Arsenal vs. NapoliBy: Neil | September 30th, 2013
Sorry about the site being down for the last couple of weeks, but it caught me by surprise and I have no idea what went wrong. I actually missed checking in and seeing what Napoli fans had to say about the team. Sure, I’ve taken sabbaticals in the past but this time there was no way for us fans to connect unless we randomly met up at another site like reddit (more on that later.) For now, it’s Champions League time and Napoli travels to take on…. first place Arsenal. That’s right, with the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea all changing managers it’s the Gunners who are off to the fast start. The signing of Mesut Ozil has given Arsenal a new confidence that they can compete with the richest and most ambitious clubs in Europe. As one pundit pointed out, even if Ozil underachieves it was still the right signing. To be fair, Arsenal isn’t exactly tearing up the league with breathtaking football, but they are getting consistently good results. Napoli will have a real battle as it’s a different Arsenal side than the one put out for the Emirates Cup back in August.
Napoli is also unbeaten in a nice stretch of games, with the last loss coming to Porto in the aforementioned Emirates Cup. Benitez’s rotation strategies are working, and the draw with Sassuolo was a tiny blip which was bound to happen sooner or later. I actually thought Napoli fielded a relatively strong side that day despite resting some starters, but after going ahead 1-0 on 14 minutes they mentally tried for a 5-0 win and when that plan didn’t work — they conceded an equalizer 5 minutes later — it became a struggle to get even one more goal. Normal service was resumed in Genoa with Napoli being satisfied with a two goal cushion and they were able to see out the game. A note of caution though: Genoa is not exactly sharp this season and the loss cost Fabio Liverani his job. You can bet Arsenal will be sharp and they’ll have a hunger to win that a mid-table Italian team simply won’t have.
Unless Rafa springs a surprise or two, the Partenopei will line up as follows:
Reina – Mesto, Albiol, Britos, Zuniga – Behrami, Inler – Callejon, Hamsik, Insigne – Higuain.
One tactical note: we probably won’t see Pandev as a winger again. He’s played so much better in the middle, either as prima punta or second striker and that’s where his two goals came from against Genoa. He’s admitted he prefers the centre, and since he doesn’t have the fitness levels of Callejon or Mertens he can’t track back as easily.
Finally, in case the Napoli Offside has technical issues again, and we are left without a place to discuss club matters, we can always try building our community at the reddit site.
You’ll recall my first Champions League prediction was a 4-4 barnburner at the San Paolo, and of the two clubs only Napoli could have realistically reached 4 goals, but they never came close. Meanwhile no Dortmund player scored, and only a late own goal spoiled a potential Pepe Reina shutout. So now I will switch back to the defensive, and predict that goals at the Emirates Stadium will be hard to come by. I would be happy if Napoli could hold a surging Arsenal team to a draw, but the chances for a road win might be there
Enjoy the match and as always please share your insight.
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