Some months ago, Hirving Lozano was one of the most wanted youngsters in European football. After being linked with Chelsea for a good few months, the Mexican would seal a move to Carlo Ancelotti. Paris Saint-Germain were also looking at him, but intense convincing from Don Carlo saw him move to the Stadio San Paolo. Strangely enough though, things haven’t exactly gone as per plan.
His last season at PSV Eindhoven saw Lozano impress by scoring 21 times in all competitions. While playing on either the left or the right flank, the former Pachuca man contributed to as many as 33 goals in just 40 games. The move to Napoli came when he was on a high. But Napoli weren’t exactly in a similar position.
There was a lack of stability at the partenopei. Ancelotti’s constant usage of the 4-4-2 did leave them overrun in midfield. That saw them struggle and concede goals. The infamous ritiro incident brought a real dent between multiple parties. That made the environment toxic, leading to the sacking of Ancelotti.
Over the last few months, Rino Gattuso has done a very good job. After initial struggles, they’ve settled into a 4-3-3 system and have beaten Lazio, Napoli and Inter. Many a betting service are laying odds on Napoli finishing in the European places. But amidst all that, Lozano hasn’t had a sneak in.
It does boil down to a lack of planning. It is gleaned by how the summer business didn’t happen with the target of playing a 4-3-3. They had to sign defensive midfielders in Diego Demme and Stan Lobotka in January to fix their issue of getting overrun. A lot of it has been reflected on the Lozano transfer as well.
The club has Arek Milik or Dries Mertens as the striker. Lorenzo Insigne, being the skipper, has been a regular on the left-wing. The right-wing sees Jose Callejon play regularly. A key part of his role is his defensive nous and work rate- something Lozano doesn’t have. Gattuso also brought in Matteo Politano from Inter recently, meaning he’s taken the role that Lozano could have taken up.
Lozano has played only 721 minutes of Serie A football so far. Under Ancelotti, he was often the second-striker in the current Everton manager’s 4-4-2 shape. He did get crucial goals against Juventus, RB Salzburg and Milan while doing that. But it is really under Gattuso that gametime has actually come down.
His last start for the club came back in early December against Udinese, which was Ancelotti’s last league game in charge. Since then, it has been a case of him coming off the bench to play last few minutes of games. He’s played only 61 minutes of Serie A football since then. If you follow in game sports betting, you’ll be aware of how long the odds are on Lozano being an anytime goalscorer – because he never plays!
Insigne presence on the left is constant, considering his captaincy status. The Italian is another Mino Raiola client like Lozano himself and one of the irreplaceable members of the side. Milik offers more as a target-man than Lozano, who doesn’t suit the mould of the strikers Gattuso likes. The Mexican doesn’t have the defensive wing-back traits like Callejon.
Having said that, this is also an adaptation period for him. Matthijs de Ligt has been a similar case. He’s adjusting to the tactical and structural demands of a new league. Serie A thrives on being a tactical league which has more nuances than other leagues. Be it defenders or attacking players, they will take time to settle in.
And settling in demands gametime- something Lozano hasn’t got enough of. One can make a case of him playing better and scoring more if he simply played more. But that blame has to fall on Napoli for being planless in their approach. Their transfer strategy was random and perhaps, Lozano was part of that randomness.
He is 24 and yet to reach his peak. Some signs have been promising- like leaving De Ligt in no man’s land against Juve in the 4-3 loss. The goals he has scored have come against good opposition. That is a positive sign for all parties. But the way Napoli’s team looks like, the opposite might be the case.