Wednesday October 2 2013
A London lesson for Napoli

Arsenal cruised to a 2-0 victory over Napoli in their Champions League clash on Tuesday. Luca Cetta examines the action.

In what has been dubbed this season’s Group of Death, Group F threw up a contest between two sides brimming with confidence. The pair had enjoyed fine starts to the campaign, only once dropping points. Both enjoyed winning starts on Matchday 1, Napoli notably against last season’s finalists Borussia Dortmund. So when Arsenal and Napoli did battle at the Emirates Stadium much was expected. In the end, there was only ever one team in it.

England has not been a happy hunting ground for Napoli and their last London visit in particular – their Champions League exit against Chelsea – is one that stings. Three previous visits yielded two losses and a draw.

Going into Tuesday’s game, the Partenopei mantra was one of no fear. Coach Rafael Benitez made note of this in his pre-match Press conference. “Obviously, we have a lot of respect for Arsenal, a lot, but never fear because we do not fear any rival.” Giandomenico Mesto spoke along the same lines.

Benitez hoped to turn around a poor Emirates record, having never taken maximum points from the venue. Just 15 minutes in and that record remained intact, a devastating Arsenal start sealing the contest. The Gazzetta dello Sport called it Arsenal in “killer mode.” Mesut Ozil finished off a sweeping Gunners move with a superb effort from the edge of the penalty area, giving Pepe Reina no chance just eight minutes in. Arsenal’s second arrived soon after, an errant clearance from a Napoli throw pounced upon by Ozil, before Olivier Giroud’s finish.

As Benitez pointed out, mistakes like that are punished at this level. “I can guarantee we told the players the opening 20 minutes would be very fiery. We knew they’d come out at us with pace, but these two goals made the difference.” The team failed to heed his warning. For Marek Hamsik, Napoli gifted Arsenal the opening stages.

The Partenopei were praised for the summer acquisitions and while the new arrivals in attack have settled quickly in the southern city, defensively there remained a concern. Nonetheless, five goals conceded in seven games prior to landing on British soil was a solid return. They had displayed enough defensive steel to suggest their capabilities. However, this match followed along the lines of the win at Chievo, one in which the Partenopei looked fragile. Here, Arsenal were hungrier, quicker and smarter – both in movement and possession. Napoli’s back four were pulled apart and stretched too often. Arsene Wenger called the opening 45 minutes ‘outstanding’.

Main striker Gonzalo Higuain was absent, but the issues ran deeper. Napoli’s inability to neither deal with Arsenal’s pressing nor play with any incision from the back rendered their main attacking threats ineffective. Lorenzo Insigne looked the best of the bunch – only he, Reina and Mesto registered a rating of 6 in today’s Gazzetta – but it was a far cry from their electric best. Napoli’s best chance was headed over by Miguel Britos in the first half.

Benitez saw encouragement after half-time, but by then the damage was done. Arsenal could afford to take a foot off the gas and still remain in control. The Spaniard did not want to pin their deficiencies on Higuain’s absence, stating his replacement Goran Pandev had netted twice at Genoa over the weekend. Could Higuain have stemmed the first half flow? Doubtful. Perhaps after the break when Napoli had more looks on goal he would have played a role. Here, Insigne and Gokhan Inler employed a shoot-on-sight policy which failed miserably.

It’s not all doom and gloom for Napoli. As Hamsik stressed pre-match this was not a decisive affair for qualification. Upcoming is a double offering against Marseille, currently bottom of the group. Dual wins against the French club will have the Azzurri poised for a big finale, which sees a trip to Dortmund followed by the visit of Arsenal.

Benitez will hope they learn from the lessons handed out by a well-drilled and experience European campaigner.

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Have your say...
Defeat at the Emirates was nothing compared to the skelping Napoli got at Easter Raod in 1967 when the might Hibernian, the first British team to play in Europe, beat them 5-0 ...... And Dino Zoff was in goal.
on the 4th October, 2013 at 11:04am
As a Juventus supporter I was disappointed with last nights performance, but let's not get carried away. Two years ago weren't even in Europe and had finished 7th in Serie A two seasons running. The Champions League is extremely difficult to win and Juventus are not yet strong enough. Alex Ferguson took 13 years to win the Champions League at Manchester United and Real Madrid haven't won since 2002. Bayern are clearly the strongest team in Europe and are clear favourites to retain their crown.
on the 4th October, 2013 at 1:15am

Dude, juve in CL isn't exactly their strongest side. Playing against Real Madrid 'can' be sort tricky. You need to be a bit realistic sometimes even I know for you it's utterly hard. Juve are great in the league but out in Europe not so much. This is not my opinion. These are facts. Deal with them.
on the 3rd October, 2013 at 7:08pm
lol juventus wide players are not good enough asamoah isla liectsteiner cant cross a road let a lone a ball pogba is good enough to play in juve midfield i for me vidal pass completion rate is shocking,he gives the ball away constantly personally he should be bench pressing not pogba and btw pogba is the only player in the midfield that can actually head the ball,is that the same freddie roach that trained kahn and paciou that both got put into next week one after the other.
on the 3rd October, 2013 at 4:20pm

First, Respect yourself when talking to me.

Secondly, if you think that Juve will lose against Madrid, that resembles your stupidity and lack of football knowledge. Everybody plays with their strengths, and Juve strengths are ball possessioning and attacking with as many players as possible. That's why they win last two years, and will keep winning and go further in the CL.
on the 3rd October, 2013 at 4:10pm
@ Dan

Thank you for your kind words.

As the great boxing coach Freddi Roach once said, speed kills. The DVLA adverts also.

I know italian clubs are broke, but can they not even afford treadmills? I have one in my garage im more then happy to lease this to the Juve players.

Lay off the pasta and pizza. Need some of those Quaker oats
on the 3rd October, 2013 at 11:55am
There is even worse news for juve, Madrid are in seek and destroy mode. I dont hold any hope of a draw with madrid nor a win. I know juve will lose, but its only the scoreline im struggling to predict. Conte better get that defence sorted for the forthcoming storm. Madrid are not showing mercy.
on the 3rd October, 2013 at 11:52am
I wonder if playing a mid week round in the serie A last week had an impact on the three sides in the Champions League? They have played 2 games/week for 3 weeks straight now
on the 3rd October, 2013 at 10:31am
Dominator made a good point about the lack of pace in Serie A. Too many of our teams pass the ball around too slowly. I'd also add that our players do not seem to be as fit as our continental counterparts. Our players looked dead on their feet throughout the confed cup. The Spanish players, who have played many more matches over the past 5 years, looked much fresher. Aside from perhaps Juve, none of our sides seem capable of consistently pressing the ball in the final 3rd.
on the 3rd October, 2013 at 9:04am
I agree i can see all 3 italian teams going out of champ league. We just arent good enough. This week has further emphaised that my beloved Roma can win the scudetto. Its embarassing how bad all 3 teams have been this week. We are going to drop even further down co efficiency if thats even possible.
on the 3rd October, 2013 at 8:28am
I am Juventus fan, unfortunately it was a bad game for Jve fans because Juve conceded an early goal through a mistake from Leanardo Bonnoucci. In the end Juve fought back and got an equaliser through penalty by Vidal ( the worrior ) and Jve were very attacking team most of the mach and that helped them to be in front though Fabio Quagliarella Header but unfortunately they conceded a goal after a minute to their lead. All in all I can say Jeve were lack of focus. An other battle will be expected.
on the 3rd October, 2013 at 5:55am
I'd want to see Marchisio more often next games. Pogba is brilliant but still tactically weak.
on the 2nd October, 2013 at 11:06pm
@ Milanista

Juve weren't awful. Things just aren't going their way at the moment. They almost literally been attacked three or four times in the last two matches in the CL, and conceded three goals. They did it all tonight but if it wasn't for Bonucci's error and stupid Isla covering, Juve would have 4 points by now.

But let's not get over-worried. Juve will go through. They can step up and beat Madrid as they always do.
on the 2nd October, 2013 at 11:03pm
Bad week in Europe overall for Serie A could easily see them all go out in the group stage. At least Napoli impressed against Dortmund but Milan and Juve have been pretty awful. Conte's form in Europe really has been very mixed and Juve seem to have completely lost that defensive strength of the last 2 seasons, is it me or is the 352 just not working anymore.
on the 2nd October, 2013 at 10:19pm
As a true juve fan all I can say is at least Napoli showed an attacking. Mentally away from home where juve were rubbish against gala!!' Tevez was more focused on trying to show up Mancini than playing in the game. He very rarely but tonite conte got it wrong and the only real possibility is beating Madrid home and away? Marchisio is a lot better the pogba at the moment it's more important to play the someone who is an Italian first team player than an French newcomer as Vidal can boss midfield
on the 2nd October, 2013 at 9:00pm
Al, I am not a Roma fan, I actually don't support any club, but I am a big fan of Italian football. You are quite right, Roma haven't played a top side yet, although Lazio are not too shabby. But they have dispatched their opponents with ease, carving them open at will, unlike Juve who have struggled against the Verona sides & Napoli vs Sassuolo. Inter will indeed be a tough test for them as you could argue that they are form side along with Roma.
on the 2nd October, 2013 at 7:14pm
Well as a Napoli fan I have to sadly agree with all the severe criticism of the bloggers....However funny how some of the bloggers only come out when there is a bad Italian club result...but saying that we have to be dignified in defeat and say that Arsenal totally outclassed Napoli! They now need to come down a peg or 2 and the proof will be how they bounce they have the character like Chelsea after their previous CL defeat. Will see...until then Forza Napoli!
on the 2nd October, 2013 at 5:32pm
I'm glad Higuain didn't play, because he wouldn't have been able to help this sorry excuse of a team, and he would've taken a lot of media criticism. This was an absolutely pitiful performance from Napoli, the midfielders were horribly out of position for Ozil's goal, they just let him make a 50 meter dash and score a goal. Its this kind of performance from Italian teams that have made Serie A a joke internationally.
on the 2nd October, 2013 at 3:57pm
The news that Higuain would not be available right on KO time was a huge psychological blow and was clear in the opening moments of the game. 2 quick goals and the game was over.

Fear not fellow Neapolitans, as this is not the real Napoli. All top teams have bad days, and Napoli had their's in London.

Napoli will bounce back quickly at the weekend, and get back to the top of the table. Nothing wrong with getting beat now and again, as long as the lessons get learned.
on the 2nd October, 2013 at 2:56pm
Napoli don't have a single left footed player in the usual starting line up apart from Britos. They need to add balance to give them some width
on the 2nd October, 2013 at 2:51pm
For me Napoli still need a few players to be truly competitive. Provided they are available/affordable I would bring in a new center back (Davide Astori) a new left back (Criscito) a creative deep lying midfielder (cigarini back from loan at Atalanta springs to mind) and a new center forward as an alternative to Higuain


Zuniga, Albiol, Astori, Crisicto

Bherami/Cigarini, Inler

Callejon Hamsik Insigne

on the 2nd October, 2013 at 2:48pm
I think Napoli should just put this down to experience, they are better than that and Arsenal for 20 minutes were unplayable, any team in the world would have struggled. I really hope its winner takes all at the São Paolo when these sides meet again and the two idiot commentators from last night are made to eat humble pie. For a Juve tonight
on the 2nd October, 2013 at 1:56pm
Dan I know you are a Roma fan and yes the have been playing outstanding but they haven't really been tested the upcoming stretch of games will determine how good they really are and I can assure you you will be on the edge of your seat come the game against Inter. Us(Napoli) are playing in the champions league and roma are not so take what you want from that. After Dortmund we had to go to the San Siro. I think if in are position Roma would be in trouble. We're eying that top spot this weekend.
on the 2nd October, 2013 at 1:06pm
Now we have Livorno at home on Sunday and I expect them to come out with a chip on there shoulders and control the whole match and more importantly take the 3 points. We're in a important scudetto race here. We will be just fine and get right back on track.
on the 2nd October, 2013 at 12:54pm
@MustuffU AKA "I saw it coming"

So now you're a clairvoyant. Everytime i see a new blog "I see it coming", by that i mean the useless no good comments you make. sit down and shut up.

So napoli say they didnt fear Arsenal before the game. Im sure they do now lol. Italian teams very rarely beat english teams. Yesterday didn't surprise me. Arsenal got the better player from madrid, ozil. It is all about speed, the italian league lacks it.
on the 2nd October, 2013 at 12:50pm
Arsenal played outstanding and we apart from the first 15 mins started to settle down. I know we were better then what we showed yesterday thats why i wont read to much into this.This will teach the guys an important lesson. I had a bad feeling about last night arsenal were at home and had an extraordinary amount of confidence and enthusiasm which clearly propelled them to victory. When they come to naples it will be a different story will get them back.
on the 2nd October, 2013 at 12:30pm
It's been obvious that the defence is weak. I saw it coming, especially the fullbacks. The two goals came from Zuniga's bad covering. I saw it coming because neither of the fullbacks are really fullbacks. If they play in wingers roles, it's fine, but not as fullbacks.

Napoli should have brought fullbacks instead of getting the stupid Albiol and kept Cannavaro playing. Even when Maggio comes back, he is so vulnerable when playing with back four.
on the 2nd October, 2013 at 12:05pm
We were awful last doubt about it. Could it because of the back four system as neither mesto, zuniga or Maggio when fit can defend..great going forward though! A back 3 with 5 in midfield would be better against such a good attacking side as arsenal...maybe?
on the 2nd October, 2013 at 11:26am
I would not read to much into the defeat if I were Napoli, Not many Italian teams win in London or play well for that matter. I guess the Napoli London fan club will be upset!! Napoli will beat Marseille twice then maybe Arsenal in Naples to get through. As for Lazio winning maybe we will but don't bank on it we seem to have stopped since May...
on the 2nd October, 2013 at 10:52am
This result has been coming. Despite getting some good results, Napoli haven't always been convincing. They often allow their opponents too much possession. This is ok if you have a strong defence, but Napoli don't. Roma are the best Italian team right now. They play at a great tempo with lots of flair & creativity. Juve in comparison look a bit workman-like. They need to move the ball around a bit faster & create more goal scoring opportunities.
on the 2nd October, 2013 at 9:59am

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