Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Match Report: Arsenal 2-0 Napoli

Arsenal 2
- Ozil 8
- Giroud 15

Napoli 0

Champions League Group F, Emirates Stadium, London, 01/10/13.

The big story going into this game was Gonzalo Higuain's fitness. Higuain, the only remote connection between the two clubs (he's played six times for one of them) was unable to face the team he failed to join during the summer due to an injury picked up training at the Emirates the night before. A massive blow to Napoli's hopes of building on their impressive opening match victory over Dortmund. New manager Rafa Benitez has continued his quirky methods of rotating his team seemingly at random in the league. Tonight he went for Goran Pandev up front in place of Higuain with Hamsik behind. Aside from his talismanic Argentinian, it looked like a full strength side.

Arsenal welcomed back Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta (as a starter). Jack Wilshire and the emerging Serge Gnabry made way. Arteta came into central midfield playing alongside Flamini as a deep-lying playmaker. Ramsey moved forward into the attacking midfield line on the right hand side of the three with Rosicky on the left and Ozil as the advanced playmaker pulling the strings behind Giroud.

Match formations: Arsenal v Napoli.
Right from the start the pattern of the match was clear. Arsenal were going to keep the ball and look for openings when they arose. Which they did in abundance. Napoli's forward players spent the opening few minutes chasing Arsenal's  centre midfielders around the middle of the park, not giving them time and trying unsuccessfully to force a mistake. They clearly didn't plan on just sitting back and soaking up pressure. Ramsey and Ozil were central to every fluid Arsenal move and they combined brilliantly for the opener. Ramsey finding space down the right flank and pulling it back for Ozil to finish brilliantly. The German deserves a huge amount of credit for being able to take the shot at such speed and place it perfectly.

Without Napoli even looking like mounting a challenge Arsenal were 2-0 up. Ozil found himself in space on the right (a very profitable flank for Arsenal) and crossed for Giroud to tap in. It was twenty minutes into the game before Napoli were able to string together more than five or six passes at a time and get the ball into Arsenal territory. By then of course the game was gone from them. The combination of Flamini and Arteta, aided when necessary by their centre backs were instrumental in Arsenal retaining possession and staying in total control.

Bacary Sagna was given plenty of space down the right again and again. He picked out Ramsey with a cross after twenty five minutes which found the Welshman with about five yards of space ten yards from goal. This was a snapshot of how shambolic the Napoli defence was. Luckily for them, Ramsey's shot hit Giroud and further embarrassment was spared.

They did gain more of a foothold in the game coming up to the break and into the second period. Arsenal were content to sit back and hit them on the counter attack where they are so very dangerous. Some of the fluidity and understanding between the Arsenal players was out of this world at times. Bear in mind this group of players had never played in this formation before. Makes it all the more impressive. Everyone seemed to be on the same page all of the time.

Napoli did enjoy some good possession in the second half but never looked like troubling Szczesny in the Arsenal goal. Benitez seemed to accept the game was lost and didn't make wholesale changes in order to chase the game. After twenty minutes, a final score of just 2-0 to Arsenal would have been a good result for Napoli and avoiding a real hammering became the priority. Which they did.

Arsenal have announced themselves as Premier League title contenders with their blistering form over the opening six games of the league season. If they put Jurgen Klopp's Dortmund to the sword in the same manner they did to Napoli on Tuesday, they will put themselves right in the picture for potential Champions League glory.

Player Ratings


Szczesny - 6.8
Sagna - 8.1
Mertesacker - 8.0
Kosicienly - 7.7
Gibbs - 7.3
Flamini - 7.9
Arteta - 8.3
Ramsey - 8.8
Ozil - 8.7
Rosicky - 7.3
Giroud - 7.8

Wilshire (Rosicky 63) - 7.8
Monreal (Ramsey 87) - n/a


Reina - 6.4
Mesto - 6.6
Albiol - 6.2
Britos - 5.2
Zuniga - 5.0
Behrami - 6.2
Inler - 6.2
Callejon - 5.6
Hamsik - 6.4
Insigne - 6.5
Pandev - 5.8

Mertens (Pandev 61) - 6.2
Zapata (Callejon 77) - 6.0
Fernandez (Albiol 83) - n/a

Man of the Match: Aaron Ramsey - Arsenal

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