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 FC – Our away record against Napoli

April 17, 2019

We have only ever played one away game against Napoli – it was in Group F of the 2013/14 Champions League. We lost the game 0-2 after winning the home leg by the same score.

The San Paolo Stadium is a fearsome fortress and Napoli’s home record proves just how difficult this fixture will be for Arsenal.

Here is their home record for the last 9 seasons.

They possess a formidable home record in the league losing less than 2 games per season and they score an average of 3.29 goals per game while conceding only 1.39.

Their record against English sides at home is equally impressive with 4 wins, 2 draws and no defeats. In recent years, Liverpool managed a 0-0 while City, the chavs and us all lost. Perhaps it’s a record we can break just as in 2008 when we became the first English side to beat Milan in the San Siro.

Notice Carlo Wagnerotti in the background!

No matter how we look at it, we will find if very tough to get a result from this game but we are the Arsenal and it all depends on what version of our team shows up.

Two nil up after the first leg – what a strong position that is! An away goal will make a huge difference to the end result; that clean sheet at the Emirates may yet prove to be priceless. If we score, Napoli will need to score 4 to win the game. That thought will be in the backs of their minds constantly, gnawing away at their confidence to commit too many forward. What could possibly go wrong?

As a die hard gunner I never give up hope.

GunnerN5


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


Arsenal FC – Our home record against Napoli

April 10, 2019

Naples is one of the oldest continuously inhabited urban areas in the world. It was first settled by Greeks in the second millennium BC. In the ninth century BC, a colony known as Parthenope was established on the Island of Megaride later refounded as Neápolis in the sixth century BC. The city was an important part of Magna Graecia, played a major role in the merging of Greek and Roman society and a significant cultural centre under the Romans. It served as the capital of the Duchy of Naples (661–1139), then of the Kingdom of Naples (1282–1816) and finally of the Two Sicilies until the unification of Italy in 1861.

Società Sportiva Calcio Napoli S.p.A.

Nickname(s)    Gli Azzurri (The Blues), I Partenopei (The Parthenopeans)

Napoli’s San Paolo Stadium (capacity 60,240) was inaugurated in 1959 and is the third largest in Italy, after Milan’s Meazza Stadium and Rome’s Olimpico. Situated in the Fuorigrotta neighbourhood, it measures 110 by 68 meters. It was remodelled for the 1980 European Championship and again for the World Cup hosted by Italy in 1990, when a covering and a new 330-seat press stand were installed, the track and lighting systems were redone and the stadium was brought up to FIFA safety standards. With an 8-lane track, three sports gyms, a boxing gym, a fitness gym and a wrestling and martial arts gym.

Naples Football Club was the first true Neapolitan football club to represent the city.  It was founded between late 1904 and early 1905, after a series of meetings at the homes of an Englishman, William Poths, and a Neapolitan, Ernesto Bruschini.

William Poths

Dark and pale blue stripes were chosen as the team colours. Their first President was engineer Amedeo Salsi, flanked by Poths, Bayon and two amateur football players, Conforti and Catterina. William Poths deserves special mention. An employee of the Cunard Shipping Line, he moved to Naples from England in 1903 and quite naturally brought all his English customs with him, including an immense passion for football, which had been played in England since 1847 and was rapidly gaining popularity in Europe and Italy too. There were already several teams in Naples: The aristocratic Open Air team, The Helios team, and the Audace team.

Early games were played at via Campegna. Napoli’s early history seems sketchier by comparison to Arsenal’s. The following is a translation from a SSC Napoli history site which beautifully captures the appeal of the early rise of football in the area by describing the via Campegna playing conditions.

a rather unstable and dusty expanse of land where a group of “stoic gamblers” chased a rolling sphere in shorts and rough and often ungainly attitudes that induced the paying public (at that time half a lira) including marquises, countesses, dukes and real dudes and ” gagà ” of Naples to smile at observing that absurd race to those who conquered the ball

Napoli broke the world transfer record fee after acquiring Diego Maradona in a €12 million deal from Barcelona on 30 June 1984. The 1986–87 season was the landmark in Napoli’s history; they won the double, securing the Serie A title by three points and then beating Atalanta 4–0 to lift the Coppa Italia.

Honours

National titles

Serie A

Winners (2): 1986–87, 1989–90

Coppa Italia

Winners (5): 1961–62, 1975–76, 1986–87, 2011–12, 2013–14

Supercoppa Italiana

Winners (2): 1990, 2014

European titles

UEFA Cup

Winners (1): 1988–89

Our only home game against Napoli was in Group F of the 2013-14 Champions League – we won the game 2-0 with goals from Ozil (his first Arsenal goal) and Giroud.

The Napoli fans have a reputation it’s fair to say and caused a deal of trouble in Islington in 2013.

Getty Images

Given our away record this season we will need to take full advantage of playing in front of our home supporters and win the game with an all important clean sheet.

GunnerN5