Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Arsenal Show Their Class To Beat Napoli

Arsenal have had a very good start to their season, but last night's visitors in the Champions League were seen as a step above any of the teams they have already beaten. Napoli came into the game unbeaten so far this season and having beaten Dortmund in their first group game. If Arsenal are going to be real challengers this season last night was the time to show it.

Arsene Wenger made two changes to the team which beat Swansea on Saturday with Mikael Arteta and Tomas Rosicky coming in for Jack Wilshere and Serge Gnabry. The team looked like it might have been short of width and attacking pace, but nothing could have been further from the truth. The Arsenal midfielders were so fluid in their movement that it was impossible to assign positions to Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey or Rosicky.

For the first few minutes Arsenal stroked the ball across the park as they looked to find the space they wanted. Gradually they pushed further forward and had Napoli on the back foot. It didn't take long for the first goal to come and when it did it was a thing of beauty.

Bacary Sagna played a ball down the line to Olivier Giroud who took it on his chest and flicked it past his marker for Ramsey to sprint on to. With his marker in his wake Ransey cut in towards the box, got his head up and cut the ball back to Ozil on the edge of the box. The technique Ozil used to stroke the ball home was magnificent and very few players would have even attempted it.

Arsenal had the lead they wanted after only eight minutes and they pushed forward to try to double it. They were playing breathtaking football and Napoli just couldn't cope with it. On the quarter hour mark the second goal came and it was Giroud who got it this time.

Arsenal put the Napoli defence under pressure as they tried to clear the ball and they won it back. Giroud passed to Ozil and headed straight into the area looking for the return ball. Ozil played it into his path six yards out and he finished first time past Pepe Reina for 2-0.

The pace and movement of the Arsenal team in the opening 20 minutes in particular was a thing of beauty and they fully deserved their two goal lead. Napoli simply couldn't cope with them as they opened them up at will. Meanwhile at the other end the axis of Arteta and Mathieu Flamini in front of the defence meant Napoli were nullified when they tried to break. 

The boss got his tactics absolutely spot on and there was only ever one team in the game. The intensity might have dropped off a little after Arsenal went two up, but they never looked in trouble. Napoli offered very little in attack and in truth never once looked likely to score. 

The best chances after the initial 20 minutes all fell to Arsenal and a four or five goal victory would not have flattered their dominance. Napoli were heralded as a genuine threat to Arsenal but they were never allowed to get into the game at all. I can't remember the last time I was so impressed with a performance from an Arsenal team.

With players gradually coming back from injury the boss is getting more options and he showed what he can do with those options last night. If Arsenal can continue to play that well then other teams will have to fear playing them. Their consistency since the Villa defeat had been top drawer but last night they brought their game to a different level.

It's probably not fair to single any players out but I think Ozil, Ramsey and Giroud all deserve a special mention for the way they played. They're all getting a lot more used to playing with each other and Arsenal are reaping the benefits. This side still has to see Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain return from injury over the next few weeks.

Next up in the Champions League is another home game and it's against last year's runners up Dortmund. It will be another huge test for the team but they showed last night exactly what they are capable of.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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