Thursday, December 4 th, 2014
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Callejón vs Gervinho: how this face-off decided Napoli's win
The Spaniard confirmed his state of grace in the San Paolo's clash, while the Giallorossi keeps struggling in each game their Ivorian arrow fails
by Matteo Schiltz and Anthony Pepe
Gervinho. The Ivorian, inconsistently brilliant. Reborn at Roma and an integral part to Rudi Garcia’s system. As Totti put it “If he could finish he would be as good as Ronaldo and Roma would not have been able to afford him”. In the buildup to Serie A’s big matchup of the weekend, Roma fans were left wondering which Gervinho would show up to the San Paolo. Gervinho’s performance is critical to Roma’s success. Restrict Gervinho, and Roma will struggle to create chances. This is exactly what Benitez set out to do, and his team executed the game plan to perfection. While Gervinho completed 84% of his passes, very few occurred in Napoli’s final third. Moreover, none were key passes.

Napoli did a fine job of keeping Gervinho out of dangerous positions, forcing him far away from Rafael’s net. A key part to Gervinho’s game is taking on his man, but unfortunately for the Ivorian, only 6 out of his 14 attempted take ons were successful. Of those, 2 where either at midfield or in Roma’s own half.



Finally, Gervinho only mustered one cross throughout the whole evening at the San Paolo. The cross was incomplete, symbolic towards Roma’s performance.

A night to forget for Gervinho and Roma. Napoli fans will celebrate a great performance by the Partenopei, while Roma fans will be scratching their heads wondering what went wrong. Gervinho may not be solely blamed as it was a collective failure from the Giallorossi, however it is evident that when the Ivorian does not find success on the pitch neither does Roma. If Roma are to continue excelling in Serie A and in Europe, Garcia must prove he is capable of creating a plan B for situations like tonight.

Key Stats Summary:
Passes completed: 84%
Shots (On Target): 0
Chances Created: 0
Assists: 0
Goals Scored: 0

Jose Maria Callejón. The Spaniard is not only the current Serie A top goal scorer, but he was (until Napoli’s 6-2 victory over Verona) also the only Napoli player keeping the club afloat in the league. Without his goals, the club would have been in a dire position; his form has been so scintillating that the Spanish press has been clamouring for his inclusion in the next Spain squad for the Euro 2016 qualifiers. The only question mark over the player’s head was would he be able to recover from his unbelievable miss against Atalanta in midweek. It was a miss so incredible and humiliating that the entire world football press was replaying it and it was being called the ‘miss of the century’. It would not be unreasonable for a player to suffer a crisis of confidence after missing such an easy chance to win a vital game for his team. Against Roma, Callejón started brightly. He was heavily involved in the attacking phases of play in the first 20 minutes when Napoli were attempting to consolidate their early lead.

His contribution on the right flank was clearly better and greater than Gervinho's, as we can see from the graph.

He missed one opportunity early on when he rifled a shot against the crossbar from just outside the box; he narrowly failed to score, but both Higuaín and Hamšík were in better positions than him and did not hesitate to let him know that a square pass would have been the simpler option.

The underlying image shows how much danger Callejon created to the Giallorossi's defense during the 90 minutes.


For the remainder of the first half he stayed his usual industrious self: stretching the opposition left back by making darting runs, exchanging passes with his favoured right-sided partner Christian Maggio, and kept the ball tidily without making any truly incisive passes. He is a formidable crosser of the ball, especially when cutting back from the goal line but he has never really been able to unpick an opposition defence with a through ball; for this reason the Spain set-up has been reluctant to include him, he does not offer the range of passing that a typical Spanish forward would.


In the second half Callejón continued trying, as he always does, and was presented with a wonderful opportunity to score the second goal when Kalidou Koulibaly (a star performer on the day) rampaged up the field on the counter attack and set up a goal for Callejón on a plate. As they say though in Koulibaly’s native France, you still have to eat the caviar after it’s served to you; Callejón was indecisive and seemingly still affected by his midweek miss. He tamely tried to chip De Sanctis and the ball was recuperated by the Roma defenders. It looked as if Callejón had blown his chance for redemption and perhaps Napoli’s victory as for all their dominance it seemed clear that a one goal margin would not be enough. Finally, Gonzalo Higuaín found Callejón with a delightfully perfect through ball and Callejon’s finish made it look easier than it really was. Electing to use a disguised side foot finish took both De Sanctis and ultimately Roma out of the game and gave a merited goal for Callejón and a merited victory to Napoli. His morale will be sky high currently and there is no reason why he shouldn’t be able to keep this up all season and genuinely challenge for the Capocannoniere crown.

The face-off's winner is clearly Josè Maria Callejón.

Key Stats Summary:
Passes completed: 82% 
Shots (On Target): 5 (3) 
Chances Created: 0 
Assists: 0 
Goals Scored: 1

Data source:

Monday, November 3 rd, 2014
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