Arsenal burst out the starting blocks like an athletic greyhound, while the Partenopei whimpered on like one of those dogs with wheels instead of back legs – there was simply no keeping up with the freight train that was Arsenal yesterday.
The Gunners have now made themselves the favourites to win the ‘Group of Death’ and completed a ten game winning streak for the first time since the Invincibles … this bunch of Arsenal players could finally break the silverware duck.
For Napoli it was a harsh lesson and reminder that the Italian league is paling in significance compared to England, despite last season’s failings in the Champions League.
And losing their star striker not long before kick-off didn’t help either.
Much was made of the transfer battle between Arsenal and Napoli for Gonzalo Higuain in the summer – and this week it was obviously a talking point.
But those Gunners fans worried that the Argentine goal-machine was to come back and haunt them were to be pleasantly surprised, when a thigh injury left him out of contention for tie.
It was something that the club's Slovakian captain deemed very important last night, when contemplating reasons why they were defeated so comfortably:
“Higuain is an important player, but there are others who filled in and we should’ve done better.’’
Hamsik fully acknowledged Arsenal had a great game, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This is still a marvellous collection of talent, and with Higuain back there is a more potent threat in the final attacking third.
Hamsik also believes more is to come from the Neapolitans, declaring that they ‘gifted’ Arsenal 15 minutes of football to Sky Sport Italia:
“In games like this we cannot just gift sides 15 minutes. They scored twice and gained in confidence. Every player was concentrated beforehand, but we gave them the opening 15 minutes and couldn’t get back into it after that.”
Swiss international Gokhan Inler also blamed the ‘opening minutes’ for defeat, and expects a better performance in the Stadio San Paolo.
With Higuain back and wounds to be avenged … Napoli will be a different animal on December 11th.
image: © vincentteeuwen