Arsenal 2 Napoli 0: Ozil Stars as Arsenal Gain Stronghold of Group F
Emirates Stadium (Champions League)
Arsenal – Ozil 8′, Giroud 15′
Champions League football beckoned at the Emirates as two of Europe’s in-form sides clashed in what was tagged as a true test of their abilities. Napoli arrived at the North London on a high, following a 2-1 victory over Genoa that saw them level on points with AS Roma, and it’s noteworthy that they were unbeaten under new manager, Rafa Benitez. The Spanish manager had never won Arsene Wenger away in 10 attempts with Liverpool, and many wondered if his poor run in North London was going to continue.
Arsene Wenger made two changes from the squad that was victorious in Wales with Jack Wilshere making way for Mikel Arteta while Serge Gnabry was given a deserved rest with injury returnee, Tomas Rosicky, taking his place.
Arsenal threatened from the right when Mathieu Flamini teed up Bacary Sagna that was in acres of space, but the fullback’s cross hit Zuniga and went away for a corner. The excellent buildup to the first goal matched the exquisite finish as Olivier Giroud held up play before feeding Aaron Ramsey on his far side. The Welsh midfielder drove into the heart of the Napoli defense before noticing an unmarked Mesut Ozil. Ramsey drilled a pass to Ozil and his one-timed sidefooted finish was a stuff of legends.
Arsenal’s new boy had been on the spotlight for his assists but this time, there was no denying him as he opened his goalscoring account for the club in grand style. Ramsey was in the thick of things again as he cushioned a pass for Flamini but the Frenchman’s tame shot was easy pickings for Pepe Reina in goal.
Arsenal doubled their money when Giroud latched unto a loose pass, teed up Ozil and continued his run into the box. The German schemer used his first touch to give himself some space, went to Napoli’s byline and squared the ball for Giroud. They rest they say, was history.
After his early season hot streak, the goals had dried up a bit for Giroud but it was good seeing him on the score sheet yet again. Napoli tried to pegged Arsenal back when Britos attacked a corner from Lorenzo Insigne but he nodded the ball over. Had that gone in, Laurent Koscielny would have been the one to blame as he clearly lost track of the player he was meant to mark,
Ramsey anticipated a loose ball and drove in to Napoli’s danger area but his heavy touch afforded Raul Albiol a chance to clear the ball to safety. Ozil did well to find Sagna on his right and the French fullback lofted a cross into Napoli’s far post. Ramsey controlled the ball and fired it goalwards but it was blocked by Albiol.
Ramsey was having a stormer in midfield and he executed an amazing turn to create some space before teeing up Ozil but that attack was thwarted by Napoli’s rearguard.
Mesto managed to dink in a cross which was intercepted by Flamini in the box as he was off balance but Insigne’s weak shot was easy pickings for Szczesny. Late on, Ozil showed off his sleek body movement before releasing a ball meant for Giroud, but his dummy put the defender off guard as the ball went to Ramsey’s path but the Welshman’s shot on goal was blocked by Britos.
Napoli clearly needed the ref’s halftime whistle as they were ran ragged by one of the best Arsenal first half displays you would ever see. Arsenal started the second half with a bang as Giroud brushed off a couple of challenges before setting up an onrushing Rosicky but Czech maestro mistimed his shot entirely. He was later substituted for Jack Wilshere.
Wilshere used a burst of pace to evade a challenge to launch a counter attack for his team. After finding Giroud, the French forward teed up Ramsey but the Welshman wasn’t having any joy in front of goal as Britos was on hand to make another block. Arsenal almost got a third when Ozil’s lofted pass was flicked into the danger area by Arteta. Koscielny was the first to get to the ball but his close range finish was saved by Reina.
Ramsey earned a standing ovation when he was replaced by Nacho Monreal and even though he didn’t get a goal, he has every reason to be proud of his performance on the night. Late on, Wilshere and Ozil combined on the left but the Englishman’s driven effort evaded everyone in Napoli’s box, including an onrushing Giroud.
At the sound of the ref’s whistle, Arsenal had gained a stronghold of Group F, as they head into the double date with Borussia Dortmund with six points from a possible six.
Szczesny (7) looked assured in goal and dominated his box by claiming the crosses that came his way.
Sagna (7) offered a good outlet in attack and swung in a couple of key crosses.
Gibbs (7) balanced his attacking and defensive play superbly.
Koscielny (7) was a beast in the back as usual.
Mertesacker (7) kept a cool head and made some vital merteceptions.
Arteta (7) brought some stability to Arsenal’s midfield formed a solid partnership with his French holding midfield partner.
Flamini (7) was vocal as always and made a couple of fierce challenges that showed the Gunners what they had missed while he was gone.
Ramsey (8) was industrious in midfield and created a neat assist for Ozil’s opener.
Rosicky (7) did okay in his return from injury but his misplaced passes exposed his rustiness.
Ozil (9) put up another masterpiece and showed why he’s worth the outlay and certainly all the hype. A goal and an assist on the big stage, what else can you ask for?
Giroud (9) was awesome with his link up play and must be delighted to get back on the scoring act.
Wilshere (7) had his moments of quality as the game progressed.
With Borussia Dortmund dispatching Olympique Marseille in the other group game, Arsenal would have to be on their best form as the German juggernauts would give them their toughest challenge yet. In his post-match conference, Wenger was effusive in his praise for Ozil and the great overall performance of his lads.
It’s now 10 wins out of 10 since the opening day debacle against Aston Villa and it’s onto the next one, as the Gunners visit West Brom this weekend.
Here’s to Ozil, Arsenal’s perpetual creating machine of the first kind.
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