Arsenal managed to register one of their most important results of the season so far last night, as they defeated Napoli 2-0 in the first leg of their Europa League quarter final tie. It was a comprehensive victory over the Italian side from the first whistle until the very last, and because of that, there have been some mixed reactions to the game from Gunners fans. Before kick off 99% of supporters would’ve bitten your hand off if you offered them a 2-0 win, but now, that mentality seems to have shifted.
The reason for this is because Arsenal had a series of chances and opportunities in which to kill the game off, and when we say kill the game off, we mean beyond repair. As it stands they hold a 2-0 advantage over Napoli, with a lot of fans pointing towards the club’s poor away form as a reason for panic heading into the second leg. Whilst we can understand the logic behind that, we don’t necessarily agree with the overall sentiment.
Why? Because there’s one thing that is more important than any other factor in the immediate aftermath of this result: and that’s the clean sheet. Sure, Napoli didn’t exactly look like they were at the races from an attacking standpoint last night, but that isn’t the point. The Gunners were easily considered to be one of the worst defensive teams in the top half of the Premier League last season, and it was always viewed as one of the biggest weaknesses in their game.
A long way back
Now, not only are they keeping teams out, but they’re doing so against sides that are competing for the title in Serie A. That’s a serious statement of intent, and that’s especially true when you consider the ramifications of a result like this in European competition. In any other game it may just be seen as a great add-on (the clean sheet), but let’s not forget that this was Napoli’s one and only chance to register an away goal.
The away goal rule may not be favoured by everyone, but let’s face it, it’s of vital importance. Now that Arsenal are the ones with the chance to score a few away goals in the reverse fixture, there isn’t all too much for them to be concerned about. Napoli need to score two unanswered goals to even begin worrying Arsenal, and at that point, one goal from the visitors will completely kill off the tie.
How important will Arsenal’s clean sheet at the Emirates prove to be?