Dries Mertens has been in scorching-hot form for Napoli, which is averaging 3.8 goals per game so far this season.

By 90Min
September 22, 2017

In the aftermath of the fall of Juventus from Serie A, Inter emerged as the dominant force in Italy winning five back-to-back titles. A feat that many thought would never be beaten, until Juventus returned to their perch - winning six scudettos on the trot and giving the league a reputation of being a one-horse race. However, the 2017/18 season is set to be different. 

Emerge Napoli, the Gli Azzurri - a new contender for the league title in what should prove to be the most exciting and competitive Serie A season in years. 

Guided by Maurizio Sarri, Napoli look primed to end a 28-year wait for the title, playing one of the most entertaining brands of football in the world. Napoli are averaging 3.8 goals per game so far this season, the most in Europe - outscoring a PSG front-line worth a staggering €464m.

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Wednesday night's 4-1 demolition of Lazio was a microcosm of everything Sarri has implemented at Napoli during his two-year tenure at the club thus far. Napoli went into the break 1-0 down to the home side but came out of the blocks flying after the break. A ferocious flurry of goals saw Lazio keeper Strakosha pick the ball out of his net on three occasions within just five minutes. 

When everything clicks, Napoli are irresistible to watch and impossible to oppose - scoring 19 goals in five straight victories in the league this season. Fans have felt a wave of nostalgia, reflecting upon the days of Diego Maradona, who guided Napoli to their last league title in 1990 with 16 league goals. Dries Mertens is on course to emulate the achievements of the Argentine legend - having been transformed from a winger into a lethal striker by Sarri. 

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Scoring 23 goals in 24 games in 2017 alone, Mertens has emerged as one of Europe's top strikers - but this is not just based on statistics. Sarri has described Mertens as a 'little animal' whose hunger and appetite to win never ends, a valuable asset to any team chasing a title. Mertens has already begun to mirror the Napoli legend, scoring a carbon copy of Maradona's chip against the same opponent in 1985. 

The comparisons were plastered all over Italian media, 'Like Diego,' ran the front-page headline on Corriere Dello Sport, while 'Dries or Maradona?' was the question posed by Gazzetta. When asked about the goal, Mertens said: "They showed me it earlier, his was better. Let's just leave it at that." 

To be compared to Napoli's greatest ever player is a humbling testament to the progression of Mertens this past year.

Playing down the achievement, this is something that manager Sarri has also done when asked about the possibility of bringing the title back to Naples. When asked the question by Mediaset Premium, the response was typical of the Italian mastermind: “I need to go to bed. We’ve got training tomorrow.”

Truth be told, his rotation against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League tells the full story of where Sarri's priorities lie. For Napoli, for Sarri and for Mertens - only one thing is on the agenda this year. It's time to roll back the years, 28 of them to be precise. 

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