Arsenal 2 – 2 Napoli
With the Asia Tour out of the way, Arsenal continued their pre‐season preparation via the Emirates Cup. On day one, Arsenal faced Italian giants Napoli, who were making their first appearance at Arsenal’s traditional tournament.[quote_right]”The Italians looked comfortable defensively, and were coming forward with real purpose…”[/quote_right]
Arsenal began the game well, pushing Napoli back with some clever passing and a trade mark Jack Wilshere dribble through the centre. However, The Gunner’s comfort was short‐lived.
In the sixth minute, Gokhan Inler lofted a ball over the top of the Arsenal defence. Jenkinson tracked the ball and appeared to be in control, but his header was weak, allowing the ball to drop behind him to Insigne, who finished the move expertly.
Jenkinson’s mistake allowed Napoli to find their feet, and definitely helped Arsenal lose their cool. The Italians looked comfortable defensively, and were coming forward with real purpose.
Just ten minutes later, and against the run of play, Arsenal managed to grab themselves a penalty. A challenge from Behrami on Gibbs in the box was deemed a foul by the referee, and Arsenal had their relatively undeserved chance to get level. Lukas Podolski stepped up, and unconvincingly side‐footed his shot towards the bottom corner. Pepe Reina comfortably got down to it, and pushed it away to safety. Things were not looking good.
The combination of a defensive error and a missed penalty was taking its toll on Arsenal, as Napoli continued to dominate the midfield, and sit comfortably in defence. Arsenal had a few half‐chances through Gnabry, Giroud and Ramsey, but ultimately, The Gunners simply looked toothless. Their only saving grace was the defensive brilliance of Laurent Koscielny.
A further ten minutes from Podolski’s bodged penalty, Napoli struck again.
Goran Pandev outpaced Mertesacker and slipped behind the Arsenal defence, after being played through way too easily. Unsurprisingly, Fabianski panicked. Before Pandev had even stepped foot in the Arsenal box, the Pole raced of his line to meet him. Naturally, Pandev rounded him with ease, and placed the ball into the net. The defending was shambolic.[quote_left]”The Gunners pushed hard to get the winning goal, as Akpom, Giroud and Walcott worked tirelessly to engineer a move…”[/quote_left]
The rest of the first half was relatively quiet for both teams, as Napoli were happy with their lead, and Arsenal were simply unable to change it.
For the opening fe minutes of the second half, Arsenal regained some of their offensive tenacity. Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere were both doing a particularly good job of getting Arsenal forward. However, as much as Arsenal were dancing around the Naopli box, the shots on goal were non-existent.
Until the seventy-second minute. Walcott swung in a good corner to Olivier Giroud, who brilliantly held off his marker, and improvised an over-head kick. His shot hit an unsuspecting Sagna, and ended up in the back of Reina’s net. A deflected goal, but a great goal nonetheless.
Giroud’s goal gave Arsenal the lift they needed, and The Gunners were very much back on track in terms of offensive threats. Chuba Akpom was thrown on to help bolster Arsenal’s front line, and the youngster did well on several occasions to create issues for Napoli’s defenders.
In the dying moments, Arsenal completed their comeback. Mikel Arteta played a great free‐kick into the box, which Mertesacker met with a thunderous header. Pepe Reina did well to palm it out, but Laurent Koscielny kept going, and won the header to put the ball across the line.
With just a few minutes remaining, The Gunners pushed hard to get the winning goal, as Akpom, Giroud and Walcott worked tirelessly to engineer a move. unfortunately, the Italians held firm, and the points were eventually shared out.
[title]Arsenal Player Ratings[/title]
Some good saves were overshadowed by Lukasz’ awful actions leading to Napoli’s second goal. He rushed off his line way too early, and allowed Pandev to round him for an easy finish.
Not Carl’s finest performance. Napoli’s opening goal was almost entirely his fault, as he failed to clear the ball with a header. Apart from his mistake, Jenkinson also looked frail on the ball, losing possession on a number of occasions.
Per played well defensively, despite being poorly positioned for Pandev’s goal. He also provided a lot of attacking threat, playing good passes in the final third, closing down high up the pitch, and so forth. His thundering header leading to Koscielny’s goal was superb.
MOTM. An absolutely stunning performance from Laurent. He was defensivley immaculate, and certainly helped Arsenal keep the scoreline down in the first half. His tackles were precise, his headers were aggressive, and he showed excellent pace. His equalizing goal was the cherry on top of the colossal cake.
Kieran was untroubled defensively, and did well to get forward whenever he could. Made a few good crosses throughout the game,
Unfortunately, Aaron couldn’t replicate his performances against the Asian sides he faced in Japan and Vietnam. He struggled to hold on to possession, played many poor passes, and looked out of his depth in general. Although, he made some good runs off the ball, and worked hard as usual.
Jack showed some good turns of pace, and was back to beating midfielders with his neat touches. However, he desperately needs to work on his finishing.
For the most part, Lukas was quiet. After his poor penalty miss, he drifted in and out of the game, but never really took it by the scruff of the neck. Made a few decision making errors, but didn’t do too badly overall.
Overall, Serge’s display was positive. He made good runs both on and off the ball, and looked energetic. However, he missed a good chance in the opening five minutes, and lost the ball on a number of occasions. Plenty to improve on.
Tomas was Arsenal’s driving force from start to finish. He penetrated Napoli’s defence on a number of occasions, and played intelligent balls out wide on a regular basis. Great to see him fit and playing.
Olivier’s first half was average at best, but his second half was exciting. He showed great movement off the ball, and looked threatening whilst on it. His goal, despite taking a deflection, was brilliantly taken.
Came on to provide lots of extra crosses, and also made a host of excellent sliding tackles. Bacary’s pre‐seaon has been fantastic so far.
Theo did well to create chances on a few occasions, and almost managed to assist Mertesacker with a teasing cross in the very last seconds of the game. Should have came on earlier.
The Ox: [7/10]
A good defensive display, and managed to bring the ball forward for Arsenal quite often. Had a powerful long‐shot saved by Reina.
Largely uneffective and docile when he came on, but his cross leading to Koscielny’s goal was perfect.
Chuba impressed in his last pre‐season friendly, and also did well today. He made powerful runs down the right‐wing, and causes many issues for the Napoli defence.
Arsenal’s first half display was woeful. But an inspired second period led by Giroud and Koscielny allowed them to come back and reach a respectable outcome.
Napoli flexed their muscles with their new signings, but The Gunners eventually held out to produce a performance which was quite pleasing to the eye. However, it must be said that, despite Arsenal’s attacking prowess late in the second half, the true hero was Laurent Koscielny. Not only did his goal completed Arsenal’s very own Italian Job, but he also provided an iron‐like defesive display throughout the ninety minutes.
Tomorrow, Arsenal face a tricky Galatsaray side, spear‐headed by Didier Drogba. And we all know what he’s like.
What did you think of the Arsenal vs Napoli match? Share your views in the comments section below!