A Massive Night ahead in Naples

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.

Paul Vaessen beats Juventus’ Dino Zoff with 2 minutes to go in the ECWC semi final 2nd leg in 1980

Team News

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).

Thierry Henry ties Javier Zanetti in knots before blasting past Toldo in Arsenal’s 5-1 demolition of Inter Milan in November 2003
Matthew Ashton/Empics Sport

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!

courtesy of Gooner Frog on twitter



52 Responses to A Massive Night ahead in Naples

  1. LBG says:

    Courage, mon brave!
    Selected my team yesterday. Hope not to see Mustafi or Granit in starting team, and hope for Mesut, Aubang, Laca up front. Suspect I wont get my way.

  2. chas says:

  3. chas says:

  4. chas says:

  5. Sue says:

    So for a split second I thought it was just a bad dream….. no such luck 😩
    I totally agree – if that does happen, I’ll drive Pep to prison myself!!
    I’d like AMN & Kolasinac to play… oh & Mesut of course! Don’t want to see Mkhi, after his horror show on Monday! Think we need both Laca & Auba… we can’t afford to dither, we need to go for the jugular from the off!! COYG
    Please could we give the green kit a miss?!
    Love the clips/tweets chas

  6. Sue says:

    Plus I can’t even predict a score… this is Arsenal we’re talking about, you never know what you’re going to get from them & we’re away…. oh & I’m a little scared… 🙈

  7. chas says:

  8. Geoff Alvis says:

    The reason we’re not favourites is because we’re away! Our performances away from home have been dire, I mean really awful! Take Everton and Watford for example. I know we beat Watford, but you would have thought that we were playing with 10 men, not the Hornets. Even Rennes and BATE Borisov managed to put us to shame at their own grounds, and we’re hoping that we play Champions League football next season?!
    The big plus is Sokratis is available, but we’ll still be fielding that liability Mustafi who has a crucial mistake in him every game. And whilst we continue with the likes of Elneny and Monreal, it’s not hard to see why we struggle. Iwobi and Miki are two of the most inconsistent players you’ll ever see and Ozil just cannot cut it against better opposition away from home. Our best keeper this season won’t even be starting, Leno has saved us many times and is who I’d much rather have between the sticks, but Cech will be relied on again and I just hope he can produce a top performance using all his experience as he’s gonna need it.
    Ramsey has to play, as does Torreira especially with his experience of Italian football, which could be vital to protecting our defence tonight. We are going to need 100% concentration and effort against Napoli, as you know they’ll have plenty of chances. They have a good record at home and beat Liverpool confidently there in the CL earlier in the season. My team would be…
    Sokratis Koscielny Monreal
    AMN Torreira Ramsey Xhaka Kolasinac
    Lacazette Auba

    However, I feel Emery’s will be…
    Mustafi Sokratis Koscielny Monreal Kolasinac
    Miki Torreira Xhaka Iwobi

  9. LB says:

    If that decision had been against anyone else it would have been hilarious but……………………

    I could hate VAR for the rest of my life, must go and watch the dog diving into the sea again 🙂

  10. LB says:

    I hope it is your team Geoff

  11. Geoff Alvis says:


    Don’t hold out much hope! I’d rather try and get that away goal and with Ramsey, Auba & Laca you kno you have a chance.

    You can’t rely on Miki or Iwobi for goals these days! Just gotta hope and pray, especially after witnessing the Spuds getting into the CL semi last night courtesy of VAR!

  12. VP says:

    people of little faith
    I laughed so much when spuds were going out and then laughed so much when billiion dollar shitty/pep were knocked out
    I have full confidence in the bottlers bottling it in the next round
    Barca Ajax final and I hope Ajax wins it

    I am also confident in Arsenal as they always play better the game after a crap game

  13. LBG says:

    Which would AAers prefer, Manshitty to lose last night and then return on Saturday determined for revenge, and batter Totteringham giving us another chance for third. Or the other way round.
    I think, rather than as predicted on the radio this morning, British Final, Barca and Ajax will contest and I hope a brilliant Ajax team are victors.
    Since I also want Liverpool to win the League, the Scousers might now need Manure to do them a favour. Wouldn’t that be fun!

  14. TotalArsenal says:

    Nice one Chas. A back four of Mus-Sok-Kos-Nacho protected by Xhaka/Torreira will keep us from conceding more than one or two. Up-front we can play the ball safe players of Iwobi, Rambo, Laca and Mesut. Auba to come on after sixty minutes and Mkhi if need be. Feeling good about this one.

  15. TotalArsenal says:

    Indeed, LBG, the former.

  16. Sue says:

    LBG I would love for City to batter the spuds on Saturday!!! Not just for our benefit, but I’ll be gutted if Liverpool win the league! All that smiling Klopp & Firmino would be doing.. we all wouldn’t be able to see for at least 6 months

  17. chas says:


  18. allezkev says:

    Good post, like the pics etc but on a positive note I am really looking forward to our prospective Arsenal vs Ajax, European Super Cup match…. COYG….

  19. TotalArsenal says:

    Pool to win the league for me. It would be a victory for investing in a decent manager and spending reasonable rather than ridiculous funds. If they also lose out to the Hornets in the FA cup final, it would be fabulous to witness MC only winning the micky mouse cup this season (instead of the ‘four’) muhahahaha. Romantics over Mercenaries all day long.

  20. TotalArsenal says:

    Hadn’t thought about that, Kev. Wow, that would fecking wonderful.

  21. Sue says:

    Brilliant chas 😂🙈😎

  22. JM says:

    My starting team:

    Cech, AMN, Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal, Kolasinac, Torreira, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Lacazette

    Leno, Mustafi, Jenkinson, Guendouzi, Iwobi, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang

    – Napoli shall surely come out attacking and look to reduce the 2 goal deficit from the 1st leg.
    – We have to be strong and steady in midfield as always, the key to winning this quarter final tie.

    Let us progress to the semi finals.

  23. RA says:


    If Arsenal play as well tonight as the excellent omnibus pre-match Post you have placed before us for our delectation and delight, we will win hands down, or boots up — with a side order of preventing Sue from crying, and she can instead out smile the Klopp/Firm Grinners. 🤪

  24. Sue says:

    Haha nice one RA…. my grinning has started – I’ve just seen the green kit will not be on show tonight… it’s the home kit 😁😁

  25. GoonerB says:

    Thanks Chas, excellent post.

    My thoughts tend to align with LBG and Sue and I think we should go for it. We look a much better team on the front foot and when committing to attack (aka at home) and don’t seem to have the right balance to play the more patient and cagey game (aka away) right now, so why bother trying, lets play to our current strengths.

    Napoli will come out of the blocks flying tonight but might not expect us to go for them as well. However, with no away goals against us I would rather try and score than protect what we have, albeit with some measure of team defensive solidity in place. I only see the latter going one way anyway, which is lots of fecking around with it slowly sideways and backwards, until we get pinned deep, caught in possession, and lose momentum in the game being pinned back in our own box allowing Napoli to permanently come on to us.

    One of the biggest problems with this squad is the lack of pacey wide players that can cut in as a goal threat. We don’t have them and Micki and Iwobi aren’t those players. Both look more like central operators to me. I also feels this goes some way to explain why Ozil doesn’t perform so regularly because too often he is on the ball with only one option directly ahead of him.

    Compare that with De Bruyne who mostly has the options ahead and ones to either side as well. I would possibly even suggest that if De Bruyne was with us and Ozil with City that it would be De Bruyne struggling and Ozil getting the plaudits.

    We don’t have players that can give that width and pace and cut in to score. We will not see hose type of goals like this at Arsenal right now, of the likes that we see Sterling, Son and Salah execute regularly in the season. This has become the most important area to address in the summer, even beyond the defence, but right now we have to work around it and with what we have.

    Our best penetrative wide options are with wing backs. I would plump for Geoff Alvis’ team (at 8.59) in a 3-5-2 formation, and give our most creative midfielder a free role with 2 strikers and 2 attacking wing backs (in Koli and AMN) to feed into and link up with. The 2 deeper protective CM’s should be Xhaka and Torreira and the free role is either Ozil or Ramsey. I would probably start with Ramsey for the greater goal threat, because it may be away goals that wins us the tie.

  26. Aaron says:

    Whatever the stats say, 3 0r 4 at back, believe it is better with 4, AMN on right for me, the rest of the back picks themselves, need to control ball in mid, so whatever Emery thinks is best, but not Miki, Xhaka, Mesut and Ramsey together- no pace.
    Cech needs to have a super game.
    Score the 1 away goal and the Arsenal should advance.
    Since the anointed quad is out the window, everyone knows where I stand.
    Arsenal 1 trophy and 3rd place, spuds, pool and manure 0.

  27. GunnerN5 says:

    Good afternoon all, I’ve had a busy morning and just read Chas’s superb post – I admire your positive outlook but personally I’m still very nervous. I’m not at all sure our team has the strength of character to withstand the ugly atmosphere they will encounter in the San Paolo Stadium.

    But I hope you are right and I’m wrong.

    We simply cannot allow them to score an early goal against us – that would just intensify their supporters level of noise and abuse – we need to find a way to minimize the effect of the crowd.

  28. John Mathews legend says:

    I agree with Aaron, four at the back. Torreira and Xhaka to protect them. Same team as JM with Iwobi instead of Kolasinac. Him and Aubameyang can come on if we need to shake things up at some stage.
    hopefully an early goal on the counter while they’re pushing, then same strategy for the rest of the game.
    Pace will be key.
    I hope Sue is right that we ain’t wearing the ghastly green..

  29. Sue says:

    Nice line up 👌 would have swapped Leno for Cech though

  30. TotalArsenal says:

    3-4-3 with Rambo, Laca and Auba in attack… Solid enough defensively but a big gap between central midfield and attack possibly. Rambo will have to run his heart out.

  31. John Mathews legend says:

    Not the line-up I suggested…but then, what do I know!
    It does look like a team that can go out and get a goal or two early on.
    DMs will have to be disciplined to cover for the marauding wing-backs when they maraude…

  32. GoonerB says:

    The line up I wanted. I don’t feel there should be a problem with gaps TA. Xhaka should remain the most disciplined in holding midfield and Ramsey in a free attacking role with Torreira something in between the 2.

    Lacazette can operate slightly deeper than Auba at times almost in a number 10 or 9 1/2 role so we should see link ups from Torreira to Ramsey to Laca and wide options from the wing backs. It looks solid enough but with attacking options and support to each other in attack. Now just the small matter of the players executing it.

  33. TotalArsenal says:

    GB, good points and let’s see how it goes. Auba’s lack of footballing ability in this formation is my main worry. Let’s hope he’ll make up for it with a goal. 🙂

  34. GoonerB says:

    I agree TA about the question Mark’s on Auba’s ability. There is a lot I like about him but he doesn’t hold the ball up that well and is not so good retaining possession when receiving with back to goal.

    I am more worried when he is more isolated like in the Watford game. This formation should allow laca to do more of the back to goal holding up bit while supporting laca as well as the high wing backs

  35. Rasp says:

    Evening all, a reasonable start for us, I reckon we’ll need to score.

  36. Rasp says:

    Bloody brilliant by Laca, why doesn’t he usually take our free kicks?

  37. fatgingergooner says:

    Stunning first half.

  38. Sue says:

    What a goal Laca!!! So far so good… please keep it up
    Have loved listening to John Hartson commentating 👌

  39. Sue says:

    Was Insigne ever onside tonight??!!

  40. Rasp says:

    What an improvement to see a back line acting as one …. we’ve played the offside trap brilliantly tonight …. that only cones from the training pitch

  41. RA says:

    I do n0t want to be harsh, but frankly on a great night so far, one player stands out a mile for being useless — Mihkitaryan.

    He just does not seem bothered.

    I agree with you Rasper, the defence has been so much better tonight.

    Sue, have you got a crush on Hartson — his lilting Welsh accent — or that he is one of us — a Gooner? 😎

  42. RA says:

    Kozzer has been back to his very best lately, injuries forgotten, and tonight he has been magnificent!! 😋

    I have been very surprised that Napoli have looked much worse than they did away at the Emirates.

  43. RA says:


    Take a bow lads!! 👍

  44. Rasp says:

    Very professional performance …. no negatives …. we need to keep Xhaka and Torreira fit for the rest of the season

  45. Aaron says:

    Gritty win, just the kind this squad needed!


  46. VP says:

    Great start to my 4 day weekend. Fantastic result both home and especially away.
    Great save from Cech from Monreal
    Great defence

    Ramsey injured again…

  47. Sue says:

    No crush on Hartson, RA! He was quite funny tonight, yes it helps him being a gooner 😄
    So happy.. an away win & a clean sheet!! Could get used to that! Gutted about Slavia Prague, but hey they scored 3 (or 4 if you include the OG 😂) against the (not so) mighty Chelsea!
    Gutted about Ramsey.. hope it’s not too bad.. and I have to say – Kolasinac looked mighty fine tonight 😍

  48. LB says:

    Turned out to be quite easy really.

  49. fred1266 says:

  50. chas says:


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