Napoli 2-0 Arsenal: Instant Reaction

Giuseppe Bellini

Arsenal lost 2-0, but still qualified for the knockout stages.

Arsenal are through to the Round of 16, but only just, after Napoli won 2-0. It was 0-0 at halftime, but Napoli, playing exponentially better in the second half, scored twice. Gonzalo Higuain put the Italian side up 1-0 after 73 minutes, after playing a neat 1-2 with Jose Callejon, then making a smart turn and firing into the corner of Wojciech Szczesny's goal. Minutes later, Mikel Arteta was harshly sent off for a second innocuous foul, reducing Arsenal to 10 men. Jose Callejon made it 2-0 with 30 seconds left of added time, but it wasn't enough for Napoli, as Borussia Dortmund's win in Marseille consigned them to the top of the group and Arsenal to second.

Overall, that was probably the second worst result possible for Arsenal: they failed to get the point that would clinch Group F, creating almost little of note, and had to run their legs into the ground ahead of the trip to Manchester City. Despite needing a goal and Napoli leaving more space behind, Arsene Wenger never sent on Theo Walcott on, and Arsenal were content to timewaste. While getting out of this group is an achievement, finishing second is not great, as Arsenal will face one of Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Barcelona or PSG. The performance today, though, was absolutely dire, and after going 1-0 down, the strategy was puzzling, with Nacho Monreal coming on, and Arsenal protecting the theoretical 3 goal lead. If that was the aim, why did Wenger not rest more players, such as Mesut Özil, from the beginning?

Arsenal have qualified, though, and that is undoubtedly a success, but we'll see how damaging today's strategy will be after the draw for the Round of 16 and Arsenal's next two games.

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