The Gunners couldn’t have got themselves many harder draws in The Europa League and with a tough run in to the Premier League season; winning The Europa League may be their focus as a route back to The Champions League.
Arsenal have had an atrocious record away from home this season, six of their seven league defeats have come on the road and they’ve failed to keep a single clean sheet. In stark contrast, they’re on a seven match winning streak at The Emirates and have tasted defeat just once in front of their own fans.
In their race for the top four Unai Emery’s men face four away games against side’s lower than them in the table and many are tipping United or Chelsea to make the top four ahead of them on account of their rotten away performances throughout this campaign. It’s not just been domestic either, they have been beaten by French side Rennes who currently occupy mid table in Ligue 1 and by Bate Borisov of Belarus; so the hosts need a solid result here before they travel to Italy. A loss or even a draw may finish this tie before they’ve even boarded the plane to Naples.
Arsenal have however been devastating at times in London, despite those losses to Bate and Rennes they turned both ties around with solid home results that saw them through to this round. All of this leads The Gunners to be favourites for the this first leg at a price of 2.3.
Carlo Ancelotti has recorded back to back 5-1 wins over Arsenal in his last two meetings with the North London side. However he won’t be making it a hat trick of hammerings; Napoli have won just two of their last six games domestically and in their last European away trip they were comfortably beaten 3-1 by Red Bull Salzburg. It could’ve been more in truth but thanks to a 3-0 win at the San Paulo stadium in the return leg they managed to progress but if they were to fall to a similar defeat at The Emirates they’ll have their work cut out to recover.
The Italians are out at 3.0 to get a win at The Emirates and they’re very much in the same boat statistically as Arsenal. They sit second in Serie A and have suffered just one home defeat all season but they’ve won just eight of their 15 away games which has seen them fall an enormous 20 points behind league leaders Juventus. I think Napoli will come in to this fixture knowing that they need to make the tie winnable in Italy. A narrow defeat or a draw here is probably the most realistic positive scenario they can hope for. They’ll sit in and make themselves tough to break down and look to exploit Arsenal’s fragile defence on the break using their pacey attack.
The team news coming out of the visitors will benefit them greatly in this game plan. They have the highly rated Kalidou Koulibaly returning from suspension at centre half along with Nikola Maksimovic. Lorenzo Insigne returned to action at the weekend and could be the key component to executing a game plan here as his pace alongside Dries Mertens in attack will keep Arsenal stretched even if Napoli come under pressure. If Insigne isn’t deemed fit enough to start it will be Arkadiusz Milik; the Pole is their top scorer this season and averages a goal every 118 minutes. At 2.8 anytime he’s the shortest odds of any player to score for the visitors.
I can see a very tactical game panning out. There is a lot of attacking talent on show so I’d be tempted to plump for a selection such as over 2.5 goals at 1.65 especially with both these sides seeing an average of above 2.5 goals in their games this season.
Arsenal draw no bet @ 1.65
Both teams to score @ 1.57
Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang to score first @ 5.0
Over 2.5 goals @ 1.6