Crunch time and given the group who would have thought we would be a neck in front with the finishing line in sight? It took ages to work out the permutations after the Marseilles game but now we know – lose by less than 3 goals and we are through.
But ….. we also know the pitfalls of finishing second in a group. A draw or win will result in our avoiding some difficult ties.
I stated during the summer that finishing 4th was fine and dandy for the balance sheet but as we had no chance of winning Big Ears, it would be better to have a tough group and go out early. My reasoning being that less games would allow us to have more “puff” come season’s end. Well, I now think my opinion is a pile of doodlysquat, we can and probably will win the thing.
It would be expecting too much for a repeat of the first 25 minutes at The Emirates – Napoli were doomed from the first kick and we could afford to cruise through the second half. If we score early the tie is over although Napoli can still go through if they win. Is this the best scenario? It would dispose of a brilliant Dortmund team who could prove a difficult hurdle later in the tournament.
Napoli are without Hamsik but have quality throughout their team. Any team with Inler, Pandev, Higuian and ex-Real Madrid star Callejon is a threat.
Benitez is back tinkering which is causing ructions amongst the Napoli fans. He has played 14 different line-ups in their first 15 Serie A games! Napoli were booed off the pitch at the weekend after squandering a 2 goal lead at home to Udinese but perhaps their minds were focussed upon tonight. They also lost their previous home game against Parma.
Arsenal: It will be of huge interest to see how Mr Wenger sets up the team tonight. Twist or stick? Attack, or defend and play on the counter? My preference is for 5 minutes of all out attack followed by containment through the first half and the first 20 minutes of the second, then stick it to the Neapolitans for outbidding us on Higuian.
The midfield axis of Flamster and Arteta must start as should Theo, though Mr Wenger has shown a reluctance to start our speedster – perhaps he is not 100% yet.
Ramsey needs a break, his performance on Sunday was poor compared to his early season work and could be rested ahead of the MC game. Same with Wilshere, and as such I would be tempted to bench them both. TR or Cazorla? Santi is not back to his best and Tomas is the better defender so I would go with him but either will do an excellent job.
Should we rest Özil whom I thought he was excellent vs Everton? He is accustomed to a winter break and has played almost every game since his signing but if we are to get a result tonight his presence is essential. Mr Wenger has been playing him primarily on the right and if Theo starts Mesut can influence play in a different way. I can’t wait for their understanding to develop but then I think the same of Ozil and Cazorla – it hasn’t happened yet but we know it will.
So …. can we get a result tonight? Will the referee be biased in a town renowned for it’s – how shall I put it without causing offence – “perversity”. Huge money has been thrown into this Napoli side and they are a fine team who are desperate to show their mettle. They have beaten Dortmund at home, which we failed to do, and are playing in front of their very vocal fans. It will be tough but I think we have enough.
written by Big Raddy