Arsene Wenger identifies Napoli's counterpunch as Arsenal's big threat

Gunners manager identifies pace of Italians on the break as the greatest threat to his team's hopes in Champions League group stage

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 October, 2013, 1:39am

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has told his players to watch out for Napoli's rapid counter-attacks when the two high-flying sides meet at the Emirates Stadium in perhaps the most intriguing Champions League tie tonight.

Wenger learnt a lot about the Italians when they drew 2-2 in a preseason tournament and is also familiar with their manager, Rafael Benitez, from the Spaniard's time managing in the Premier League with Chelsea and Liverpool.

Napoli are unbeaten in all competitions under Benitez, who was appointed in May, and Wenger has identified the Italian side's breakaways as their big strength and earmarked diminutive playmaker Lorenzo Insigne as a key to that threat.

When they win the ball they come out very quickly ... they come out like bombs
Arsene Wenger 

"He is mobile, he is not tall but quick and very good in the transition from defence to attack," Wenger said. "He is a good dribbler as well and is an intelligent mover. That makes him an interesting prospect.

"That's what struck me as well in the Emirates Cup. When they win the ball they come out very quickly. With [Jose] Callejon, [Marek] Hamsik, Insigne and [Gonzalo] Higuain, they come out like bombs all the time they win the ball.

"The transition from our side from offence to defence will have to be very quick."

Premier League leaders Arsenal, who went two points clear with a 2-1 win at Swansea City on Saturday, have enjoyed an excellent start to the season, including their European group opener when they beat Olympique Marseille 2-1 in France.

Napoli are in similarly good shape, kicking off their Europe campaign with a 2-1 victory over last year's Champions League runners-up Borussia Dortmund, which Wenger believed would give them extra confidence.

"We have started very well, but you know if you win the second game at home you have a good chance to qualify," Wenger said. "It's a game that will have a great weight on the end result of the qualifying teams."

The other match in group F sees Borussia Dortmund eager to set the record straight against France's Olympique Marseille after losing to them twice two years ago.

"Tuesday will be a challenge, but we have a home game in front of a sold-out crowd," manager Jürgen Klopp said.

For Marseille, it is a big week with a home clash against champions Paris Saint-Germain to follow the trip to Dortmund.

"We know that the young players are going to have ups and downs. They have qualities, but we have to trust the players who are used to going for points," said coach Elie Baup, whose squad has been mainly reinforced with youngsters this year.

Elsewhere, Ajax Amsterdam and AC Milan, who have twice met in the final of Europe's top club competition and won the title 11 times between them, clash again in a match which is far from the heady days of their past.

In group E, Swiss champions FC Basel, who provided the only shock of the opening matches by winning at Chelsea, could also upset Schalke 04 if they can make the most of the Bundesliga team's leaky defence, while Jose Mourinho admits Chelsea's trip to Romania against Steaua Bucharest is a must-win game.

Four-times champions Ajax, thumped 4-0 by Barcelona in their opening group H match, used to be one of Europe's top clubs, but can no longer compete with the financial clout of the big five European leagues.

AC Milan, who won the most recent of their seven European Cup and Champions League titles in 2007, have been struggling to rebuild since offloading top players a year ago.

They have had a terrible start to this season, picking up only two Serie A wins in six games and scraped past Celtic 2-0 in their opening Champions League match. New signings Riccardo Saponara and Kaka have both suffered injuries.

Despite last year's stunning win over Barcelona, Celtic manager Neil Lennon is worried about a "spanking" by a side intent on revenge tonight.

"Us getting a spanking goes through my mind, 100 per cent. That's why the goalkeeper is so important," the Celtic boss said. "He made some big saves in the game last year, like the one he tipped over from Messi. He made some great saves in the Nou Camp as well."

Reuters, Agence France-Presse