Napoli flew to England midweek to continue their Champions League quest but the wheels well and truly came off this light blue wagon. Rocked by a Mesut Ozil inspired Arsenal side, the Partenopei fell 2-0 to the Gunners as Rafael Benitez’s side hit a speed bump in their otherwise successful campaign.
The German, Ozil, was crucial in picking apart the Italian travellers and hushing the packed corner of away support. Netting once and laying on the other for Olivier Giroud, the former Real Madrid man was the difference on the night in which the visitors failed to get going.
Napoli did not help themselves with some suspect defending that is out of character for this side so far this season. Jose Callejon, who had hit the ground running since his arrival in Naples, failed to put on his best performance consistently losing the ball and putting his side on the back foot. Pepe Reina did well to keep the deficit at two but could do little with his defence disappearing before his eyes.
This result highlighted two aspects that are crucial for Napoli. Firstly, the home crowd that provides such a volatile presence in southern Italy was of course absent and this important part of the motivation had departed the 11 players who took the field in a dis-jointed display, perhaps a rason for the sluggish start. Also absent was Gonzalo Higuain, the target of interest from Arsenal during the summer mercato, as the goal scoring presence certainly lacked. The eternal Marek Hamsik looked promising in moments but eventually dragged through what was a night to forget in England.
The Slovakian provided a good perspective before the game against the Arsene Wenger’s side saying that whilst it was important to obviously secure a good result, the victory against Borussia Dortmund placed Napoli in a strong position within the group and these words should comfort supporters of the Partenopei. The 26-year-old also stated post game that after having a sloppy first 15 minutes in which two goals were conceded, it was very difficult to ignite a revival amongst his team mates admitting that Arsenal deserved the win.
The was also bad news for the youth team that took on a Arsenal again a day later in the youth Champions League as they fell 4-1 capping off a miserable week in London.
Next up for Napoli is a visit from Livorno, the newly promoted side who are having a strong start to the season currently sitting in eighth. Not to be taken lightly as the dangers of underestimating can be seen with the recent draw with Sassuolo, perhaps this is the stage to unleash some pent up frustration from an irritating midweek display.