Arsenal continued their incredible form this season by hammering an accomplished Napoli team 2-0 at the Emirates, in a fitting tribute to Arsene Wenger who celebrates his 17th year at Arsenal.
Napoli under the stewardship of former Liverpool and Chelsea Manager Rafael Benitez have spent big during the summer and have made some great additions in the close season, including bringing in former Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain from under the noses of Arsenal. They also came into the game having only been beaten by Porto in a pre season match, in Serie A they had secured 5 wins and a draw to lie second only behind Roma who have so far secured maximum points from their opening six matches. Their opening Champions League encounter against the German finalists Borussia Dortmund they won 2-1 at home.
So this game would prove to be a stern test for this Arsenal side, they are unbeaten in 10 successive games since their opening day defeat to Aston Villa and the signing of Mesut Ozil and the emergence of Aaron Ramsey have made Arsenal a formidable team that currently tops the Premier League. The pre match news was that Gonzalo Higuain would not play a part due to a calf injury and Goran Pandev would replace him after bagging two goals against Genoa at the weekend.
Arsenal started the game in much better form dominating the early proceedings and consolidated by scoring an early goal courtesy of new signing Mesut Ozil. The outstanding Ramsey on the right cut inside and pulled the ball back to the edge of the box to Ozil who calmly slotted past Napoli keeper Pepe Reina from 18 yards to score his first goal at the Emirates in just the 8th minute.
The second goal came seven minutes later in the 15th minute after yet more poor defensive work from the Napoli back line who cleared the ball halfway up the right wing straight to goal scorer Ozil who managed to get in behind the defence and slot the ball straight into the path of birthday boy Olivier Giroud who slotted simply past Reina to double their advantage.
The Gunners ran riot through the Napoli defence and in particular on the right hand side they dominated proceedings with the Napoli pairing of Zuniga and Insigne unable to prevent any of the excellent link up play between Ramsey, Ozil and on occasions the right back Bacary Sagna.
Although in the second half Napoli put in a slightly improved performance they were unable to provide any clear cut chances and were reduced to long range shots and the occasional set piece but in truth Arsenal never looked troubled and the defensive pairing of Mertesacker and Koscielny collated yet another clean sheet.
Sometimes the statistics don’t tell the full picture but the overall possession statistics of 58-42 in favour of the Gunners and Napoli’s one shot on target and eight shots off target perfectly illustrates the dominance that Arsenal enjoyed.
This match was a huge marker for Arsenal but there are much harder tests that await Arsenal both in this group stage and in the Premier league but given their great form already this season it will take an exceptional performance to beat them. The additions of Ozil and Flamini, the emergence of Ramsey and the return of Cazorla and Podolski will only make them a much stronger team, an indication of how they will go against the likes of Bayern Munich may be revealed tomorrow when the German treble winners play Manchester City in their group game.
One things for certain the pressure that was seemingly on Arsene Wenger after the Aston Villa game seems to have disappeared entirely… Football’s a funny old game.