Latching on to Lorenzo Insigne’s first-time arched through-ball in the 69th minute, Victor Osimhen’s eyes lit up as he shaped to strike the ball on his weaker left foot.
He didn’t quite find the bottom right corner to add to his 24th-minute effort but finally opening his Serie A account was definitely one of the many positives in Napoli’s 4-0 dismantling of Udinese on Monday night.
Both sides came into the game unbeaten after three matches, the Udine outfit conceding only twice in 270 minutes. The home side’s only draw heading into gameweek four was a comeback 2-2 draw against an admittedly weak Juventus these days, but they were certainly not to be underestimated at Dacia Arena.
In a sense, it represented the perfect challenge for Osimhen even at this early stage of the campaign.
After seemingly kickstarting his season with a clutch showing against Leicester City in the Europa League last Thursday, getting off the mark in domestic football was the next step.
24 minutes was all it took and the Nigerian finally netted in his third league appearance of 2021/22.
While the goal wouldn’t rank among the 22-year-old’s finest, it set the tone for a thoroughly comfortable evening for the Partenopei.
Indeed, it’s certainly not an exaggeration to suggest Luciano Spalletti’s troops could have hit Udinese for five or even six. The expected goals score of 3.30-0.24 per Understat emphasises the visitors’ dominance on a night where they also hit the woodwork twice.
4-0. Dominant win.— Seye Omidiora (@theReal_SeyE) September 21, 2021
Could have been 5 or 6. Tricky game at Sampdoria on Thursday. https://t.co/69IfiQlDpA
The result means they not only continue an impressive record against the Little Zebras — the Naples outfit have won 10 and drawn one of their last 11 meetings against Monday’s hosts — but now remain the only team in Serie A with a 100 percent record.
Despite completing only three passes all night and having only 30 touches before his substitution in the closing minutes (ranking lowest among Napoli’s starters), the young striker could have easily netted a brace, nonetheless.
He still won six ground duels from eight, only the impressive Andre Zambo Anguissa (nine from 12) outdid the Nigerian, was successful in both dribble attempts and won two fouls on the night—a joint-high.
Having said that, the tenacious frontman lost possession 13 times — higher than anyone on the winning team — which seemed to elicit Spalletti’s post-match assessment of his star striker
“Our strength is our environment. We are overwhelmed with love that can become fuel for players,” Spalletti told DAZN as quoted by Football Italia. “We have quality in attack. Victor [Osimhen] is really strong, he lacks quality in tight spaces, but it’s hard to catch him in open spaces.”
In truth, the forward’s decision-making in possession at times somewhat irritated, particularly his inclination to run with the ball when keeping it would have sufficed.
It definitely wasn’t a performance as glowing as that near-perfect showing at the King Power Stadium last week, but the Nigerian looks to be finding some timely goalscoring momentum. This notably began at the backend of last season and continued into pre-season, however, a harsh sending off on the opening day success against Venezia threatened to slow down the marksman.
After a rather slow start to year two in Naples, three goals in two games has a nice ring to it going into Thursday’s clash with Sampdoria and a home game with Cagliari on Sunday.
I don’t think it’s overly ambitious to expect 25 goals in all competitions from Osimhen this season. Definitely doable.— Seye Omidiora (@theReal_SeyE) September 20, 2021
He may not have a personal target for the campaign, but Osimhen’s optimism ought to excite the Napoli fanbase.
“I don’t want to set an objective. The club always believed in me, starting with these two goals is certainly important and I want to continue like this,” the Super Eagle stated after the 2-2 draw with Leicester. “I have everything to give to Napoli, I want to stay healthy, avoid injuries and one step at a time we can together achieve our targets.”
Spalletti reckons it’s too early to name them title favourites but the ex-Roma boss recognises his team’s quality, regardless.
Even though it’s still months away, next year’s Africa Cup of Nations to be held in January will stretch the Azzurri squad.
With Kalidou Koulibaly, Zambo Anguissa and Osimhen expected to represent Senegal, Cameroon and Nigeria respectively, the month-long showpiece will test Spalletti’s acumen, although the clash against Juventus on January 6 represents the only major test on paper.
Having said that, the Partenopei needn’t focus on that right now. Rather, there has to be a motivation to continue to evolve in the present.
Osimhen faces Samp and Cagliari in the coming days and he’ll strive to continue the renewed momentum. Making telling impacts in those games will not only increase the sense that this is his season, but also push a Napoli side aiming to challenge last year’s top four sides.