Arsenal drew their first game of the Emirates Cup after a second half fightback secured a 2-2 draw against Napoli.
Arsene Wenger started with this team: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Ramsey, Wilshere, Rosicky, Gnabry, Podolski, Giroud
It was the visitors who started well though, as Insigne took advantage of some unconvincing Carl Jenkinson defending to put Napoli 1-0 up in the 6th minute. There were some light boos after the goal. Perhaps booing the goal, perhaps booing the fact that the goal came about BECAUSE WE HAVEN’T SIGNED ANYONE!
Serge Gnabry, playing an increasing role in pre-season, almost put Arsenal level with a clever lob that almost caught out Pepe Reina after a ridiculously careless pass, but the ball floated just over the bar.
Arsenal then had a brilliant chance to get level when referee Kevin Friend awarded a very soft penalty for a foul on Kieran Gibbs, but Lukas Podolski’s spot kick was poor and easy for Reina to save. Napoli should have had a penalty of their own a minute later when Jenkinson clearly barged their bloke in the box but Friend waved play on.
Watching on Sky Calcio, I was greatly amused every time Mertesackereh and Jeenabry got the ball, and the game was so dull a man has to get his kicks from somewhere.
But then, deciding the people had been starved of anything to watch, Lukasz Fabianski channeled his inner Manuel Almunia, came out to close down Pandev, fell over when the Napoli man waltzed past him and looked on as he curled the ball into the net to make it 2-0.
It was almost 3-0 immediately afterwards when a Napoli broke from an Arsenal corner saw them threaten once again and a deflected effort left Fabianski stranded, but thankfully the ball went the far side of the post.
Lukas Podolski almost got one back in the 34th minute, fizzing a left footed shot just wide, before Reina clawed away a Mertesacker header from a corner. Aaron Ramsey then thought he’d scored, firing home from a Wilshere pass, but the linesman’s flag ruled the goal out for offside.
Arsenal dominated possession, with the Italians content to sit back, soak it up and break, but failed to really make the most of the the chances they had. The visitors took their two goal lead into the break and there were some more boos. At a pre-season game. At half-time.
Arsenal made no half-time changes while Benitez brought on some bloke called Gonzalo Higuain. Can’t say I’d ever heard of him before, but there you go. These foreigners get more obscure by the day. For some reason, some Arsenal fans booed the Argentine, all a bit unseemly.
Jack Wilshere had a great chance to get Arsenal on the score-sheet early in the second half when he waltzed through the defence but dragged his right-footed shot inches wide. Olivier Giroud fired a free kick into the wall before Arsene Wenger made changes, bringing on Theo Walcott and Bacary Sagna for Gnabry and Jenkinson.
Arsenal continued to press without ever really crafting any real openings, and Wenger brought on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta for Jack Wilshere.
In the 72nd minute, we were back in it when Olivier Giroud made the most of a fairly poor Theo Walcott corner. The ball was floated in, but Giroud executed a lovely overhead kick to make it 2-1. It deflected off Bacary Sanga but we’re looking on the bright side here folks.
The HFB nearly equalised a few moments later when the ball rebounded to him in the box but he couldn’t quite get his foot around the ball and pushed it wide of the near post.
The equaliser arrived in the 87th minute when Mikel Arteta’s free kick was curled in for Per Mertesacker to plant a header on goal, only to see Reina make a brilliant save. The ball rebounded out and upwards though, and Laurent Koscielny was on hand to nod home from close range for 2-2.
Mertesacker almost got on the end of a Walcott free kick in injury time, but it crept wide of Reina’s far post.
In the end though, the real winners were the socks of the new away kit, which are absolutely brilliant. That’s what we’re taking from this game.