Arsenal’s Europa League journey continues tonight with the tricky away trip to Napoli. The Gunners go into the 2nd leg tie with a 2-0 lead following victory in London last week.
Whilst they are taking a fairly comfortable lead to Naples, it is by no means a tie-winning one.
Napoli have a tremendous home record this year – 2nd in Serie A. Their only defeat this season at the Stadio San Paolo was a 2-1 defeat to table toppers Juventus.
Earlier this season they beat Liverpool at home in the Champions League.
Napoli’s ground will be a fortress of hate, and you couple their good home form with Arsenal’s poor away and it is going to be a rollercoaster of a tie.
Victory against Watford on Monday was Arsenal’s 3rd away win since December 1st. The other two coming in the FA Cup against Blackpool and against bottom of the table Huddersfield Town in the Premier League. It is certainly not the form that would have you feeling comfortable travelling to Italy today.
The game against Watford showed just how psychologically damaged Arsenal are away from home.
Despite being a goal up and facing 10-men from the 11th minute, Arsenal laboured to the win. Vulnerable at the back and lacking creativity up top, Watford had their chances.
At least Arsenal did come away from Vicarage Road with the 3 points which pushed Arsenal into 4th and ensured they have two routes to Champions League football next season.
Last season Arsenal won just 4 games away in the league. This season it is 6. 10 away wins out of 35 is worrying form.
Worryingly, Arsenal have also lost both knock-out away legs in the Europa League this season – away to BATE Borisov and Rennes.
The positivity from Arsenal’s point of view is the clean sheet that they bring from London. This gives the side a huge advantage and would mean that if they do get the away goal; Napoli would need to score 4 to go through.
Arsenal’s last away match in Italy was at the Last 16 stage of last season’s Europa League, winning 2-0 against AC Milan. They have also progressed in Europe 16 out of 17 times they have led by two or more goals.
Napoli have not overturned a first leg deficit in Europe since 1989 – a run of 8 consecutive ties, whilst Unai Emery has one more Europa League knockout stage matches than any other manager – 25.
Whilst all the historical statistics point to Arsenal progressing, there is that away form.
The first goal tonight will be key.
Arsenal get it and the tie is dead. Napoli surely will not score 4. If Napoli get it, and get it early, it is “game-on”.
All those going out there, stay safe and look after each other
Hopefully by tomorrow morning we are all booking package holidays to Benidorm for the semi-final.
Up The Arsenal