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Arsenal 2 - Napoli 0 match report: an opportunity squandered?

The Gunners played a great game but should have killed the tie tonight.

Arsenal v S.S.C. Napoli - UEFA Europa League Quarter Final : First Leg
Arsenal’s first tonight is a candidate for goal of the season.
Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

A 2-0 first leg win is a great result. Arsenal put in a fantastic shift, thoroughly dominated Napoli, and crucially, avoided conceding the dreaded away goal.

And yet it doesn’t feel completely satisfying. It feels like the Gunners should have won by more. They generated 17 shot attempts, including several gilt-edged chances, but they were wasteful in front of goal. They could have killed the tie tonight.

Aaron Ramsey, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Alexandre Lacazette all had ten-bell chances that they didn’t get on target. Nacho Monreal headed over from ten yards out. Sead Kolasinac hesitated on two different attacks and had his crosses to wide open teammates cut out. The Gunners easily could have had four or five tonight.

But Napoli probably should have managed at least one as well. Piotr Zieliński had a wide open sliding attempt that he went at with the wrong foot and missed badly. Other than that and one or two half chances, the Italian side were dreadful for most of the evening. Lorenzo Insigne could not stay onside, and the entire team seemed to have forgotten how to pass.

Shocking miss aside, Aaron Ramsey continued his campaign to make Arsenal supporters incredibly sad that he is leaving on a free this summer. The Welshman tallied another goal to finish off a vintage Arsenal 6-pass attacking move. Overall, he put in a scintillating performance that leaves me wondering what exactly Unai Emery was thinking when he determined the midfielder didn’t fit into his plans for the club.

Fresh off an extended rest due to suspension and the international break, Lucas Torreira appeared to be back to his early season form. The Uruguayan ran himself ragged, covered a tremendous amount of ground, and broke up the play. He also scored Arsenal’s second goal with a (lucky?) deflected shot. I’d like to think that he earned the luck, however, with a Cruyff so nasty it should be illegal.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles had arguably his best match in an Arsenal shirt. He was a menace down the right, especially in the first half. It was his turn-and-pass in the Napoli area that set up Ramsey’s goal.

There aren’t enough laudatory adjectives to describe Laurent Koscielny’s performance. He might have been perfect on the evening. He seemed to always be in the right place at the right time and repeatedly covered for a beaten Nacho Monreal (who, on the other hand...yikes). Don’t forget, Koscielny is 33-years old and not yet a year out from tearing his Achilles. His contributions to the team this season have flown somewhat under the radar, but he has been vitally important to the club’s success.

All that said, I’m left with a strange, post-win feeling. If you had told me beforehand Arsenal would win 2-0, I would have happily taken it. But given the way the match played out and the meat left on the bone, the win feels somewhat diminished.

Arsenal have set themselves up well heading into the second leg in Naples next week. Regardless of away form, blowing a 2-0 lead would be a major letdown.