Napoli are currently in London, ready to take on Arsenal in the group stages of the Champions League. SB Nation's Arsenal blog, The Short Fuse, asked some questions of The Siren's Song yesterday. In return, they were nice enough to answer some questions regarding the Gunners.
I tend to err in favor of things Wenger says, so generally I would say yes. But honestly the players that scare me most for Napoli are Marek Hamsik and Gonzalo Higuain. Hamsik is just super good, and I think his hair might also frighten our defenders. Honestly I think his variety in skills will give our defense trouble, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Mathieu Flamini shadowing him. We'll see how that goes. Higuain...I mean, after the drama around his transfer this summer, and Wenger's "admission" that Arsenal tried to bring him in, I could definitely see Higuain scoring in this game or the return fixture.
How has the introduction of Ozil changed the way Arsenal play? has Ozil been the main reason for the impressive upturn in results, or have there been other factors?
Mesut Ozil has done three things for us. First of all, he's boosted Arsenal's already-improved and re-emphasized counterattack, through his ability to move on and off the ball and to pick the right pass even at speed. Second, I think he's increased the level of confidence the rest of the team has; when you have a player like this in your team, you tend to expect to win, and with a relatively young team (particularly up front, right now) that's a big boost. But the third is most important to me, and relates to your second question. He's taken the pressure off of a lot of Arsenal's other attackers to do everything, and that's improved their performances. I don't think Ozil is the biggest reason Arsenal are top of the Premier League right now, though he's certainly helped. If one player has been our focal point so far, it has to be Aaron Ramsey - who had already shown signs of Awesome before the Ozil deal happened, but looks even freer and more confident now.
What do you think is Arsenal's biggest weakness and do you think Napoli will be able to exploit that weakness?
Lack of width, for certain. If we start the same XI we did at Swansea on the weekend, we will have five central midfielders playing, with Jack Wilshere and Serge Gnabry on the left and right wings respectively. Both tend to cut inside and stay there, Gnabry in particular, so there could be a situation where Napoli are able to clog the midfield and front of goal, and there really won't be a secondary option available aside from our fullbacks. Our fullbacks are good going forward, but I wouldn't want to rely on them. If Ramsey and Ozil are marked out of the game, there really will be no way for Arsenal to create offense barring a defensive mistake or moment of brilliance from Wilshere or Olivier Giroud. That could happen, but it does concern me.
I'd bet Wenger goes hard after this one, with a while before our next league game as Arsenal play on Sunday after the Tuesday Champions League game. I wouldn't be shocked to see the team unchanged from Swansea, though Tomas Rosicky is returning from injury, and surely Mikel Arteta and Thomas Vermaelen could feature. But I'd predict the following:
Sagna - Mertesacker - Koscielny - Gibbs
Flamini - Ramsey
Gnabry - Ozil - Wilshere
Bench: Fabianski, Vermaelen, Monreal, Jenkinson, Arteta, Miyaichi, Bendtner
The other side of the story: Check out Four Questions with The Siren's Song