Arsenal beat Napoli 1-0 last night in the UEFA Europa League, confirming their passage into the semi finals of the competition with a 3-0 aggregate victory. The game wasn’t pretty at times and it wasn’t anywhere near as entertaining as the Chelsea/Slavia Prague game, but in the end, it didn’t really need to be. Beyond just the win, though, there’s one major compliment that we can give the Gunners: it was a professional performance.
That may sound like it isn’t all too important, but it’s true, and it isn’t just restricted to the players on the pitch. From the minute the fans arrived in Naples it seemed like there were no major problems, which is easier said than done when travelling to take on Napoli. The police escort went smoothly, the supporters followed the rules, and they were able to cheer for the boys and help to push them on towards a big time win.
Of course, what happened on the pitch is important too, and the performance of the starting XI needs to be praised. Napoli isn’t an easy place to go at the best of times, and that’s especially the case when you’ve got an away record as poor as Arsenal’s has been this season. They had their backs firmly planted against the wall, and yet, they were able to come through this test with flying colours.
Looking back, then ahead
We don’t like bringing this up all too often, but you just know this would’ve been a different story if Arsene Wenger had still been in charge. He really seemed to struggle in these high pressure situations, especially in European competition. Sure, it wasn’t all bad under the Frenchman, but we just don’t think that the Gunners would’ve been quite as comfortable as they were last night.
As we look ahead to the remainder of the Europa League, it really does feel like this competition rests in Arsenal’s hands now. The expectation is that they’ll eventually come up against fellow Premier League side Chelsea in the final, but to be perfectly honest, it doesn’t really matter one way or another. Arsenal have three games standing between them and a European trophy, and regardless of how you feel about the competition, that’s pretty special. Just sit back and enjoy the ride, folks.
Do you think this was one of the most professional performances we’ve seen from Arsenal since Unai Emery took charge?