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Can Arsenal’s Greek colossus be the pillar of defense that thwarts Napoli’s attack? (Europa QF Preview – 2nd Leg)

Napoli vs. Arsenal

Europa League preview

QF 2nd Leg (0-2 Aggregate)

 

Napoli’s San Paolo stadium

We’re heading to southern Italy, and the city of Naples – or Napoli in Italian.

Napoli has been the biggest challenger to Juventus of late, beating either bigger clubs like Inter and AC Milan in this regard. They’re no slouches really – since they have history in success via the great Diego Maradona. To me, they’re like a Newcastle of Italy. That is, a big club in a big regional city of the country, but not perhaps as big as the traditional giants (Juve, AC Milan, Inter).

The “Newcastle United” of Italy is again the biggest rival to Juve this season, but then they were out-pressed and outpaced by us in the first leg.

We hold an advantage, and crucially didn’t concede an away goal. But then it won’t all be easy in southern Italy.

Context

Napoli has won some of their recent Serie A games, which mirrors our latest PL win vs. Watford.

As aforementioned, they won’t win Serie A bar a monumental collapse by Ronaldo and company. And with their CL loss to Ajax, there is no way they’d want this to happen.

Manager Carlo Ancelotti has said that he will focus on this competition, since CL position is assured via the league.

However, he needs to get his team attack us, and exploit our defensive weaknesses.

Napoli needs an early goal. Moreover, the atmosphere at the Napoli stadium can be highly intimidating, which they will use surely to their advantage.

We can expect a high-tempo, pressing, and attacking game, since they need to do this to progress. It’s how well we can handle them, and move on and progress.

Clean up aisle three...

As for us, our defence isn’t our strong point. But then we did defend well vs. Watford, and even with Mr. Deeney’s sending off, we matched their physicality well. Koscielny, and even Mustafi, played well, and Sokratis should be back for this game. Sokratis has been our best defender here, and if Mustafi can play well again with no errors, then it could bode well defensively.

Napoli hasn’t won a major trophy in a while, and in some regard has taken advantage of AC Milan and Inter’s recent slumps. Once these powerhouses of the global game re-emerge (which former boy Mr. Gazidis is keen to do, for AC Milan at least..) then Napoli will find it difficult to rival Juve.

So this game has fine importance for them – and we must handle their pressing.

Conceding an early goal is not a disaster, but then we cannot let it get to our heads. We have the players to trouble them and score, so measure, balance, and a cool head should trump all here.

Formation

Since we need to match and contain them, whilst the balance between attack and defence is important, I’d like to see this shape:

 

I may be wrong of course, but I can see Emery going for a back three here.

Sokratis may be back, as his suspension doesn’t apply in the Europa League.

And with this midfield pattern, we can close them down and create also.

I presume Laca starts over Auba, given Laca didn’t play vs. Watford.

However, Ozil could feature here, as we may need his creative inputs if we play a counter-attacking style.

Many say that our side vs. Spurs, and more specifically the shape employed, is a template for away games. It is in some sense, in that we can be defensively rigid, capitalise on chances when available, and nullify home teams when required. This can come via a back four (as it did vs. Tottenham), or a back three.

If we need to chase the game, then we can bring on Auba, or Iwobi, Mkhitaryan, or take off a defender to move to a back four if needed.

What’s vital though is that our defensive positioning is strong, and that we don’t defend too deeply. We need to be cautious, but I think in the Spurs game we were too cautious. We need to find a balance between caution and offensiveness. Too much of either is bad here.

Though if we’re drawing (even if it’s 1-1 or higher) at half-time, this would ease us since Napoli needs to score.  This should, if anything, be our target – to be level at half-time, and go on from there.

Prediction

Napoli 2-1 Arsenal (agg. 2-3)

I feel we may concede, though I believe we can get through here.

As said, how we manage their press and attacking is crucial, but I feel we can progress into the semi-final.

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One Response to Can Arsenal’s Greek colossus be the pillar of defense that thwarts Napoli’s attack? (Europa QF Preview – 2nd Leg)

  1. Victor Thompson April 18, 2019 at 12:26 pm #

    I have to say that there is a glaring weakness in this selection, MH. going back from Ozil, you have Kolasinac who is weak in defence and Guendouzi behind or inside him who is even weaker. That creates a huge weakness down our entire left flank and you have omitted Monreal who is arguably our most dependable defender.

    Ancelloti will have his team wound up to go for it from the outset and it is vital that we don`t concede a lfeboat goal to them. I think Abo has to play on the wing because he does compete as well as attack. Ramsey can stiffen the midfield whilst forming an attackinig threat with Laca. I would play a back 4 to include Monreal with your three and a 4 in midfield of Iwobi, Torreira, Ramsey and Maitland NIles. I would play Laca at CF with Abo on the wing or just behind him. he could be fluid as to which wing he occupies depending on where the opportuniy arises.

    The main thing is that we have speed and combativeness in this selection which is what we shall need to curb their initial attacks whilst providing the possibility of a quick counter attack.

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