Arsenal vs. Napoli
Emirates Stadium, London, Earth
Tuesday 1 October 2013, 2:30 pm ET
TV: Fox Soccer + (which evidently still exists)
After winning in France, Arsenal continue their Champions League campaign by welcoming Napoli to London. The Italian team won their first match as well, defeating Borussia Dortmund in Naples by a score of 2-1. Since Arsenal also beat Marseille by the same score, the teams are basically tied atop Group F. The implications of the match, then, are obvious - a winner would lead the group, while a draw would preserve the status quo.
Napoli's previous European clash involved two sendings-off (one being Roman Weidenfeller, the other manager Jurgen Klopp) and an own goal, so there may be some kind of witchcraft surrounding them. But while der BVB were a dumpster fire (fig. 1) Napoli were good as well, and a point to the Germans would have been unfair to the hosts, despite everything else. So this should be a fun game, and will likely be touted as The First Real Test For Arsenal, which I believe would be the fourth First Real Test this season. For an untested team, Arsenal sure get tested a lot.
For more on Napoli, here's an interview I did with SB Nation's resident Italy expert Kirsten Schlewitz, who also happens to be a Napoli supporter and manager of The Siren's Song. Because she knows a lot about them, and I don't.
For more on Arsenal, here's...well, the next paragraph of this preview. According to Arsene Wenger, everyone who was available on Saturday will be available Tuesday. And then some.
From Saturday's squad everybody is available. Rosicky is back into the squad for tomorrow and is available again. He has recovered from his hamstring injury.
Rosicky will be a great asset, particularly off the bench, because he offers a wide range of abilities offensively. They include dribbling, pace through the middle of the park, and transmutation. They do not include Tackling Under Any Circumstances. Wenger again:
[Rosicky] can play in all the offensive positions and I'm very happy that he's back because he is very influential in our game. I haven't decided who will start and who will not start. But I'm very happy that he's back in the squad.
If I had to guess - and I do, because I'm previewing this game - I would guess that the lineup will be more or less the same as the Swansea lineup. With four entire days between this game and Arsenal's next (we play West Brom again on Sunday) I could see Wenger trying to get the most out of the guys he has, before reintroducing Rosicky and the supposedly-soon-to-return Santi Cazorla to the team. There won't be a ton of width, but there hardly ever is, so Arsenal should be fine.
Prediction: Higuain pratfalls through the whole game and scores an own goal. Kieran Gibbs has a hat trick, because I am going to keep predicting Gibbs goals until he scores one. Arshavin briefly appears as an apparition, giggles, then disappears.
Arsenal 2-0 Napoli