The game appeared headed that way, until it changed midway in the second half.
The first half was boring and comfortable as the Gunners restricted Napoli to shots from the outside and lots of possession. Arsenal appeared content to counterattack and soak up the pressure.
Things appeared much the same in the second half until Higuain’s strike and then Napoli became interested in getting a second. Mikel Arteta picked up a second yellow card with about 20 minutes to go and suddenly Arsenal looked ripe for the picking.
Napoli needed three goals, but near the end they inexplicably took their foot off the pedal, believing that Dortmund were being held to a draw by Marseille. That changed with about 5 minutes to play and suddenly they started to pressure the Arsenal defence.
That they scored in extra-time on an untidy Arsenal defensive play helped them not at all as the referee blew his whistle at the restart. What the goal did do was throw the Gunners out of first place in the group and leaves them exposed to some of Europe’s most powerful teams in the round of 16.
Wenger’s defensive frame of mind can be seen by his substitutions, Monreal and Ramsey, not a desire to put Napoli under any pressure. That we squandered first place makes for a bitter taste and maybe the Gunners will travel back to England in a more sober mood.
Our big week has thus far resulted in a draw at home to Everton and a big loss in the Champions League. Let’s see if we can put things right this weekend.
Szczesny 6. A sloppy kick straight to Maggio in the first half could have been disastrous. Every two or three games we get treated to one of these clangers. He was reasonably solid during the rest of the game, but perhaps was too far out of goal on their second goal.
Jenkinson 5. I’m having more and more serious doubts about Carl. He gave Armero way too much room, didn’t look comfortable on the ball, and squandered several offensive moves. I hope Sagna is back for the weekend.
Mertesacker 7. Solid for most of the game, but was not quick enough to turn with Higuain.
Koscielny 8. My man of the match. He wasn’t perfect, but he generally made was top class at the back, making key interceptions, tackles, and headers.
Gibbs 6. Tended to hang back rather than attack and looked a little indecisive.
Arteta 5. You can debate the severity of the second card, but the first card was from a sloppy foul and you always sensed the referee could brandish a second. Looked a little slow a couple of times as well.
Flamini 7. Terrific work rate, always doing the dirty work, even getting forward once in a while.
Rosicky 6. Generally useful game. Looked a little slow a couple of times which resulted in him conceding freekicks.
Cazorla 7. Hard working performance from Santi.
Ozil 7. There was no magic from Ozil today. He did work hard on defence and he was able to keep possession and look to move the ball around.
Giroud 7. A hard working effort from Giroud. He worked and headed and was fouled and had a half chance in the first half which didn’t come off.
Ramsey n/a. A decent cameo for Aaron, although nothing special happened.
Monreal n/a. Came on and did nothing of note. His substitution was a conservative one by Wenger and indicated he was satisfied losing 1-0.
Source: Arsenal World