arsenal vs napoli   Leave a comment


Arsène Wenger
points with pride to the fact that his
team have reached the knockout
rounds of the Champions League in
every season since Uefa abolished
the second group stage 10 years
ago although even the Invincibles did not
have it this tough. The class of
2003-04 were the last Arsenal side
to really struggle in the group
stages but, after gaining just one
point from their first three matches,
they rallied to win their last three,
finishing above Internazionale,
Dynamo Kyiv and Lokomotiv Moscow.
Since then the group draws have
pitted Arsenal against at least one
duff side and their passage to the
do-or-die rounds has been relatively
secure. This season there are no
such things as a gimme: Marseille,
Borussia Dortmund and Napoli are all
capable of finishing above the
Londoners.
Arsenal made a good start by
returning from their opening game in
Marseille with three points but
Tuesday’s opponents, Napoli, made
an even more impressive one,
beating last year’s runners-up,
Dortmund.
“For Napoli to beat Dortmund is
certainly something very special and
it will lift their confidence,”
acknowledged Wenger, who was
given an early warning of the threat
posed by the Italians during a pre-
season game at the Emirates, when
Napoli hurtled into a 2-0 lead before
two late goals salvaged a draw for
the hosts.
Both teams have strengthened since
then, Arsenal signing Mesut Özil and
Napoli completing a summer revamp
under Rafael Benítez in which they
reinvested the £55m they received
from Paris Saint-Germain for
Edinson Cavani to bring in eight new
players.
One of their recruits, Gonzalo
Higuaín, had been on the verge of
joining Arsenal before Real Madrid
moved the goalposts and sold the
striker to Napoli instead. Wenger
knows that containing the
Argentinian is one of the major
challenges facing the Arsenal’s
defence but notes that, with Özil
around, Napoli will also have to keep
a close eye on a former Real player.
“In the end Real Madrid sold two
great players, one of them went to
Napoli, one went to Arsenal so it’s
1-1 on that front!”
Napoli bought two other players
from Real – Raúl Abiol and José
Callejón – as well as the exciting
Belgian winger Drei Mertens, but
Wenger is especially wary of an
Italian youngster who was already
on their books. Lorenzo Insigne
tormented England Under-21s in the
summer’s European Championship
and has begun this season in similar
style.
“Insigne is mobile, he is not tall but
quick and very good in the transition
from defence to attack and he is a
good dribbler as well and is an
intelligent mover,” says Wenger.
“That makes him an interesting
prospect for Napoli, and of course a
dangerous player for us on Tuesday
night.”
The natural instinct of Wenger’s
team is to attack but the managers
know they must show equal zeal in
defence on Tuesday if they are to
qualify From Such A Group.

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