The first step to defeating the enemy is to know the enemy. Luckily, in this case the enemy is actually not one at all - so we asked Friend Of The Blog (and manager of The Siren's Song) Kirsten Schlewitz a few questions ahead of Arsenal's Champions League match with Napoli. She was kind enough to answer them, and in fewer words than I used to do the same for her because only one of us rambled about Aaron Ramsey for most of a paragraph.
It was me. Anyway. Here's Kirsten!
The Short Fuse: How has Napoli handled the switch from Walter Mazzarri's tactics to Rafa Benitez's? Things would seem to be going well so far...is it as entertaining?
Kirsten Schlewitz: More entertaining than Mazzarri. They're still able to hit on the counter, but Napoli play a more possession-oriented game now, which takes a bit of pressure off the defense, which is still shaky. The only real issue under Benitez was his underestimation of Sassuolo, when he replaced three of the four defenders. That won't happen this time around.
TSF: How has Gonzalo Higuain looked leading the line after having replaced the departed Edinson Cavani? Has his build-up play been as nice?
KS: Well, Pipita certainly doesn't track back in the same way Cavani did, but that's to be expected. No one's going to replace Edi, but I think Napoli fans have come to accept that, and are realizing Higuaín can knock in a number of goals with Rafa's system. But the buildup is orchestrated mostly by Marek Hamšík, who's absolutely flourishing under Rafa. He looked tired against Sassuolo, which is part of the reason the team did so poorly, I think. But he was given a rest against Genoa and should be back to his best for Tuesday. He, José Callejón and Lorenzo Insigne will trouble the Arsenal backline, switching places and pulling defenders out of position, enabling Higuaín to get in to finish off goals. I hope.
TSF: Is there anything about Arsenal in particular that worries you?
KS: Hmm, let's see. I think his name is...wait...it's coming to me...Mesut Ozil. You can add the umlaut yourself. (Editor's note: I'm far too lazy for that at this point. Sorry everyone.) You'd think I should be worried about England's first-placed side, but really, Aston Villa beat you guys. Yes, you've since added Ozil, but victories over Stoke and Sunderland? Those are impressive?
Ok, enough with the trash talk. It's just going to come back to bite me in the ass. Arsenal's fluidity scares me. Napoli haven't faced many strong opponents in the league thus far (Milan don't count). A side that can keep the ball may frustrate the partenopei. If they're frustrated, they may make silly tackles, leading to set pieces and...ok, I liked this better when I was putting on a brave face.
TSF: Who do you think will start tomorrow against Arsenal?
KS: There's really no question: Reina, Mesto (Maggio had knee surgery last weekend), Albiol, Britos, Zúñiga; İnler, Behrami; Callejón, Hamšík, Insigne; Higuaín
May the team with the most accent marks emerge victorious!
TSF: Nah, accents are out these days. Umlauts are in. Even when I'm too lazy to type them.