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UEFA Champions League
October 2, 2013
• Emirates Stadium, London
Referee: M. Mažić
• Attendance: 59536
M. Özil 8'
O. Giroud 15'
Anyway, that'll be all from me, Sam Wells. Thanks for following today's game with me and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Until next time, farewell.
Napoli, meanwhile, will be scratching their heads as to how they quite managed to capitulate so submissively against their English counterparts this evening. It's nigh-on impossible to recall any real opportunities they managed to forge and, with their defence comprehensively bamboozled by a sumptuous Arsenal forward line, it was never going to end well for Rafa Benitez's men tonight. They will, quite simply, have to pick themselves up after this game and hope that they can salvage their Champions League campaign with a win against Marseille in their next game.
That was a resounding victory for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger will undoubtedly be delighted. Aside from standout performances from Aaron Ramsey, the irresistible Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud, their overall team performance will give the French veteran ample cause for celebration. They absolutely destroyed Napoli in the first half and proved defensively stoic in the second period, coasting through the last 45 minutes with some ease. This win not only stands them in good stead in their group, but also continues the impetus they've gained through some similarly impressive league performances.
90' + 3'
The referee does Napoli a favour, bringing the match to a close and, thus, concluding an emphatic Arsenal victory! Their first-half performance proved enough to send the Gunners top of the group as they make a mockery of that 'Group of the Death' tag that had many worrying for the Gunners when the groups were announced.
90' + 1'
Arsenal's neat interplay almost results in a goal as Gibbs fizzes a cross into the box. Giroud is inches away from meeting it but can't quite connect to get his second of the evening.
As three minutes of injury time are announced, Arsenal are focused on eliciting 'waheys' from their home support as they continue to retain possession in some style (and with some ease).
Things threaten to get a little bit heated, despite this game appearing done and dusted, as Arteta and Behrami clash, with the latter appearing to leave the boot in on the Arsenal man.
Ramsey receives a predictably rapturous reception as he is replaced by Monreal; the Welshman was excellent in the first period and deserves all the plaudits that he's receiving, from the media and fans alike.
In something resembling a role reversal, Giroud attempts to thread Ozil through on goal. Reina is quick to intervene though, rushing out and clearing with his feet.
Giroud, consistently excellent tonight, once more brings down a long ball and feeds the advancing Ozil. It's eventually worked out to Gibbs but his through ball leaves something to be desired and it runs through to Reina in the Napoli goal.
Zuniga, intermittently lively in this second period, gets forward down the left and crosses a ball in. Szczesny, in the story of the half, claims and sets Arsenal away.
Napoli, after using their last substitution (Albiol being replaced by his fellow centre back in Fernandez), show some glimmer of their talent as Insigne almost breaks into the Arsenal box with a nice touch. Mertesacker steps in though, and the danger passes.
Zapata almost manages to dispossess Koscielny but the Frenchman just about gets his pass away in time, eventually leading to a Wilshere cross. The substitute overhits the ball in, however, and it runs out for a goal kick.
Arteta feeds Giroud who holds up the ball, once again, with some skill and power, before laying off to Ozil. The German retains the ball in typical fashion, eventually playing back to the defence as Arsenal's dominance over possession refuses to let up.
This second half, in all honesty, has been a damp squib. Napoli's comeback has never looked like coming to fruition and, despite the late introduction of striker Zapata, it looks as though they're going back to Italy with their unbeaten record shattered, and quite resoundingly at that.
Ozil whips in another corner as Arsenal's pressure persists, but Giroud is adjudged to have fouled Mesto, perhaps softly, by the referee.
Koscielny misses a golden opportunity! Ozil's corner is headed straight back to him, allowing the German to pick out Arteta in the box. The Spaniard flicks it to the back post, allowing the Arsenal centre back to steal in and seemingly tap home from six yards. Reina stands in his way though, saving astutely and maintaining the two goal deficit in the process.
A rare splice of action in this second half as Insigne has another shot blocked at one end, allowing Arsenal to forge a counter attack down the other. Wilshere's eventual cross is put behind for a corner, however, which Ozil casually dawdles over to take.
Napoli have an opportunity at a corner but Insigne's delivery is headed clear. Mesto is first to the clearance but, with little concern for any kind of finesse, heads straight out for a goal kick.
Ramsey, in a rare blip in today's performance, puts an end to a neat spell of possession with a poorly placed pass. While it's difficult to argue with the notion that Arsenal have dropped a gear, it's similarly difficult to contest that Napoli remain several gears below their opposition.
Napoli's penchant for long-range efforts continues as Insigne, this time, decides to take a pop from distance. It's a half-decent effort but was never proving particularly troublesome for Szczesny, who claimed the strike with consummate ease.
Better from Napoli as Hamsik shows some resolve to pressurise Szczesny and the Arsenal defence, hunting down their passes. Unfortunately for him, the Gunners are composed under such pressure, passing out from the back with some ease. Still, that at least showed more endeavour - more than Napoli have shown throughout this game.
Inler attempts a quite ridiculous shot from distance, despite being in a good position to build an attack. If that's how they plan to get back into this game, the referee might as well draw an end to this one now.
Zuniga gets forward again down the left and, as per a minute earlier, his shot is blocked once more. Ramsey attempts to exploit the space that the left back vacated but his cross is headed clear by Albiol.
Zuniga, coming forward from left back once more, plays a nice one-two with Hamsik, before trying his hand at shooting goalwards. His effort is wayward but that was a nice move - the away side can draw encouragement from that.
Napoli aren't showing any signs of breaking Arsenal down any time soon but they do, at the very least, have possession at the moment. And, with the performance they've put in tonight, that is, frankly, worthy of celebration for fans of the Italian outfit.
Giroud brings the game to a halt as he goes down, having picked up a knock in a challenge with Behrami. He, as with Ramsey and Arteta before him, looks okay to continue.
Rosicky comes off to be replaced by Wilshere, rested for tonight's action. A decision that has clearly been justified by the Gunners' performance tonight and, perhaps, even calls into question the Englishman's claim to a starting place in this Arsenal side.
Arsenal stroke the ball around once more, there isn't the same verve that they so brilliantly illustrated in the first half but, I suppose, there doesn't need to be - Napoli are the ones who have to show something in this second period.
Insigne takes another hopeful shot from distance and, as with all the others that preceded it, the effort fails to trouble Szczesny. The spurned half-chance is swiftly followed by a change as Benitez introduces Mertens in place of Pandev, only conspicuous by his lack of contribution tonight.
The home side appear to be sitting back now, letting Napoli come forward and try to break them down. The Italians have hitherto looked incapable of doing so but it could only be a matter of time before some serious threat is posed.
This game has lost some of the spark that permeated it throughout the first half; the onus is on Napoli to come forward and attack Arsenal but they appear reluctant to do, perhaps aware of the dangers the Gunners pose on the counter.
Quite predictably, given their performance in this game thus far, the answer is no. Szczesny comes to claim the ball, once again directed towards the back post, and does so with aplomb, catching the cross before setting Arsenal away on the counter.
Behrami gets to the right wing and puts a good delivery into the box, forcing Mertesacker to clear it behind for a corner. Can Napoli cause any problems from the ensuing set piece?
With Arteta back on the pitch, Napoli's spell of (relative) pressure continues as Callejon meets Mertesacker's headed clearance on the volley. He catches it sweetly but, to use another well-worn cliche, he does so almost 'too sweetly' as he strikes it well over the bar.
They do try as Inler attempts a speculative effort from distance. Nothing doing though as it flies well over the bar - a disappointing effort but at least there are signs of intent there from the away side.
Pandev is back on for Napoli while Arteta continues to receive treatment for his head wound. Could the Italians exploit a ten man outfit? It seems unlikely but it might be their best chance of the half.
The game has grinded to a halt after Arteta collides with Pandev. The former is bleeding profusely and looks a little groggy but it appears as though he'll be okay to continue.
The Gunners look as though they have simply resumed from where they let off as Giroud is inches away from threading Ramsey through. Albiol intervenes, however, and the danger is averted.
Napoli don't appear to have made any changes going into this second period and, as it stands, it very much shows. Arsenal get forward once more, though Albiol stands tall to prevent a Ramsey cross from finding Giroud in the middle.
Rosicky has a golden chance to extend Arsenal's lead just minutes into the second half! Giroud continues his fine form from the first period with a foraging run down the right, eventually feeding the ball into the Czech international on the six yard box. The midfielder, under duress from Britos, can't quite make contact with the ball though and the chance goes begging.
And Napoli get us underway for the second half. Let's see if they can provide further fuel for that old cliche - can it be 'a game of two halves'? Let's find out!
Meanwhile, Rafa Benitez, one must suspect, will currently be conducting an inquisition into where his side went wrong in that half. They have been thoroughly outclassed, both offensively and defensively, and it's difficult to picture a Napoli comeback in the second period. It's similarly difficult to gauge whether the problem is with the Italian outfit and their deficiencies or, rather, that they've simply come up against an Arsenal side that has too much for them. One thing is for sure, however - they will need to up their game significantly if they are to salvage anything from this encounter.
Wenger will undoubtedly be delighted with that half; the veteran could barely have envisaged a better first-half showing as, despite all his years of his experience, that must surely go down as one of Arsenal's strongest ever European halves. In what was billed as a close game, the Gunners have torn apart their opposition, with Ramsey and Ozil in particularly irrepressible form. Napoli have had no answer to the threat of the two attacking midfielders which, coupled with the considerable presence of Olivier Giroud, looks set to earn Arsenal their second win of the group stage. Wenger will simply be requesting more of the same at the half-time interval.
And, with the referee's whistle, the first half draws to a close! Arsenal go in 2-0 up after an unexpectedly one-sided first half; they've made Napoli look quite ordinary as Ramsey, Ozil and co. have run riot.
Arsenal continue to retain possession with consummate ease as this half looks to conclude as it started - with the Gunners in complete control.
Ramsey, in news that is becoming increasingly worrying for Arsenal with every performance this season, appears to have picked up a knock. Wilshere looks as though he may be introduced for the Welshman.
Ozil turns on a six pence, quite brilliantly, before playing the ball towards Giroud and Ramsey. The Frenchman leaves it to his teammate, who cuts inside before striking goalwards. It's blocked but that was another brilliant move from the Gunners.
Ozil and Ramsey engage in some quite majestic interplay down the right wing, playing a lovely one-two to set the German away down behind the Napoli defence. The cross isn't met by an Arsenal striker but that was some more aesthetically pleasing stuff from the Gunners.
Arteta, quite cynically, brings down Zuniga as the full back attempts to get forward. Arsenal have looked hungry tonight; a hunger that was never completely apparent last season, perhaps fuelled by the re-introduction of Flamini to the Gunners squad.
Ozil and Arteta link up nicely in the midfield but their passing transpires to be a little too intricate as the latter attempts to bypass the former with a pass to Sagna, only to hit the German on the backside.
Ramsey, in a rare occurance in this opening period, is crowded out in the middle of the park, but Arteta is there to step to his rescue. The Spaniard intervenes and any potential counter attack is averted before it could even really begin.
Insigne, the liveliest of the Napoli players thus far, has a half-chance in the area after Flamini fails to clear a hopeful ball into the box. His shot is deflected by Koscielny though, allowing Szczesny to claim with ease.
Giroud appears to have picked up a knock as he comes back to help his defence; their only obvious attacking replacement from the bench is Nicklas Bendtner. Nothing more needs to be said about the importance of Olivier Giroud's continued involvement in this game.
Ozil earns himself a corner with a lovely turn and run against Zuniga down the right. It shouldn't, actually, be a corner though, as the ball clearly came off the German. Fortunately for the officials, the corner comes to nothing.
Ramsey makes Inler look quite ridiculously with a brilliantly executed turn, before surging into the Napoli box with some purpose. Though crowded out, Flamini manages to pop a shot off, though it's lacking in both direction and power.
Giroud, who really has been impressive in this opening period, heads a long ball down to Ozil, who duly feeds Ramsey down the right, playing it off Zuniga for a throw-in. Though they only gleaned a throw-in from that move, it's lovely play from the Gunners.
Insigne whips in a free kick after Arsenal give away another foul, this time in a more advanced position. He finds Albiol at the far post and, though the centre back wins it in the air, the Gunners eventually smuggle the ball clear, through the combined efforts of Koscielny, Mertesacker and Flamini.
Flamini comes in with a characteristically strong challenge on Callejon, earning himself a booking in the process. He got the ball but he should know that you'll always get pulled up for tackles like that in Europe.
And, with that wasted opportunity, Arsenal's dominance appears to be restored. Sagna and Ramsey link up well once more down the right wing as Napoli struggle to get a foothold in this game.
Callejon is the man who eventually strikes goalwards but his effort is wayward; he get its up and over the wall, but its never coming back down in time.
Napoli continue in their struggle to get a grip on the game as Arsenal appear to be first to every ball. They do, eventually, earn a free kick in a dangerous position however, as Insigne is tumbled clumsily to the ground by Gibbs.
Ramsey has another opportunity just minutes after his first, this time managing to get a shot away after Sagna found him with a cross at the far post. Albiol is there to deflect the ball clear but that was another dangerous attack from the Gunners.
Albiol loses the ball in a dangerous position, giving it to the one man you don't want to give it to at the moment: Aaron Ramsey. Ramsey runs at the Napoli defence but overdoes it and is eventually crowded out.
Britos is afforded a free header from the ensuing Insigne corner and perhaps should have done better! His Italian teammate chipped it to the far post and the Uruguayan met it well, only to see his header float harmlessly over the bar.
Mesto almost puts an end to a better spell from Napoli with a horribly misplaced pass. Albiol retrieves the ball though and they look to go forward again, eventually earning a corner through the hard work of Insigne.
More promising signs from Napoli as they attempt to create something on the edge of the Arsenal box. Nothing quite comes off as Mesto attempts to surge into the Gunners area but the endeavour is there, at the very least.
Napoli finally dispossess Arsenal, allowing Insigne to run at Gibbs. The left back doesn't want to commit with a runner to his left, allowing the Italian to strike at goal from about 30 yards out. It's a disappointing effort but slightly more promising signs for Benitez's men.
The Gunners continue to retain possession with consummate ease; if the half continues in this vein, it could be all over by the interval.
Napoli have looked completely hapless here; Ozil was allowed to waltz to the byline there, practically unchallenged. Benitez's men are either having a particularly torrid night or this opening fifteen minutes speaks volumes about the standard of Italian football.
Assist Mesut Özil
Goal Olivier Giroud
GOAL! And it's Giroud! Ozil, quite predictably, is the architect after a virtually unstoppable run ends in him cutting the ball back to the Arsenal striker. Left with a tap-in, Giroud makes no mistake, firing into the roof of the net and putting the Gunners two goals to the good! A truly excellent start, though Napoli's defending has left much to be desired.
In a pass that encapsulates Napoli's start to this game, Inler attempts an ambitious ball through to Pandev but gets it all wrong as it runs through to Szczesny in the Arsenal goal.
Arsenal resume their strangehold over possession, playing the ball around with some confidence as Sagna and Ramsey engage in some nice interplay down the right. It eventually comes out to Gibbs and, though his cross is blocked, Arsenal's pressure persists as Napoli struggle to get the ball clear.
Pandev and Hamsik get mixed up as they attempt to form a response to Arsenal's early dominance, the former getting in the way of the ball after the latter attempted to run at Mertesacker.
Incidentally, it's worth noting Giroud's contribution to that goal. Though it will doubtlessly be overshadowed by Ramsey's cross and Ozil's, admittedly excellent, finish, the Frenchman did brilliantly to tame a hopeful forward pass from Sagna before playing in the Welshman down the right wing. It was a lovely goal all around.
Immediately after that goal, Arsenal forge another attack, eventually ending in a rare long-range effort from Flamini. Their football is quite sumptuous at the moment - Napoli look unable to cope as it stands.
Assist Aaron Ramsey
Goal Mesut Özil
GOAL! And it's a first Arsenal goal for Ozil! The German caps a quite lovely move, sidefooting Ramsey's cross home with some aplomb. The Welshman picked up Giroud's pass down the right wing after some excellent hold-up play from the Frenchman, before picking Ozil out adeptly. The summer signing made no mistake, planting the ball firmly beyond Reina's reach and putting Arsenal 1-0 up in the process! What a start!
Napoli finally get hold of the ball, winning a throw-in through Mesto down the right. It leads to Hamsik eventually trying to thread Insigne through, but to no avail - the Italian is caught offside.
The Gunners are most definitely pulling the strings out here; they keep possession with some style, eventually earning another corner through some nice interplay. Reina, as before, claims the delivery, but this has been an impressive start from the home side, no doubt about it.
Reina clears the ensuing corner with a convincing punch, allowing Insigne to attempt to launch a counter down the left. Sagna, who elected not to go forward for the set-piece puts in a hefty challenge though and any potential danger is averted.
Napoli have barely touched the ball thus far, they're playing some lovely passing football and that possession appears to bears some fruit down the right: Bacary Sagna gets forward and earns his side a corner.
Arsenal start as one suspects they mean to go on - they begin proceedings with a lengthy spell of possession, comfortably retaining the ball, albeit without any real threat posed to their Italian counterparts.
And we're underway at the Emirates! Arsenal get proceedings started as they look to pick up their second win of the Champions League group stage.
The teams are primed and waiting in the tunnel at Emirates Stadium - we are just five minutes away from kick off here in North London!
Napoli, meanwhile, make just one change from the team that defeated Genoa 2-0 on Saturday, introducing Marek Hamsik at the expense of summer signing Duvan Zapata, while another of their key signings, Gonzalo Higuain, fails to even make the bench due to a calf problem.
Arsene Wenger makes two changes from the side that triumphed 2-1 against Swansea on Saturday, with Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta replacing Serge Gnabry and Jack Wilshere in midfield.
Napoli: Reina; Mesto, Albiol, Britos, Zuniga; Inler, Behrami, Callejon, Hamsik, Insigne; Pandev. Subs: Cabral, Fernandez, Armero, Cannavaro, Dzemaili, Mertens, Zapata.
Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Flamini, Arteta, Ramsey, Rosicky, Ozil; Giroud. Subs: Fabianski, Vermaelen, Monreal, Jenkinson, Wilshere, Gnabry, Bendtner.
And here come the team line-ups:
Napoli, meanwhile, have looked strong since Rafa Benitez's arrival in summer, sitting 2nd in Serie A having enjoyed an unbeaten start to the season. This early form follows a summer of impressive transfer dealings, where they notoriously beat today's opponents to Gonzalo Higuain's signature, adding to their other big name signings in Pepe Reina, Jose Callejon and Raul Albiol, amongst others. Benitez and his men will undoubtedly be looking to continue their unbeaten start to the season tonight as the winner of this contest goes top of Group F – this could be a cracker!
Arsenal fans must have feared the worst just a few weeks ago, having been drawn in the 'group of death' and, apparently, in the midst of one of those early season 'crises' that the English media seems to be so fond of. Still, just a few weeks, a few wins, a few Aaron Ramsey goals and the signing of a particularly brilliant German later, and some are already proclaiming the Gunners to be title contenders. While that may be jumping the gun a little (no pun intended), they do sit top of the Premier League table and have played exceptionally well of late; they will be keen to continue that run of form tonight, despite being pitted against extremely strong (and on form) opposition in Napoli.
Good evening and welcome to live coverage of tonight's Champions League clash between Arsenal and Napoli, I'm Sam Wells and I'll be guiding you through tonight's proceedings.
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