Napoli 2 – 0 Arsenal
After drawing at home to a sturdy Everton, Arsenal travelled to Naples to try to finish off the Champions League qualification. All The Gunners needed to do to qualify was avoid a 3-0 defeat. Napoli though, needed the result to get through themselves. It was going to be intense.[quote_right]”Arsenal were happy to soak up Napoli’s fairly light pressure. The Gunners were coping well defensively, and didn’t need to exert themselves.”[/quote_right]
Napoli kicked off the game with some intent. Higuain and Callejon in particular were causing Arsenal some semi-issues.
Although the Italians were pressing and passing well, they weren’t actually creating much. Mertesacker and Koscielny were – as usual,in complete control defensively.
Olivier Giroud had one half chance saved. His shot was from a tough angle, put it could be argued that his first touch should have been better in order to set himself up for a better chance.
Apart from that chance, Arsenal were happy to soak up Napoli’s fairly light pressure. The Gunners were coping well defensively, and didn’t need to exert themselves. The half time whistle soon blew, and Arsenal walked down the tunnel in a strong position. Qualification was all but won.
The second half was a different story. A scarier story.
It was all plain sailing for a while. Arsenal were sitting comfortably, and Napoli were still looking tame. Until the seventy-forth minute that is.
Higuain received the ball on the edge of the area, where he turned brilliantly, blasting a shot past Mertesacker and Szczesney and into the bottom corner. But Arsenal still had a two goal “cushion”, with only fifteen minutes on the clock. No big deal.[quote_left]”[In the final minute] Callejon lifted the ball over an oncoming Szczesney. It was far too easy, but fortunately, it was also far too late.”[/quote_left]
But it got worse. Just minutes later, Mikel Arteta made a tackle from behind, and received his second yellow card of the game. As he walked off, the reality sunk in. Napoli already had momentum, whilst Arsenal were looking tired. Now, with just ten men, the remainder of the game was going to be a real struggle.
The remainder of the game was relatively serene, considering Napoli needed to score more. But that’s not to say that Arsenal were in any kind of control. Because they weren’t.
Yet, The Guners held out – until the ninety-third minute. A ball over the top from Insigne found Callejon, who lifted the ball over an oncoming Szczesney. It was far too easy, but fortunately, it was also far too late.
The final whistle blew with the next kick of the ball, and Arsenal were through, but only by the skin of their teeth.
[title]Arsenal Player Ratings[/title]
A poor performance in all truth. He nearly gave Higuain the ball with another over-confident lofted pass, and rushed off his line in the first half for no good reason. Couldn’t really do much for the goals though.
Carl was solid at the back, and got forward relatively well. However, he looked slightly nervous after Arteta was sent off.
Per started the game brilliantly, and did his usual defensive duties with ease. He won tackles and read the game well. Although, he might have done better for Higuain’s goal.
Koscielny: [8.5/10] – MOTM
Laurent was everywhere today. He cleaned up any mess at the back, looked supremely comfortable under pressure, and burst forward when he could. Definitely our defensive rock of the night.
Kieran had his hands full defensively, and he did a good job of his duties. However, he wasn’t as useful further up the field, where he only appeared on the of occasion.
Mathieu kept things simple at the back, but also made himself useful in the final third. He made some good passes, intelligent runs, and made himself a nuisance for Napoli.
Mikel actually played very well until his sending off. He broke up play, passed well, and looked comfortable in the centre. But when you’re on a yellow card in the Champions League, you need to be careful. You do NOT need to be tackling from behind.
Santi’s passing was poor, he lost the ball more than he should have done, and did absolutely nothing creative to help the team create chances. He has been useless lately, and I’d like to see him sitting on the bench on Saturday morning.
Not a great game from Rosicky. He made some god tackles here and there, but he never really got into the game. Hardly saw him in the first half.
Mesut wasn’t getting the ball as often as he would have liked, but he did well to hold on to it whenever he did get hold of it. Didn’t really create anything though.
Extremely isolated. Only had one shot on goal which was saved, and could only live off he scraps he was given. Wasn’t too great on the ball anyway though. Still worked hard.
Didn’t get much of the ball, but he tried his best to make something happen whenever he could. No real success with that though.
[title]Bitter Sweet Defeat[/title]
The loss itself was terrible Arsenal never looked like winning, and indeed, they never even looked like scoring. Napoli weren’t particularly great, but Arsenal were particularly bad.
Arteta made a bad decision to get himself sent off, whilst Szczesney was making himself look vulnerable. It also doesn’t help when creative players like Cazorla are nowhere to be seen.
But still, Arsenal did what they needed to do. They defended reasonably well, and managed to hold out to keep the shoreline down, allowing them to progress to the next stage. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t Arsenal, but it was a result worthy of qualification – and that’s all that matters.
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