Arsenal looks to continue their early preseason success against Napoli on Saturday. The match is the second of the day of the 2013 Emirates Cup featuring Porto, Galatasaray, Napoli and Arsenal, the hosts.
The Gunners have racked up three consecutive victories in their opening preseason fixtures, but a revamped Napoli club will provide them with their toughest challenge to date.
Change isn’t always for the best; however, it may be just what the doctor ordered for the Serie A runners-up Azzurri. Star striker Edinson Cavani has left town but has been replaced by Real Madrid forward Gonzalo Higuain. Arsenal had their sights set on him to bolster their attack prior to his move to Napoli. The Italian side had the cash to burn and ultimately swayed the 25-year-old Argentinian with a $53 million payday.
The changes don’t stop there, either. Manager Walter Mazzarri is out, and Rafa Benitez has taken the reins. Arsenal is well versed with the former headman of rival Chelsea. The Blues edged them into third place in the Premier League a season ago.
While it will certainly be a new club on the pitch for Napoli on Saturday, will they be better than what we’ve seen from them in the past?
When: Saturday, 3 August
Time: 4:20 p.m. BST
Where: Emirates Stadium, London, England
What They’re Saying
Michael Cox of Arsenal.com broke down the challengers by highlighting the significant changes mentioned earlier:
The departures of long-serving coach Walter Mazzarri and star striker Edinson Cavani were always likely to prompt a dramatic change in playing style for Napoli, and the appointment of Rafael Benitez confirms last season’s Serie A runners-up will play a significantly different brand of football in 2013/14.
Football writer James Horncastle expressed optimism about Napoli’s chances against Arsenal on their own pitch, according to Arsenal.com. Horncastle sees the visitors escaping with a 2-1 victory; however, he admits there is still some uncertainty given the large amount of changes we’ve seen of the side this summer:
The summer has taken off for them since the sale of Edinson Cavani. A lot of people still wonder how well they will cope without Cavani. They've never had a striker like him…They were lethal on the counter attack when Cavani was at the club but they were never really a defensive team.
Arsenal Player to Watch: Jack Wilshere
Gunners star midfielder Jack Wilshere claims he is at about “80 percent” condition-wise, according to Sky Sports. The 21-year-old has dealt with his share of injuries over the past couple of seasons but, if healthy, could be on the verge of finally breaking out this year.
A young and promising star in the making, Wilshere has a world-class organization around him that will enable him to do just that. Will it be this weekend during the Emirates Cup? It’s hard to imagine a better time.
Napoli Player to Watch: Gonzalo Higuain
New Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain has lofty expectations for his new club after making the switch to Serie A from La Liga this summer.
Higuain has captured his fair share of hardware while with Real Madrid and hopes to continue that success by securing the Scudetto this season, according to Ben Gladwell of ESPNFC.com.
There is a long road ahead for the club if they hope to overtake Juventus, but Higuain could help things get off to a great start with a strong performance against Arsenal at the 2013 Emirates Cup.
Prediction: Arsenal 2, Napoli 1
The Azzurri have a lot to look forward to this season. They’re going to play some exciting football and pick up some wins along the way. Will that exciting ride start this weekend at the Emirates?
It’s hard to pick against the hosts in this one, so let’s not go in that direction. Manager Arsene Wenger will likely have his team ready to perform well at this big kickoff event. Couple that focus with a surely sold-out Emirates and the cards will truly be stacked against the new-look Napoli side.
Expect a very challenging and tight match for the Gunners, but ultimately a narrow victory will inspire the home crowd heading into their Sunday match against Galatasaray.