Gunners fear Napoli ‘bombs’https://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/print/gunners-fear-napoli-bombs/

Gunners fear Napoli ‘bombs’

Ahead of CL clash,Wenger tells his players to guard against Italian side’s counterattacks.

Ajax Amsterdam and AC Milan,who have twice met in the final of Europe’s top club competition and won the title 11 times between them,clash again on Tuesday in a Champions League match which is far from the heady days of their past. While Zenit St Petersburg will attempt to bag its first point.

Swiss champions FC Basel,who provided the only shock of the opening matches by winning at Chelsea,could also upset Schalke 04 if they can make the most of the Bundesliga team’s leaky defence and Celtic will attempt to repeat last year’s upset home win over Barcelona.

Possibly the week’s most intriguing game is in highly competitive Group F where Arsenal host Rafael Benitez’s Napoli,who began with a 2-1 home win over last season’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund and are still unbeaten in all competitions under the Spaniard’s leadership. And Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has told his players to watch out for Napoli’s quickfire counter-attacks when the two sides meet at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday.

Wenger learnt a lot about the Italians when they drew 2-2 in a pre-season tournament and is also very familiar with their manager Rafael Benitez from the Spaniard’s time managing in the Premier League with Chelsea and Liverpool.

Advertising

Napoli are unbeaten in all competitions under Benitez,who was appointed in May,and Wenger has identified the Italian side’s breakaways as their big strength and earmarked diminutive playmaker Lorenzo Insigne as key to that threat.

“He is mobile,he is not tall but quick and very good in the transition from defence to attack,” Wenger told Arsenal Player. “He is a good dribbler as well and is an intelligent mover. That makes him an interesting prospect.

“That’s what struck me as well in the (pre-season) Emirates Cup — when they win the ball they come out very quickly with (Jose) Callejon,(Marek) Hamsik,Insigne and (Gonzalo) Higuain,(who) come out like bombs all the time they win the ball.

“The transition from our offence to defence will have to be very quick.”

League leaders Arsenal,who went two points clear with a 2-1 win at Swansea City on Saturday,have enjoyed an excellent start to the season including their European group opener when they beat Olympique Marseille 2-1 in France.

Arsenal know from experience that collecting six points from the opening two games would put them well on the way to the knockout stages.

“We have started well but you know if you win the second game at home you have a good chance to qualify,” Wenger said. “It’s a game that will have a great weight on the end result of the qualifying teams.”

Napoli,who have scored 14 goals in six Serie A matches with Hamsik,Callejon and Higuain netting 10 of them,enjoyed a 2-0 win over Genoa on Saturday despite starting with some of their key players on the bench with a view to Tuesday’s game.

Breeding ground

Four-times champions Ajax,thumped 4-0 by Barcelona in their opening Group H match,used to be one of Europe’s top clubs but can no longer compete with the financial clout of teams from the big five European leagues. The Dutch champions have been reduced to a club that develops young talented players and sells them on.

They have been knocked out in the group stage on their last three appearances,suffering 4-1 home defeats by Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund last season,and have not reached the round of 16 since 2005-06. AC Milan,who won the last of their seven European Cup and Champions League titles in 2007,have been struggling to rebuild since offloading a number of top players one year ago.

Milan and Barcelona are expected to progress from the group,although the Catalans will not be looking forward to visiting Celtic where they lost 2-1 last year.

Advertising

Zenit host Austria Vienna in Group G,where both teams are aiming to get off the mark after opening day defeats,while Porto host Atletico Madrid in a battle for the group leadership. Anything could happen in Group B where Basel are at home to Schalke,who have conceded 16 goals in seven Bundesliga games and squandered a 3-1 lead in a 3-3 draw at Hoffenheim on Saturday. Chelsea,meanwhile,travel to Romanian champions Steaua Bucharest,where they lost 1-0 in the Europa League last season and where another defeat could point them towards the exit door.