Heading into their final group stage game in Champions League play, Arsenal find themselves on top of Group F aka the Group of Death during this edition of the competition with 12 points. While such a team with that amount of points after five games leading their respective group should be heading into their final group game comfortably qualified for the Round of 16, Arsenal amazingly do not find themselves in that position as they get ready to play SSC Napoli on Wednesday.
Heading into Wednesday’s game at the San Paolo, Arsenal ensure qualification and first in the group with a win or draw while losing by no more than a margin of two goals against will also ensure qualification. Given that Napoli come into the game with having to win in order to have a chance of qualification while needing to beat Arsenal by three or more in order to qualify for the Round of 16, Arsenal can expect to face a team that will come at them early and often.
With that said, Arsenal have already faced and played in a game similar to the one they will play on Wednesday. Back during Matchday 4, Arsenal went on the road and beat Borussia Dortmund 1-0 thanks to an Aaron Ramsey goal which gave Arsenal a leg up on Napoli and Dortmund with regards to qualifying for the Round of 16. In that game, the Arsenal gameplan was a smart, well executed one which centered on absorbing early pressure from Dortmund and then hitting them on the break when the opportunity presented itself.
Essentially, it was a smart Champions League gameplan away from home as the likes of Wojciech Szczeny, Laurent Koscielny, and Per Mertesacker were on top of their game and allowed Arsenal to be able to take all three points from this crucial fixture as a result. Against Napoli, Arsenal must and should employ the same gameplan as well as execute it just like they did against Dortmund as they will be facing a team who in many ways is the mirror image of their opponent on that night.
While in the past few years it was debatable that Arsenal could carry out such a gameplan and be successful doing so, this season’s team with the play of the central defenders and the goalkeeper to go along with the play of the team as a whole should give Arsenal fans full confidence that executing said gameplan in order to ensure qualification is more than possible. In addition, Napoli’s defensive play over the weekend in league play against Udinese in a 3-3 draw where they led 2-0 at one point should be of some comfort that in front of them is an opponent who still struggles defensively with weak defenders. Taking everything into account, there is no reason why Arsenal cannot ensure qualification on Wednesday night.