Result: Napoli 0-1 Arsenal (Arsenal win 3-0 on aggregate)
Competition: Europa League
Date: 18th April 2019
Venue: San Paolo Stadium
Starting XI: Cech, Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal, Kolasinac, Torreira, Xhaka, Ramsey, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Subs: Leno, Elneny, Mustafi, Guendouzi, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi
Alex Lacazette’s superb free-kick helped Arsenal to a 1-0 victory in Napoli as Unai Emery’s men won their Europa League quarter-final 3-0 on aggregate to set up a clash with his former club Valencia.
The Frenchman curled home from 30-yards on 36 minutes to take the sting out of a tie that might have gone the other way had the home side grabbed the opener.
The Gunners were happy to spend the rest of the game soaking pressure from deep before hitting the hosts on the break. A hamstring injury suffered by Aaron Ramsey put something of a dampener on the occasion but it doesn’t detract too much from another famous win in Italy.
Unai Emery promised his side would play to win in Naples and he set the right tone pre-game by selecting both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alex Lacazette. The other notable decision was to choose Nacho Monreal over Shkodran Mustafi in a back three that also featured Laurent Koscielny and Sokratis. The 3-5-2 formation saw Kolasinac and Maitland-Niles, both rested against Watford, provide the width with Ramsey playing ahead of Torreira and Xhaka.
On a night that was set up for a fast start by the home side, it was Arsenal who looked the more composed from kick-off.
Time and again we focused on building attacks down the left with Kolasinac and Lacazette dovetailing well and Ramsey making nice forward runs to support. On the other flank, Ainsley Maitland-Niles pressed high to steal balls and make the occasional burst. We didn’t create anything clear cut in the opening stages but the fact the football was being played in Napoli’s half was a real positive.
That the Gunners controlled things for 15 minutes didn’t dampen the spirits of the San Paolo, a stadium that started filling more than two and half hours before kick off. The whistles and jeers when the men in all red had the ball were deafening.
Napoli weren’t going to let us have it all our own way and when they broke quickly on 16 minutes Cech had to deal with Callejon’s effort with his feet. Back came the Gunners, Aubameyang sprinting down the right, looking up for Lacazette but not quite able to find the Frenchman.
Milik put the ball in the back of the net with a deft chip over Cech on 24 minutes but the flag of the Romanian official was quick to go up. Not that VAR was on hand to check, but it was the right decision. We didn’t seem to heed the warning. When the Pole darted behind Koscielny three minutes later he really should have buried his header but instead he steered it well wide.
As we approached the half hour mark it’s fair to say the momentum had swung the way of the Italians but we still looked dangerous on the counter. A nice flick by Ramsey teed up Aubameyang who tried an audacious volley that landed straight in the hands of keeper Meret.
Rambo’s evening ended soon after. Stretching into a challenge he appeared to tweak his hamstring and immediately went down. It didn’t look too serious at first but then you saw the pain on his face and the realisation dawn that this might be his Arsenal farewell. Here’s hoping it’s not as serious as that, but it didn’t look good. Henrikh Mkhitaryan came on in his place.
Alex Lacazette, who’d been all hustle and bustle but not much end product up to this point, then came to the fore. Barged over 30-yards from goal, he picked himself up, dusted himself down, told Xhaka it was his set piece and promptly curled home an absolutely beauty. Meret just stood and watched as it rippled the net. The Gunners bench exploded from their seats. The Frenchman was mobbed. It was a glorious strike and one that left the Italians needing four goals to progress. (1-0)
In the minutes before the break, Callejon made a hash of a header and then volleyed wide before Insigne picked up a daft yellow card for booting the ball away. Napoli’s frustration was clear for all to see when the whistle went. They surrounded the officials in numbers pinching their fingers and muttering insults that would make Gomorra’s Ciro and Genny blush.
Unai Emery’s men had a simple task in the second half. Do not concede four goals.
Rather than sit back, we continued to apply pressure high up the pitch. Energy sapping, yes. But also soul-destroying for Napoli who just couldn’t find the space they needed for their intricate football to take effect. Ruiz did blaze over when teed up by Insigne but the finish was so bad it seemed to deflate rather than encourage the crowd.
On 47 minutes Aubameyang really should have killed the tie. Fed a square ball by Mkhitaryan, the Gabon international had only Meret to beat but despite lifting his finish the keeper somehow tipped the effort over the bar. It looked a nailed on goal. Auba could not believe it.
On the hour mark, Carlo Ancelotti took off a furious Insigne who subsequently had a few words for his manager. The cameras showed him sitting near the touchline on his own like a stroppy little schoolboy; one for the local papers to chew over tomorrow.
Whilst that was going on, Xhaka, on a yellow from the last round and at risk of missing the semi with another booking, was replaced by Elneny and for a couple of minutes we lived without Monreal who needed some treatment.
Milik and Callejon kept pushing for an equaliser but their finishing continued to be erratic. Then came a moment of light relief as Sokratis, presumably using the Italian learned during his time with Genoa and AC Milan, spent some considerable time trying to calm down Koulibaly who felt aggrieved that Koscielny had accidentally trod on him at a corner. That the usually fearsome Greek was playing the role of peacemaker was a testament to our professionalism.
Given our advantage, we didn’t really need to waste time, but we did find cunning ways to slow the game down, including the swap of Iwobi for Lacazette. Eventually, Cech paid the price for our ‘dark arts’, picking up a booking as he dwelled on a goal kick. The veteran was annoyed but recovered his composure to make a decent stop from Monreal who, taken by surprise, inadvertently directed a cross at his own goal. It was arguably the closest the Italians came all night.
Valencia’s 5-1 aggregate win against Villarreal means we’ve a tricky trip to the Mestalla on the horizon. No reunion with Santi Cazorla but we do get to go head-to-head with Gabriel and Francis Coquelin; that’ll be fun. On the other side of the draw Chelsea will face Frankfurt after the Germans bounced back from a 4-2 first leg loss to Benfica to go through on away goals.
Huge plaudits tonight for all the players. And a big pat on the back for Unai Emery; it was a tactically astute performance straight out of the George Graham playbook.
Big shoutout to Monreal for managing to do a poo so quickly mid-game
He was channeling his inner Mustafi
I hope he put some loo roll in the bowl before to prevent splash-back
napoli were also poo. They are miles clear in 2nd in Italy. What must the standard be like.
Fancy having a player called Insigne Offside.
Good solid performance. Not Santi next but Coquelin and Gabriel.
Good performance, hopefully we can get to the final this year.
Also blogs, I hate to break the news to you, but the aggregate score wasn’t 4-0…
3-0 aggregate against a top italian side is fine with me though!
Yeah, we spotted that. Apparently, they awarded one goal for Laca’s free-kick. We thought it was worth two.
I think Emery has hacked the winning formula in the Europa League…
Absolutely perfect attitude from the entire team! Mature performance and excellently controlled game.
Well played and fully deserved the win!
Excellent. Very composed display.
Glass half-full or half-empty? Arsenal did a great mature, disciplined, defensive side of the game or, Arsenal did a poor, uninspired, typical away game that could have ended totally different? Ofc the game kinda died when Arsenal scored since Napoli didn’t look like scoring 4. Ramsey injured, Auba missed an open goal, no swag in the attacks, lots of misplayed passes and slips but also terrific defending especially by Kosc and Niles and lovely offsidetraps by the defenders. It’s another clean sheet! Over the two games Arsenal are the better side. Napoli didn’t impress at all (Insigne offside anyone?) and… Read more »
Down voted your comment at “Glass half-full or half-empty?” if I’m honest…
An “open goal” is when the goal is open without a goalkeeper btw…
Im ging to say well defended. Napoli were shit tho
There’s always one.
We beat them comfortably away without playing that well with the ball. But i thought our shape and organisation was good. They had 1 maybe 2 good chances away. You could also see that we were tired and sluggish from the fixtures in the last 3 or 4 games
The only half-empty is Ramsey’s injury. Would be unfortunate, if oddly fitting, for his Arsenal career to end by limping off with a muscle injury. Still, the Europa League Final is a ways off. He’s got time to heal to score the winner.
I was confident we would get through but never guessed it would be that simple. Super stuff. Spot on from Emery & the players. That’s the template for the remaining 4 away games.
Kos & Sokratis both superb at the back.
Sokratis is slowly becoming one of my favorite players. Love his attitude!
I love his steely stare
Man that was almost too easy
Sooooo easy. Well played boys
Excellent performance AMN MOTM for me.
I’d nearly put Kos as MOTM. Phenomenal performance from the Boss. Would love to know his stats for the night, how many clearances he made!?
AMN is quite good but he still needs cut out some mistakes in his game. There were couple he got beaten and his positioning was questionable.
He is a young lad and hopefully he will learn.
Too many forgetting some things about AMN:
He’s not a defender – he’s played most of his youth career as a CM.
He’s filling in for arguably one of our most talented players who is so so important to the way we build up play. The day Hector got injured, Arseblog said “there goes our top 4 hopes”.
AMN has done a MASSIVE job stabilising our right-side since the Lichtsteiner experiment failed. Completed the comeback vs Rennes with that far-post header. Assisted the first goal vs Napoli at home that swung the tie in our favour. Big future ahead
Blogs pls let me up vote this dude twice…pwetty pwsssss
I guess we would fight for the title in Italy…
Congrats to the team!
4-0? Where’d the extra goal come from?
It’d have been 4-0 if Auba tucked that easy chance away. Sometimes he’s just too laid back and lackadaisical in his attempts…
The away goal killed any nerves. As it is, a very good defensive display away from home. But man Napoli were poor. If they had any kind of quality finishing game could of been a lot more nervy.
I said before this tie it was way hard..and yet we cruised through. Come on Unai. COYG
Thought we were really good and made Napoli look distinctly average. Whole back five were excellent. We are looking stronger defensively too! We can win this.
Didn’t see much of Napoli’s aggressive approach?
To be fair they were aggressive. They just don’t have enough quality and stamina to get something out of the tie.
Sokratis and Koulibaly, a love story.
Straight swap, Mustafi for Koulibaly in the summer? Think they’d go for it?
Haha really enjoyed Napoli loosing their s*** after the goal. Great in game management from us, not something we saw a great deal of in the late Wenger years.
What about Ramsey injury? Any news yet?
Love Rambo and it would be sad way for him to go but in some respects makes it easier to accept the fact that we have not offered an injury prone player 400k per week in order to keep hold of him. I wish him all the best in Italy but it could be the right move for all concerned. He is not irreplaceable.
Also, clearly an easier time in Italy since a) Juve run away with it every season no matter what they do, and b) the run-away second-place team can’t even lick our boots in a European tournament, and we’re scrapping for fourth in our supposedly “inferior” league. He’ll have an easier time of it, whenever he isn’t injured, over there. No wonder he wanted to leave…
Well, not really surprised with the result. I said when the tie was announced: Napoli, while a VERY good team, are serial bottlers (in Europe at least). I’m more concerned about the tie against Valencia, Spanish teams are way harder than Italian teams, but we should be fine as long as we remain committed and focused.
Solid performance but Napoli cannot finish!
Insigne’s pouty face after being hooked was particularly enjoyable
I take full credit for this one! Betted 10£ on Napoli advancing and since i’m the worst better in the northern hemisphere the outcome was sure in favour of our guys.
ok please can you put on Ajax not to go through
Extremely offended by the description of Laca’s goal as coming from “30 yards” out.
It was at least 45, I swear 🙂
Super stuff from the boys and beautiful management of the whole tie from Emery. Good times!
I’d have sworn it was at least 60… ?
Never thought I’d be bored watching this one but I’m very happy to be wrong this time! Great professional display, killed the tie and never gave Napoli much hope of any miraculous turnaround. Fingers crossed on Ramseys injury we’re just a different side with the threat he brings from midfield.
Disagree. He’s off in the summer anyway, so this is a great chance for Ozil to renew Unai’s faith in him heading into next season. Hate to see it end like this for him, but I still feel that an it n-form Ozil is crucial to our success next season.
Yikes, in-form. Thanks Apple.
I’m so happy and proud! COYG
Get it right up ya, Ancelotti!
A rubbish, boring game but we got the job done. The good thing about tonight was that we were nice and solid. We never ever looked like we were gonna concede two goals. The only question was whether or no we’d get the goal to really kill off the tie. Our forward play was dreadful: we got into decent wide positions and then produced an awful final ball again and again. But then we got that free kick and Laca was lethal. Tie over. The rest of the game was dreadful, with Auba missing a sitter. Job done and let’s… Read more »
You would probably find something wrong with Emily Ratajkowski sitting on your face
Too skinny – but nice tits.
No worries, she’s ugly and you’re exactly right. I was in panic mode until we got the goal, and it was still ugly after that. It’s obvious we’re a team of possession players that don’t know how to counter for shit, but hopefully Unai will fix that in the next few windows.
Great report that, cheers!
Let in just one goal in the last seven now.
Are Valencia going to be hard to beat?
IMO, is a winnable tie, but Spanish teams are normally stronger than Italian teams. We should do it, but we should be entirely focused
Proud to see us battle to two away one nils in a row. Won alot of games like that this season. AMN and Kos were superb.
The best away performance of the season by far. Well managed from the off, got the away goal, should have had two. Lost Rambo to a hammy and had to put up with Mika giving the ball away time after time and they still couldn’t score.
The defense were superb, midfield combative and Napoli made to look ordinary.
It’s another cracker from Laca!
Mhki has to be gone this summer, right? Off the top of my head, I can’t come up with a single positive moment he’s created this season. I’d say cut our losses and reinvest.
On the flip side though, he’s still been better than Alexis has been for the Mancs. ?
P.S. Buy Koulibaly please.
BT Sport Commentry ( free kick )”I don’t think the frenchman really fancies this………………OOOOH fanatic ”
No you were wrong he did fancy it. COYG
Napoli, so overrated
I like the line up. If we get champions league football. New players will come . Thauvin sigurardson pereira delefou stanislas 🙂 mmmm
What are you on about?
Caught the second half.
Job well done. No panic. Firm defensive work throughout.
All these naysayers saying we were going to lose the second leg on our “away form”
We only needed to kill the game off with one goal and the excellent Lacazette once again the difference for us.
Good 3 -nil aggregate and a strong chance of the finals now even if Chelsea get in the way.
Would love it if we get to the finals and do a number on them again like the FA cup.