Arsenal vs. Napoli: Lessons Learned From the Entertaining Draw
After scoring for fun and enjoying some success in the 2013 Asia Tour, Arsenal returned to home soil to take on a new look Napoli side beginning life after the free-scoring Edinson Cavani. That big money transfer to Paris St. Germain created room for the Napoli boss, Rafa Benitez, to go on a shopping spree in Madrid snatching Gonzalo Higuain, Raul Albiol and Jose Callejon. The Liverpool boss also reunited with the goalie he bought from Villarreal, Pepe Reina.
Arsenal on the other hand have been a club fueled with speculated moves for many players with Luis Suarez dominating the proceedings in the back pages, even though no move had come to fruition yet. However, football took center stage in the Emirates sunshine as the Arsenal faithful saw Emmanuel Eboue win a penalty for his side that was converted by Felipe Melo. Prior to that, the Portuguese outfit had missed two penalties from Jackson Martinez and skipper, Lucho Gonzalez.
The second match of the competition began with Arsenal wearing their lovely away kit against a Napoli side and both teams fielded strong lineups as you would expect from both managers trying to show off their tactical acumen. Goals from Lorenzo Insigne and Goran Pandev were canceled out by Olivier Giroud and arguably my Man of the Match, Laurent Koscielny.
Without further ado, here are some lessons learned from Arsenal’s entertaining draw with Napoli.
The Defensive Errors Can’t Just Go Away
Times without number last season, Arsenal were responsible for the goals they conceded with a player suffering a lapse in concentration that was duly punished by the opposition.
Yesterday’s tie against Napoli was no different with Carl Jenkinson having a moment where a dysfunctional chip was loose in his brain, which led to a placed effort from Lorenzo Insigne. A simple lofted pass from Gokhan Inler put Jenkinson in No Man’s Land and his wayward header fell into Insigne’s path and as expected, the Napoli forward showed no mercy.
If you thought Jenkinson had a moment of madness that led to a goal was bad, words cannot explain what Lukasz Fabianski was doing miles away from his goalie when he had some defenders that would have aided him in the buildup to Goran Pandev’s goal. A rush of blood to the Pole’s head saw Fabianski dart towards the Macedonian and the forward had no problem skipping past Fabianski before guiding the ball to an unguarded net.
Arsenal’s defending collectively improved in the tail end of last season and they have to find a way to curb their moments of madness in defense because on another day, it would be points dropped, which would be more painful.
Laurent Koscielny’s Performances Will be Key For the Gunners this Season
Since usurping Thomas Vermaelen in the starting lineup after the debacle at White Hart Lane, Laurent Koscielny has grown from strength to strength becoming an indispensable player for the Gunners. After putting up aggressive performances in the Asia Tour, Koscielny returned to home soil to put up another stellar performance against Napoli, making impressive blocks, interceptions, defensive clearances and the whole nine yards.
To crown a great day at the office, Koscielny rose the highest to salvage a draw for his team late on. His performances will be key for the Gunners this season and the only thing that can pave the way for Vermaelen’s return to this team would be injury or suspension in my honest opinion.
Tomas Rosicky Still Has a Lot to Offer
With his age and fierce competition for players in his position, I’d expect Tomas Rosicky to play a bit part role this season, but he still has a lot to offer as he reaches the twilight of his Arsenal career. The 32-year-old played as the creative hub in midfield and stamped his authority on the pitch with his neat passing, sleek movement and orchestration of the midfield.
With players like Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere clearly above Rosicky in the pecking order, I still believe that Arsenal can count on him like one, two, three and he’s be there this season.
Lukas Podolski Had a Horrible Day at the Office
Lukas Podolski began the game in his favored left wing role and a lot was expected from the efficient German Machine. His problems began when he fired a weak penalty kick that was saved by Pepe Reina and he never fully recovered from the mental block of missing such a glaring chance till he was substituted for Chuba Akpom late on.
Podolski was uncharacteristically slow in his reaction when he was afforded with some key chances and his decision to back heel the ball to Giroud when he had a clear chance at goal was perplexing and bewildering. For a player that scored 16 goals and supplied 11 assists last season, it was a poor showing but I believe he won’t dwell on it.
Even the best players in world football have horrible days at the office. Lukas Podolski is no different.
Olivier Giroud’s Performance Shows that Arsenal Probably Dodged a Bullet with Gonzalo Higuain
One of the things we looked forward to the game was the performance of Gonzalo Higuain, a player that was reportedly on his way to the Emirates before Napoli hijacked the deal with more money and he became their employee.
While the speculation involving Higuain was going on as the summer progressed, Olivier Giroud was busy smashing in goals in the Asia Tour. Many Arsenal fans (me included) were in the opinion that Higuain would have been an excellent acquisition but a skeptical lot believed that he would be somewhat simillar to Giroud and the club needed a playmaker forward in the mold of Stefan Jovetic or Luis Suarez.
Yesterday’s game proved that the latter skeptical lot were probably right because Higuain was tightly marked by Per Mertesacker and the impressive Laurent Koscielny which ensured that he hardly had a sniff at goal. At the other end, Giroud was tightly sandwiched by Paolo Cannavaro and the Napoli rearguard but he still managed to fashion a chance that led to corner kick.
Walcott stepped up to play the corner kick and out of the blue, Giroud executed a brilliant overhead kick that left Reina rooted to the spot.
I still believe that Higuain would go on to score many goals for Napoli, but Giroud woll do the same for Arsenal. The Gunner’s pursuit of Suarez showed that they want a forward with an alternative approach, as they had a £40,000,001 bid rejected for Suarez, while Napoli swooped Higuain for £30,000,000.
Arsenal would have gotten Higuain if they really wanted him as the media predicted.
The draw against a stronger opposition was the kick the Gunners needed to show them that things aren’t all peachy and creamy like their time in Asia. Arsene Wenger shared his opinions in the post-match conference and also voiced his opinions on transfer speculation involving Suarez.
I would expect them to beat Galatasaray but all eyes are fixed on the match against Aston Villa.
Feel free to share your lessons learned as well.
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