Napoli 0 Arsenal 1 – Player Ratings

April 19, 2019

The team selection looked ideal for an away game, compact in midfield and some heavy duty firepower up front to hopefully snatch that crucial away goal.

First Half

Napoli had a few half chances but many of their attacks were halted by the lino’s flag.

Rambo pinged a hammy and was replaced by Micki in preference to Mesut, presumably in the running about a lot stakes. Almost immediately Laca was fouled, a distance out from the Napoli goal. He stepped up, fooled the goalkeeper which side he was going and popped it over the wall into an empty net. 1-0 away from home and just what the doctor ordered.

Action Images via reuters

Napoli decided their best hope of getting back into the game was to blame the ref for their predicament in the hope of intimidating him into favouring them. During that first half he stood up superbly against their efforts.

Second Half

A couple of minutes after the restart Auba had the simplest of chances to make it 2-0 and take us completely out of sight. His 98% strike rate of early season has truly gone.

Napoli’s crossing, shooting and passing in the final third were so woeful during that second half that their best chance came when Nacho inadvertently diverted the ball towards his own net but Cech was right on the spot.

Highlight of the half was Big Sok telling Koulibaly that he was a cheating sod in Greek while making it look like he was counselling him on what a harsh world it is. Priceless.

Papa counsels Koulibaly

Conclusion

Excellent from The Arsenal.

Napoli’s first defeat at home to an English side and yet again we confounded expectations with a measured and controlled performance. Napoli were awful but let that not detract from a great team performance.

An away goal and a shut out – not many predicted that!

Valencia await in the semis.

Mertens thinks we weren’t very good. Ahem, we beat you both home and away without breaking sweat or conceding. I reckon you need to take a long hard look at yourself, pal.

Hopefully Rambo’s hammy doesn’t mean his Arsenal career is now over.

AFP- Getty Images

Ratings

Cech – great to see him kicking the ball rather than putting pressure on the defenders with that passing out from the back garbage – fine save from Monreal … 7

Maitland-Niles – a sound performance, covered well, attacked well, he continued his resurgent form since his ‘mare at Goodison … 8

Sokratis – a personal favourite – solid as a block of marble and with as much facial expression, though his counselling of Koulibaly was a joy to watch … 8

Koscielny – captain, my captain – class throughout … 8

Monreal – Nacho’s bandy legs covered a lot of turf and he played dependably … 8

Kolasinac – combative and useful in possession … 7

Torreira – terrier-like from first to last – was happy that there was a smaller player on the pitch … 8

Xhaka – did what was required before being subbed and his groin rested … 7

Ramsey – strived to create the goal which ironically came straight after he left the pitch … 7

Lacazette – looked fed up to go off – neither he nor Auba had held the ball up that well but it’s not their strength – ran his heart out … 7

Aubameyang – got better as the game went on – shame he missed the sitter … 7

Subs

Mkhitaryan – played reasonably well and nearly created that second goal with a timely challenge and then intuitive pass – so much better than Monday night (not that that was too difficult) … 6

Elneny – brought on to give Xhaka a rest – did what he’s good at … 6

Iwobi – presumably his ball retention skills were the reason for his appearance but couldn’t really hang on to it for long … 6

Managers

AP

Emery – superb – great team selection – outfoxed his opposing manager … 9

Wagnerotti – no answer to Arsenal’s superiority – bringing on a series of players whose final ball was just as poor as their predecessors was never going to work … 2

Ref – Pretty good game – not wanting to grab the limelight – Mike Dean take note, it’s not about you … 8

chas

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A Massive Night ahead in Naples

April 18, 2019

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

chas


Arsenal 2 Napoli 0 – Player Ratings

April 12, 2019

Ramsey and Ozil play together again along with our most prolific goal scorers up front. Wingbacks and three at the back. Mustafi on the bench – no sign of Xhaka.

First Half

A brilliantly constructed opener saw A. M-N set up Rambo for a pass into the far corner.

The second came after Koulibaly had blocked a couple of fine efforts on goal but his third blocking attempt diverted Torreira’s effort beyond Ospina’s replacement.

The BT Sport commentary team with Nobbie Savage and some other moron was so awful, mute was the only sensible option for the second half.

Second Half

The second period saw us have several brilliant chances of stretching our lead even further while also allowing Napoli a couple of sniffs at that important away goal.

Rambo could have had a hat trick in the end, he seems to be revelling in his his desire to win something with us in his last season. Auba’s clinical early season finishing is not there at the moment but he’ll be fine now that the antibiotics are out of his system.

Even the subs were decent, adding extra oomph when needed.

Conclusion

Brilliant result at home – a third goal would have been superb but what’s  better 3-1 or 2-0?

If we score in Naples they will need 4.

It was a fine game of attacking football, so much better than the tepid snorefests dished up by the Champions League this week.

Ratings

Cech – good fisting when required – clean sheet, all good … 8

Sokratis – excellent from Papa – Mustafi will struggle to get back his right side back three position … 8

Koscielny – how good a defender has he become? Ligue 2 defender to world class – who was our Director of Football when he signed? … 9

Monreal – the billy goat came good again even with creaking limbs … 8

Maitland-Niles – really superb tonight – sharp passing, quick to cover, bang up for it … 8

Kolasinac – likewise for Sead – contributed throughout and his passing went up a notch as it did for most of tonight’s team … 8

Torreira – absolutely majestic in the first half, interceptions and successful tackles galore – only understandable that he faded a little near the end … 9

Ramsey – playing like a man possessed – he wanted to leave for the change but wanted to stay because he loves Arsenal – scored one, could have had two more – reborn in midfield … 9

Ozil – everything was good in Mesut-world for tonight’s game – his use of the ball and ability to find space are world-class … 8

Lacazette – another banging performance just lacking that goal to cap it off – maybe one is waiting for him in Naples? … 8

Aubameyang – a few decent sniffs but no goals – what are the odds on both him and Laca scoring in Italy? … 8

Subs

Mkhitaryan – nearly got an assist for the Ramsey chance which was skied – it was the perfect scenario for him to come on with both teams going for it … 7

Iwobi – didn’t let the team down by adding drive and enthusiasm in exchange for tired legs … 7

Elneny – good that his non-performance against Everton has been consigned to the history books … 7

Managers

Emery –  dominated his much-lauded opposition manager – top marks, Unai    … 9

Carlo Wagnerotti – his side came to play football which should be praised, though the early goal forced his hand somewhat … 5

Ref

Alberto Undiano Mallenco – Spanish, so an expert at spotting diving. He has been a full international referee for FIFA since 2004. Undiano is also a part-time sociologist. He was almost invisible which is exactly what’s required from all refs … 9

chas


Forza Arsenal!

April 11, 2019

Exciting night ahead. And who would have thought that many fans would not be sad if we lost this two-legged tie? Given the choice of a Top 4 spot and reaching the semi-finals (again) of the Europa with the prospect of a nerve jangling final against the Chavs, many would choose the PL position.

Not me. Silverware trumps Top 4 and there is no trophy for a CL place.

We have drawn the favourites for the EL, just as we did last year. We lost narrowly last time but I believe we can win this tie. Napoli are strong but certainly not unbeatable. A clean sheet tonight and I think we will go through.

Napoli have some fine players. Their talisman is Lorenzo Insigne who sadly for us has regained fitness after a month out. Alongside Milik and Mertens he makes up a formidable forward line. At the back is the much in demand, and likely to be the subject of a massive transfer fee, Kalidou Koulibaly (someone RC pointed out over a season ago). This chap is quality.

In goal should be our friend and current AFC player David Ospina but I guess he will not be allowed to play against us. This must be to our advantage

Unknown.jpeg

More of the same please.

Napoli have won the Scudetto twice, both times with a drug-fuelled but possibly GOAT  Diego Maradona leading the team. I was in Naples for one of my honeymoons when Maradona was at his peak and the whole town worshipped the man. There were Maradona pizzas, Maradona gelati, pasta alla Diego, it was crazy. Eventually Diego was forced to take a drug test, found to be full of cocaine and banned from football for 15 months, but what a footballer he was. Since then second has been their best position

Managed by Carlo Wagnerotti, a man who has won everything there is to win, they are comfortably the second best team in Italy.

You may wonder why the Chavs are at home and AFC away for the second legs, it is because Chelsea are the FA Cup holders and as I told you, silverware trumps PL position.

We have the usual injury concerns and given the awful MF performance at Everton, the loss of Xhaka is a worry. So is the potential loss of Koscielny who will be very important if we are to keep the precious clean sheet.

I expect Mr Emery to take a safety first, pragmatic view of tonight’s game and play  with a single striker and a packed midfield. If we win 1-0 he will be delighted as Arsenal are likely to score in Naples.

The Emirates should be rocking tonight the fans will be noisy. Hopefully they will get behind the team even if we concede early. This is a high profile game which will attract viewers all over the world and I would like the Gooners attending to put on a show.

I will be watching in a bar somewhere in the North of Italy, surrounded by Juventus fans, who will no doubt want an Arsenal win. So do I.

COYRRG


What does April hold in store for Emery’s Arsenal?

March 31, 2019

Three Monday night games. Two home games, four aways in the Prem and a Europa quarter final against Napoli. Pretty exciting maybe?

Of the three Monday night games only one is at home, which just so happens to be tomorrow night against Newcastle. On April Fools’ night the UK parliament is going to, yet again, attempt to extract its head from its back passage.  Don’t hold out much hope for that, but at least we have a fighting chance of turning Newcastle over!

Next Sunday, March 7th, sees us at Goodison with a 2.05pm kick off. The Toffees are on the up and we’ll need to be better than the chavs were on their recent visit to the wild wastelands of the North West if we want to come away with something.

Mesut scores in a 5-2 win at Goodison in October 2017

We’re back at the Emirates on the 11th for the home tie of the Napoli QF. It’ll be interesting to see Unai’s priorities for each game in this really busy month. At present the League appears our best route to a CL place since we sit in a top 4 place (well we did before the mancs luckily sneaked past Watford yesterday). Juggling both Prem and Europa balls is going to be tricky. One game at a time, I suppose. 🙂

The subsequent EPL game is away to Watford on Monday the 15th April, which does gives us an extra day after the Napoli game to regroup if you were trying to look for the positives of Monday night footie. Watford are a bit up and down but can be a stern proposition at Vicarage Road if it gets buzzing and Deeney puts that hideous mask on again.

Three days later we head to Naples, hopefully to finish off the job we begun in London. This is Arsenal, though, so don’t expect 3-0 at home and a clean sheet away in Italy. We don’t do easy.

The distance to the pitch in Naples will help but it’ll still be a hostile atmosphere

Yet another three day break follows and on the 21st we entertain Crystal Palace at THOF for the 4pm kick off. I’m particularly excited about this one as it’s my next trip to see the boys in the flesh.

Wolves in midweek on the 24th of April will be a tall order after such an intensive series of games, but if we can’t match them under the Molineux floodlights ….. we shall see. For some reason, this fixture seems one of the trickiest of the month, so expect us to cruise it.

April is topped off on the 29th with the third Monday Night Football we’ll have to endure over the next month. Away at Leicester is never easy but it just so happens to be the venue for my favourite away trip fixture of recent years when we beat them 5-3 and the beer was just delicious.

All in all a very busy, very exciting and potentially rewarding month is in store for Unai’s Arsenal. After the arid, uninspiring desert that was the second half of March, it’s going to be a headlong, bumpy sprint riding on the back of a camel desperate to dip its head into the oasis.

Before you go, what do you think the dippers v spuds score might be this afternoon? Take a punt

chas 


Twist or Stick? Is Mr Wenger a Gambling Man?

December 11, 2013

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.

ar v na

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.

My Team:

n v a

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


Can Arsenal keep Naples & Higuain at Bay?

October 1, 2013

Every Arsenal game is something to cherish but every so often one comes along which brings a spring to the step – tonight is such a game. A stylish Italian team, 2nd and unbeaten in Serie A with a new and highly successful manager, a €35m player whom we tried desperately to sign but who chose (understandably) to follow the money, and at home on an Autumn evening.  Jumping Jehosiphat, I wish I was going.

Before I go into meltdown about the quality of Napoli it should be recalled that …. Yes, they beat Borussia Dortmund (which was magnificent) but we won away at the team who beat them in the CL Final – and I guess that is our running flush to their four of a kind.

Where to start? Mr Wenger much admires many of this Napoli team; starting with a dwarf named Insigne. The little fellow impressed at the Emirates in summer leading to paper talk linking us with him (AW said “we know a lot about him,” which translates into “we tried to sign him”). Smaller than Jack Wilshere, he stands 5´4″ in his boots but has real creative talent, Hamsik is their Ozil with the highest number of assists. But it is  Higuian who will attract today’s attention. Will the Boards reluctance to match Napoli’s bid come back to bite us? We shall see but I am quite happy with our own centre forward.

Benitez has had a flying start to his Napoli career. After a torrid but successful season at the ingrate Chavs he has found a club willing to back him financially and it is great to see such a decent man flourish. I wish him well apart from the two AFC games.

Unknown

“If you throw the game The Godfather will give you back your family”

Will Benitez set his team out to play on the counter-attack, after all it is the way he played with both Liverpool and Chelsea and, come to think of it, during his disastrous time at Inter Milan. So, I guess the answer is , Yes. Parcheggiare il autobus? Unlikely but not impossible.

How will we play tonight?

In recent times Arsenal have been more comfortable allowing the opposition more possession. This could be tactical in which case what has changed? Is it that the purchase of Ozil’s remarkable passing ability allows us to be more potent on the counter? Or is it that the team has learned to sit back and take a breather when not on the ball? With the plethora of games it would be understandable that we do not play at breakneck speed for 90 minutes.

Rosicky is back in the squad which is great news given the injuries to Pod, Theo and Ox. I hope he starts tonight but it may be a game too early, in which case Gnabry will get a third start in a week.

My Team:

001CL1

I love that we can win games with just one out and out forward – it must be Mr Wenger’s dream.

The bench is starting to regain some strength and I expect to see Nik B get a run tonight should we be tied at 70 minutes. The Monreal solution works well as we look more secure in the final minutes with him on the pitch.

Given that Napoli are unbeaten in Serie A , BD are top and unbeaten in Bundesliga, Arsenal top of the PL and Marseilles just a point behind the leaders of Ligue 1, Group F is without doubt the best group in the CL –  on form probably the best and hardest in CL history. There are often 3 good teams but never 4 with such quality. If we get through it will be a major achievement.

An exciting game in prospect.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy