Tag Archives: Europa League

Match Report: Arsenal 2 – 0 Napoli

Arsenal (2) 0 Napoli (0) 0
UEFA Europa League, Quarter Final, First Leg
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Thursday, 11th April 2019. Kick-off time: 8.00pm

(4-2-3-1) Čech; Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal, Maitland-Niles; Torreira, Ramsey; Kolašinac, Özil, Lacazette; Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Elneny, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Leno, Mustafi, Suárez, Guendouzi.
Scorers: Ramsey, Koulibaly
Referee: Alberto Undiano Mallenco (Spain)
Attendance: circa 60,000

Back to The Emirates, and of course, back to winning ways, which is de rigueur for our home matches this season. How different tonight’s match in both attitude and aptitude from the horrendous car crash that befell the team at Goodson Park just 96 hours hence (or thereabouts). Tonight’s match was a tale of two midfielders, the departing Aaron Ramsey and the remaining Lucas Torreira, both of whom completely oozed class and dominace here in North London this evening.

Aaron Ramsey’s opening goal was surely nothing short of sublime, and coming as it did, on quarter of an hour after the start, showed Arsenal’s intent. As we have seen before with the Welsh Wizard this season, the move he started became the goal he finished. A nifty pass to Mesut Özil, who then gently pushed the ball on to Alexandre Lacazette which travelled quickly to Ainsley Maitland-Niles; the man who started the move then received it and in the blink of an eye it was in the back of the Napoli net. Just like that. Confidence in a football team is always 90 per cent of the proceedings, and for the next ten minutes or so, Arsenal showed their class. Ten minutes after taking the lead, Lucas Torreira received the ball on the edge of the Napoli area, and merely took a chance with a quick shot that caught the unfortunate Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly on its way to wickedly going high and over goalkeeper Alex Meret and into the net to make it two-nil to Arsenal. The remaining twenty minutes of the first half became a running battle between our strikers and the Napoli defenders as to who was to gain the upper hand. By rights, it should have been us, with both Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang getting mighty close with some superb shots, provided by our midfielders, who were doing sterling work in providing them with the necessary tools to finish the job. Despite all this and more, we went into the break two goals to the good and a promise of an even better second half.

Undoubtedly the happier of the two managers, Mr. Emery kept his nerve and the team as it was before in a never-ending search for that elusive third goal. The Napoli manager, our old friend Mr. Ancelotti had other ideas and put pressure on our defence which managed to hold firm throughout, even with the heart stopping moment when Napoli did manage to finally get the ball past Petr Čech and into the net, only for the match officials to correctly rule it out for offside. Phew. The match levelled out, and Mr. Emery made three substitutions in ten minutes; Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alex Iwobi and Mohamed Elneny for Mesut Özil, Alexandre Lacazette and Lucas Torreira. Off we went again. Despite some wonderful football emanating from the football brain of Aaron Ramsey, we just could not get that killer third goal to take to Naples next week. Still, a good win, and one that we can hopefully build on next Thursday.

What price Aaron Ramsey, we ask ourselves? He seems to be on the way to becoming more of a complete midfielder as he gets closer to the exit signs to start his new career at Juventus. With performances such as this tonight, we are starting to question the wisdom of allowing him to leave North London. We are now all surely praying that this clever footballer doesn’t come back to haunt us one day; but the world of professional football works in mysterious ways, as well we know. Still no Denis Suárez, who is becoming almost Garbo-like in his non-appearance on the pitch, sadly. It would have been good to see Mattéo Guendouzi stretch his legs for a while at some point in the match, but as the game was going our way early on in the proceedings, his skills were not required tonight. And so, it’s Naples for the chaps next week, and we are all hoping that we can see the job through well enough to get to the semi-final draw. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as these early days are going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Victoria Concordia Crescit.


Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.


Arsenal face tough task at home to Rennes

I am concerned about tonight.

Arsenal really should have put the tie to bed in that first leg.

Prior to Sokratis’ sending off, it was all Arsenal. We should have scored 2 or 3. Not for the first time this season we failed to get that second goal. I am confident had we got that, we would have gone on to win comfortably.

Instead it all fell apart when Sokratis received an extremely harsh second yellow which reduced Arsenal to 1-men.

Let’s get things right. It was not a yellow card. The players came together, tangled themselves. It was not even a foul. And from the resulting free kick Rennes equalised with a stunning finish.

If the first was a world class strike from a free kick that should never have been given, the second was down to simple bad luck – the ball deflecting off of Monreal. Own goal.

I could have taken a 2-1 defeat. Not the best result. But it was also not the worst, circumstances considering.

1 goal down with the away goal in the bag, Rennes not overly looking threatening despite having 11 men. You would back Arsenal to overturn the deficit quickly like they did against BATE Borisov.

Instead, in the 88th minute, Arsenal shot themselves in the foot conceding the 3rd goal froma counter attack.

I remember a game a few years ago against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League group stages.

Having been 1-0 down at home, Olivier Giroud had made it 1-1 at half time. With 10 minutes to go. Arsenal were pushing forward. Wave after wave of attack. They were hit on the counter attack and lost the game 2-1 with Robert Lewandowski scoring with just over 5 minutes to go.

Better game management would have recognised that a draw was not a bad result. Would have left Arsenal not pushing forward as aggressively, and resulted in both sides leaving north London with a point.

In the end Arsenal did manage to qualify from a tough group including Napoli and Marseille.

The first leg against Rennes was similar.

Arsenal players (and management) should have recognised that 2-1 with the away goal was not a bad result. Especially down to 10-men. To be hit on the break and end up losing 3-1 was simply down to poor in-game management.

So now instead of needing just the single goal tonight to be leading the game, we need 2. It will a tough task.

Saying that, Arsenal were all over Rennes prior to Sokratis’ sending off. They could not cope with us.

With it being a 2 goal deficit, Arsenal know that they need to attack, attack, attack. And with that away goal in the back, Arsenal now it does not really matter if we concede one.

Rennes will set up to frustrate Arsenal. To protect what they have. It is a game to play Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with Grant Xhaka holding.

It does not matter if we concede one, we still need to score 3.

Go out and be aggressive. Start the men who can unpick the lock and have Xhaka dictating the play from deep.

The majority of the play tonight will be in Rennes half.

It really is a simple game plan.

Leave the central defenders (Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi) on the half way line. Xhaka just infront of them, and pile everyone else forward.

Bernd Leno has to be on his toes.

As we saw against Manchester United at the weekend, he is good at coming out of his goal. He will need to remain close to the edge of the box to cut out the long balls over the top.

Am I confident about tonight? No. Do I still expect us to go through? Yes.

We need to keep the dual paths to qualifying for the Champions League open.


Arsenal look to put Europa League tie to bed in 1st leg against Rennes

There are some very good teams in the Europa League last 16.

Alongside Arsenal, there is also Chelsea, Inter Milan, Napoli, Valencia and Sevilla. It is Europe’s 2nd tier competition and you arguably have the creme dela crème of those sides not in the Champions League.

It would not be too surprising to see all 6 of those teams in the Champions League next season.

That is why Arsenal absolutely caught a break in the next round by drawing Rennes. Currently sitting 10th in Ligue 1, Rennes have a pedestrian 6-4-3 record at home this season.

In the Europa League this season, they could only manage a draw at home to Kiev in the Group State, and drew at home to Real Betis in the Round of 32.

Presently, Arsenal are  1/4 favorite’s to advance, and writers at sites like Sports Betting Dime see the Gunners as having a great chance to earn at least an away draw before finishing the job in London.

That being said, Arsenal need to ensure they take the tie seriously. The defeat away to BATE Borisov would have been a wake up call for the club.

The 1-0 loss in the 1st leg in Belarus was a shock to everyone and should be used as a reminder that no matter the gulf between clubs; any result can happen on any given day.

I do not think the environment in Minsk helped Arsenal, and this should be taken as minor extenuating circumstances.

The sub zero temperatures, the frozen, badly prepared pitch. It was a bit like an old school FA Cup 3rd round game when you would go to some dark corner of England, face a small team on a water logged, muddy, cut up pitch. The opponents would score from a set piece and the better team would labour on.

Against Rennes it should be a different story.

A city in the east of Brittany, north west France, it is little over an hour flying time from London. A case could probably be made that Arsenal do not travel up the day before. Instead meet at London Colney for breakfast on Thursday, a quick coach to Luton and a chartered flight into Rennes. They will be there before lunch; with 5 hours to prepare for the game.

Arsenal will not face the similar cold, frozen, bumpy pitch that they did in Borisov.

A positive result today will take Arsenal to 5 games unbeaten before the big game on Sunday against Manchester United.

Anyone heading out there – I imagine you are already in France – enjoy the game.