Emirates Cup match report: Arsenal 2-2 Napoli

Paul Gilham

Arsenal were poor in the first half, but bore a couple of mistakes to come back to equalize late.

0-1 Insigne 7'
penalty miss Podolski 16'
0-2 Pandev 28'
1-2 Giroud 72'
2-2 Koscielny 86'

Arsenal started poorly in their first Emirates Cup match since 2011, but were able to pick things up and equalize late against Napoli. A few second half substitutions helped things along, and defensive contributions from Laurent Koscielny helped ensure the Neapolitans didn't score again. It was overall just a decent performance, and a pretty poor one early on, but in the end preseason is preseason, and a draw is a draw.

With the two goals scored by each side and Galatasaray's 1-0 win over Porto earlier today, the ever-important Emirates Cup standings have Gala in front, with four points (three from winning, and one for their goal), while Napoli and Arsenal are tied for next-best, with three points each (one from the draw, one for each of the two goals scored). Porto have none.

The game started poorly. Early on, noted young person Serge Gnabry had a pretty clear chance, but put it well over a basically open goal. Shortly after that, in the 6th minute, Napoli scored. A long ball was played to Lorenzo Insigne and Carl Jenkinson tried to head the ball away, but ended up just putting it closer to the goal and in a bit better position for Insigne. He took the chance, and it was 1-0. One error.

In the 13th minute Arsenal nearly had a goal they shouldn't. Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina tried to pass the ball out of the back, and instead it came straight to Gnabry. Reina was out of the goal and Gnabry tried quickly to lob him; his lob was slightly high, and ended up about half a yard too deep to get under the bar. It was a quick thought and reaction from a young player, and encouraging even though it was ultimately unsuccessful.

Soon after Arsenal nearly had another goal they shouldn't have. A penalty that wasn't a penalty was called, but Lukas Podolski's shot was saved by Reina. It was a relatively good save, but more than anything else it was a horribly placed penalty. Two errors.

Napoli doubled their lead in the 28th minute. The midfield failed to handle Marek Hamsik - which, I mean, come on, he's pretty good so let's do something about that - and he played a diagonal throughball to Goran Pandev. For reasons that remain unclear to all, Lukasz Fabianski came out to try to take the ball, but then didn't actually try to take the ball. Per Mertesacker had been tracking Pandev, mostly successfully, but when Fabianski left his line Mertesacker had to leave him to cover the goal. Fabianski's failure to actually do anything hung Mertesacker out to dry, and Pandev scored pretty easily. Three errors.

At halftime, the mood was dark. The performance hadn't been great. It got better.

In the 55th minute two substitutions were made - Theo Walcott and Bacary Sagna came on for Gnabry and Jenkinson. Shortly thereafter Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere came off for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mikel Arteta. The team almost immediately looked better - they'd improved after the break, but the improvement continued apace with the changes made. The substitutes were heavily involved in the goals that were to come.

With about a quarter of an hour to go, Arsenal drew a corner. Noted substitute Theo Walcott took it and put it just outside the six-yard box, where Olivier Giroud did a sort of low bicycle kick that deflected off Sagna and in. It might not have gone in otherwise, but honestly it doesn't matter. It was still pretty awesome, and put Arsenal right back in the game.

In the 86th, an Arsenal set piece hit paydirt again. Arteta took the kick and hung it just outside the six-yard box. Mertesacker put the first ball on frame with a header, but Reina's save ricocheted free for Koscielny to head home. It was a great equalizer, and it salvaged the first half pretty well.

The performance as a whole wasn't stellar, but the second half improvement was encouraging. Ramsey and Wilshere didn't quite work together, but Arteta's introduction helped fix the midfield. Some of the problems that we all know about manifested, but there's still time to fix them. Overall there was just as much in this game to encourage us as there was to discourage, so we didn't really learn a whole lot. Preseason, everyone!

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