The prize of a semi-final spot (probably against Valencia) awaits the winner of tonight’s showdown in the Stadio San Paolo. Having won fairly comfortably last Thursday in North London, we must be favourites to progress so why is there such an air of trepidation about Gooners everywhere. Was it the fact that we should have won by more and put the tie to bed at home or maybe it’s because we just watched our team struggle against ten man Watford less than three days ago?
Napoli are odds on to win tonight’s game, but our odds to win the competition as a whole are a third of Napoli’s. What does this mean? Who knows – all that’s obvious is that an away goal should be priceless.
Harking back to 2008 and that away win in the San Siro, it was a completely different scenario on that occasion as the Emirates home leg had finished 0-0. No away goal for the opposition was more or less the only similarity. Fans’ expectations weren’t that high for the return in Milan but were superbly exceeded. Tonight is more of a ‘sh*t or bust’ situation – go all out for that away goal or play our best effort at Islington catennacio (haha, as if).
The more likely game plan will be somewhere in between as usual.
Papa is back available to play in Europe which gives the defence a huge boost as we miss his calming influence when he’s not prowling the box smiling. Kos and Papa in the centre and we start to look a whole lot more solid.
Other news is much harder to come by at the time of writing. There’s bound to be a certain caginess about revealing too much too soon. Aside from our long term absentees, only Denis Suarez has not travelled by the look of it.
Will Xhaka start after testing out his groin on Monday? A double pivot of Xhaka and Torreira would seem the most defensive and solid midfield selection, though if Rambo plays deeper we will have more chance of scoring that vital away goal.
Will we pack the midfield and use wing backs to add further stability or are wingbacks seen as a more of an attacking move since someone like Kolasinac usually plays well forward of the halfway line? Kola was given the night off on Monday which perhaps suggests he’ll play tonight and, for balance, that means a back three and Ainsley on the right.
Both strikers to start? Or will Unai use the left and right sided attacking options of Iwobi and Micki again? The latter option would appear more defensive but didn’t provide much in the way of either security or brightness on Monday (largely down to Henrikh’s poor performance).
Laca was also given the night off on Monday and didn’t look too cheesed off, so you would have thought he had been promised the no 1 striker’s spot against Napoli. Maybe Auba will start on the bench and be available to add extra bang if required in the second half. If he plays, it’ll probably be wide left which leaves that flank vulnerable with the Wardrobe behind him. I like the idea of both Laca and Auba playing as twin strikers but we haven’t really seen it so far under Unai.
How do you think Unai will set up to maximise our chances of progression?
The comments section below is ready and waiting for your opinions and score predictions!