OPERATION CONQUER NAPLES

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I love the way the Military describe their operations, we have heard different names like Operation Desert Storm, Operation Safe Haven and so on. Tonight the gooners would travel to Italy as military men to do a job and the name of this job is OPERATION CONQUER NAPLES. The detail of this job is that the gooners must not lose by 3 goals.

The Champions League has been very good to Arsenal this season, apart from the small blip in the Dortmund game, everything has been rosy and there is serious enthusiasm that this could be a good year for the team in Europe; but for us to realize our dream this season, the gooners must pass this crucial test.

The group of death has lived up to its billing and for the first time in Champions league history, a team with 12 points might not qualify, let’s hope that it won’t be Arsenal.

The big question that would be on the minds of all gooners is that : can this Arsenal team lose by 3 goals? The only time they have conceded 3 goals this season was the unfortunate 3-1 loss to Aston Villa in the opening day of the season. The highest tally apart from that game was 2 goals in the Dortmund game and the Capital One cup against Chelsea. Amazingly, they have conceded all those goals in the Emirates; away from home, they have been solid in defence. The gooners have kept 6 clean sheets in their last 8 games and have the best defence in the Premier League having conceded just 11 goals this season. The partnership between Koscienly and Mertesacker is growing in leaps and bounds and performances by Szczesny and Gibbs is worthy of note.

Can Napoli score three goals against the gooners? With all these stats about how strong the Arsenal defence is, Napoli would have a lot of work on their hands. In the Serie A, they have lost some early season steam, in the last  month, hey have lost to Juventus, Parma and drew 3-3 with Udinese, but Higuian, Pandev, Callejon and Insigne, they would always pose a threat.

Arsenal fans must not be too confident as the gooners have been in a situation like Napoli before, two seasons back, AC Milan won Arsenal 4-0 in Italy and in the return leg in the Emirates, we were just one goal from cancelling out the deficit; same thing almost happened in the game against Bayern last season, so we must be careful.

 In the reverse fixture, Arsenal totally dominated the Italians, that Szczesny described the way we played Napoli as frightening. Would Arsenal play in the same way in Italy? I don’t think so, I expect Napoli to push the gooners and go for the early goal, the more the seconds and minutes tick and they don’t score, the more comfortable the gooners be.

Expected Line up: I think Walcott should start tonight, also Rosicky should also start, he did very well in the win over Dortmund and we would need his energy and pace. Also, Flamini should get a place too, Arteta seemed jaded in the game against Everton and would need a fellow tough midfielder to help him.

SZCZESNY; GIBBS, MERTESACKER, KOSCIENLY, JENKINSON; ARTETA, FLAMINI; ROSICKY, OZIL, WALCOTT; GIROUD

MATCH FACTS

Napoli have not drawn a game over their last 18 fixtures in European competition.

The Partenopei haven’t kept a single clean sheet over their last 12 games between Champions League and Europa League.

Arsenal are on course to reach the knockout stage of the Champions League for the 11th season in a row.

Arsene Wenger’s side was defeated 4-0 in their last trip to Italy (vs. AC Milan in February 2012) – overall their record in Italy in the Champions League is W3 D3 L3.

The Gunners have won five of their last six Champions League fixtures between this and last season.

Mesut Özil has scored only once in an away game in the Champions League – at Allianz Arena, back in April 2012.

Gonzalo Higuaín has never scored against an English team in the Champions League.

This team knows the task ahead and I believe that they would not disappoint. Also, wishing the youth team success in their away game at Napoli too; Akpom, Crowley, Zelalem and co should be too hot to handle for the young Italians. #COYG

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