beat Parma 2-0 at the Diego Armando Maradona stadium.
The Nigerian star watched his coach make four changes against the relegation-threatened side, despite needing to add to their advantage after scoring a 32nd-minute opener by Eljif Elmas. In all fairness, it’s a bit more nuanced than it looks at first glance.
Gli Azzurri were far from their best against the second half as they struggled to cope with the pressure and intensity from the visitors early in the second half. Interestingly, Gattuso chose not to go along with his first replacement just past the hour mark, pulling out stocky Andrea Petagna for Napoli second-scorer Matteo Politano with seven minutes left.
Under normal circumstances Osimhen appeared to be the perfect replacement given his profile, but the home side’s struggles prompted a different approach from the former AC Milan icon. Subsequent changes saw Tiemoue Bakayoko, Elseid Hysaj and Nikola Maksimovic replace Piotr Zielinski, Mario Rui and Elmas respectively. The Nigerian was not questioned.
Particularly noteworthy was the final substitution with 13 minutes left; a central defender in Maksimovic replacing forward-thinking Elmas, which indicated how concerned Gattuso was about visitors from Emilia Romagna.
“I’m satisfied because we won as a team,” said the Napoli boss after the 2-0 success. “We faced a tough opponent – a team that always comes to rush you and fights for every ball and we responded with the same determination.
“We knew how to dig and it’s something the team deserves credit for.”
Along with the latest change and subsequent use of the nominal central-back, Bakayoko’s deeper positioning and Hysaj’s few points ahead in the final 13 minutes highlight the logic of the former Italy international in leaving Osimhen on the bench for 90 minutes.
The result of not playing in Sunday’s victory means West Africa has now played for 45 minutes in total since recovering from injury and coronavirus, getting 25 minutes in the loss Napoli 3-1 in Serie A against Hellas Verona and 20 in 4-2 last week. Coppa Italia wins over Spezia.
There was an obvious tendency to relieve the former Lille frontman after his return, but the way the meeting in Parma has gone forced the coach to fine-tune this plan against the courageous visitors. While there may have been immediate concern about the striker’s non-appearance – particularly within the Super Eagles fandom – the larger pattern implies that this was one and nothing. important to fear in the long run.
Given the lack of league minutes this weekend, Gattuso’s roster will be under the microscope for Coppa Italia’s first leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final first leg on Wednesday with Atalanta at the Stadio Maradona. There may be some raised eyebrows if Osimhen is left out for the fourth game in a row, especially given how much Napoli training was mad over the forward last summer.
Still, deciding to leave the 22-year-old aside will be understandable given a lack of fitness having missed more than two months of action, and given the solutions Gattuso found in the Nigerian’s absence.
Despite the frustrating inconsistency that still beset this Azzurri aside, they scored some impressive victories during his layoff; more particularly this 4-0 beating of Roma and the recent 6-0 hammering of Fiorentina.
The Napoli boss’s choice of center-forward was interesting in both games, which threw Dries Mertens into the middle against Paulo Fonseca’s side, but opted for Petagna’s robust option against Viola. While the two caps weren’t innovative moves from the Italian boss, they indicated that the team’s MO did not rely solely on their central striker to deliver results.
The fact that only one of the 10 goals from both matches, scored by the Belgian, came from the center striker of the day somewhat underscores this point with six of the strikes coming from wide forwards.
While that could lead to another partial role on Wednesday, Osimhen will love to start against the same opponents he destroyed in mid-October when he rightly opened his Serie A account and turned out to be a thorn. in the side of the Bergamasque formation for long periods of the encounter.
However, a lot has changed at both clubs since October and the Nigerian frontman is now facing a potentially pivotal few weeks in a fledgling Napoli career in hopes of regaining his place as Gattuso’s number nine.