Monday, August 5, 2013

Arsenal 2 Napoli 2 - One of those games of 2 halves

Despite losing Cavani to Monaco, although they have replaced him with Higuan, much to Arsenal's chagrin and naming Benitez as their manager for next season I can see Napoli challenging for Serie A next season. They seem to have a number of quality players and plenty of strength in depth. Against Arsenal they certainly started off the brighter of the two teams. However, one definite fault in the Arsenal team was the way they fell for 2 Napoli sucker punches. Wenger is supposed to be tactically astute, but when you are relying on Mertesacker in defence it is perhaps not that wise. Napoli knew that if they played deep in defence and passed the ball around then they could lure Koscielny out of defence and then pump the ball forward to one of their fast players who would leave the flat footed Mertesacker lolloping behind like a pub player with a hangover.

Lorenzo Insigne scored on 7 minutes with exactly the aforementioned trick and Goran Pandev made it 2 with an almost identical move. In between these goals Arsenal had a chance to get into the game when they were awarded the 4th penalty of the day, but Podolski added his name to the list of failed penalty takers. It remained 2-0 until half time, but at this stage it was all Napoli whose patient build up and clinical counter attacking looked like it would yield more goals, whereas Arsenal and in particular Podolski and Mertesacker looked out of their depth.

It was a very different Arsenal in the second half and the introduction of Walcott, Arteta and Oxlade-Chamberlain certainly made a big difference. The Gunners started to grow in confidence and with 16 minutes left Olivier Giroud fired in a fine overhead kick which threw Arsenal a lifeline. Pepe Reina in the Napoli goal was time wasting badly, but it almost backfired when with a couple of minutes left Koscielny fired home after Mertesacker had a header saved. Arsenal almost clinched the game at the death, but it ended 2-2, which was probably a fair result in the ultimate game of two halves.

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