Luciano Spalletti insisted he must swallow the blame for Napoli’s collapse against Empoli that all but ended their Scudetto hopes.
The evergreen Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne fired Spalletti’s visitors into a 2-0 lead at Stadio Carlo Castellani before Napoli succumbed to a spectacular comeback.
Liam Henderson pulled one back in the 80th minute before a double from Inter loanee Andrea Pinamonti capped a remarkable turnaround to leave Napoli, who have played a game more, five points behind Serie A leaders Inter.
That made Empoli just the third team in Serie A history to win after trailing by two goals after 79 minutes, after Inter versus Sampdoria in January 2005, and Sampdoria against Sassuolo in November 2016.
It also marked the first time Napoli have lost an Italian top-flight match after leading by two goals since March 1942, a 5-3 reverse against Torino.
Spalletti’s side entered the game sitting four points behind second-placed Milan, who were due in action at Lazio later on Sunday, and the head coach believes he should take much of the criticism for Napoli’s frail mentality.
He told DAZN after the game: “I can only take note of what happens. Clearly, imagining an end to the game like that was difficult, but when you don’t have the right intensity and concentration…
“We made a few too many mistakes, lost the ball too cheaply. Inevitably, the coach has to shoulder much of the blame for the attitude and consistency. The responsibility lies with the coach.”
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Goalkeeper Alex Meret was largely at fault for Pinamonti’s leveller, his lapse in concentration allowing the striker to pounce and equalise, and Spalletti appreciates the error allowed Empoli a way back into the game.
“It depends on what you build day by day, the attitude that is consolidated, being focused, attentive. Something evidently went wrong,” the coach added.
“When we talk about an error like that, some fear sets in and the opponents can take advantage. Even if Empoli hadn’t won for a while, they played good football. These things can happen in football and it happened.
“It’s important for us to keep possession because our characteristics are not suited to a physical contest. Even then, it didn’t seem to be a battle to that level to become unsustainable for these players.”
Individual mistakes aside, Spalletti reiterated he must take much of the blame for the second-half performance as he brought his own future into question.
“I am responsible for this team, for their attitude, their approach, so I take the consequences for what happens on the field,” Spalletti said.
“Much of it has to be my fault. We’ve been working together for almost a year, there ought to be a mentality and reaction coming from my work with these players.
“We were challenging for the Scudetto, as everyone said, we had the qualities to challenge for the Scudetto, but if the level is this, I cannot avoid being called into question.”
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