Napoli 0-1 Arsenal: Player ratings, as Napoli crash out of the Europa League following a hopeless performance

18 April at 23:20
In the build up to tonight’s game Carlo Ancelotti called for Napoli players to show ‘courage, intelligence and heart’ in an effort to overturn their two goal deficit against Arsenal in the Europa League. However apart from a period midway through the first half where they dominated the game, they looked decidedly second best throughout, against an Arsenal side which many expected to be there for the taking away from home. It was a familiar story recently for Napoli, where they lacked any sort of fluidity, and their sharp downturn in form in recent weeks will be a real cause of concern. After tonight their season is effectively over, and it couldn’t have ended with a more sour taste in the mouth, as they were out thought and outclassed by Arsenal.
Arsenal came out of the blocks strongly early on and made most of the early running, as Napoli struggled to get going in the first few minutes. But despite this, it was the Italian side who had the first real chance of the game when Aubameyang was robbed of the ball by Koulibaly on the edge of the Napoli box. The Senegalese defender embarked on a trademark powerful run up-field and played a one-two with Fabian before sliding a perfectly weighted through ball for Callejon, who saw his low effort saved by Cech.
Napoli appeared to settle into the game a bit more following that chance, and there followed a period of dominance for the home side, during which Milik had a goal rightly ruled out for offside after a lovely reverse pass by Insigne put him through on goal. Napoli’s pressure intensified after that, and Zielinski lofted a diagonal ball into the box and found Milik completely free in the area, but this time he wasn’t able to hit the target and his header sailed aimlessly wide as a big chance went begging.
Arsenal suffered a big blow to their game plan after half an hour, when Aaron Ramsey pulled up with a muscular injury and was forced off, to be replaced with Mkhitaryan. Moments later Lacazette stepped up to a free kick from a central position 10 yards outside the box, and whipped his shot past Meret into the Napoli goal. It was a moment of genius from the Frenchman, but questions should be asked about Meret’s goalkeeping. He took a step to the right then stood motionless as Lacazette’s effort sailed to his left, on the side of the goal he was supposed to be guarding. Arsenal’s first shot on goal acted as a hammer blow to Napoli’s hopes as it meant that they now needed four unanswered goals to go through.

Napoli brought on Mertens at half time, with Maksimovic making way for the Belgian, as Napoli looked to find a way back into the game. However just moments after the restart Meret made amends for his earlier mistake with a truly world class save, coming out to smother Aubameyang’s effort when it looked easier to score after Allan had been caught in possession.

Insigne had a fine chance to pull Napoli back into contention, when, despite being clearly offside, he found himself through on the Arsenal goal. But in keeping with Napoli’s below par performance, he couldn’t muster anything more than a tame effort that rolled into Cech’s hands, and he was withdrawn by Ancelotti not long after, much to his displeasure.

Arsenal were content to sit back and absorb Napoli’s almost half-hearted attempts to get back into the tie, with a view to catching the home side on break. But as the game drew to its conclusion and the inevitability of the result became clear, the characteristics that Ancelotti had called upon Napoli to show before the game faded further and further from view.


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