A group of men alleged to have been wearing Napoli scarves have been accused of damaging a restaurant and leaving one person in hospital prior to the club’s Champions League clash with Arsenal.
Although Arsene Wenger's team won the game 2-0 with goals from Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud, it is suggested proceedings off the pitch were far less comfortable.
A popular matchday meeting place for many Gunners fans, Piebury Corner on Holloway Road came under attack prior to kickoff, as reported by Paul Cockerton of the Mirror:
Piebury Corner was forced to close after dozens of thugs tore through the building smashing windows, breaking chairs and swinging belts.
Around 50 customers were inside the premises, on Holloway Road, when a 30-strong mob of Napoli fans stormed in before kick-off.
Piebury Corner owner Paul Campbell suggested the attack came as a surprise, especially after many Napoli fans had integrated into the restaurant with no trouble, per Cockerton’s report:
We have had Napoli fans inside all day today, they have been having a good time and not bothering anybody at all. They have been no problem.
Then we had a minority come in, being violent, picking up chairs and tables.
There were three girls sat near me and these thugs just came in and grabbed the chairs from under the girls.
It was completely unprovoked, I think they just picked us at random because they saw a busy restaurant and they wanted to fight someone - anyone.
Although Arsenal took a giant step toward advancing from the Champions League group stage with an excellent performance, the upcoming trip to Naples will become a security concern after Wednesday's reports.
Travelling Tottenham Hotspur fans endured major problems during Spurs’ Europa League clash with Lazio last season. At least 10 supporters suffered injury—one critical—during the trip to Rome, as confirmed in Mark Ogden’s rundown of incidents for The Telegraph:
A quick Google search of 'English clubs violence in Rome' generates a deluge of responses, dating back to the stabbings of Liverpool supporters following the European Cup final triumph against AS Roma in 1984.
In 2010, Napoli fans took to the streets in order to find Liverpool supporters who had journeyed to Italy, as reported by Nick Pisa of the Daily Mail:
Italian police have admitted gangs of Napoli's hardcore 'Ultra' fans went out hunting Liverpool supporters to attack in the city.
Italian police and British consular staff in the crime-ridden southern port city said there had been a series of fights during the night.
The latest accusation aimed at Napoli’s supporters, which remains without official substantiation from police, adds to Italian football’s continued problems with violence.
Piebury Corner employee Emily Gould discussed the alleged London attack, which was outlined as "football-related" by the Metropolitan Police, per Cockerton’s report:
I think they were Italian men with Napoli colours and scarves tied around their faces. They were shouting something in Italian, chanting and causing trouble down the street.
Then they came in to the shop. I was terrified. They started swinging belts around. The customers were very frightened.
There is blood all over the floor.
We have been told by police we cannot clear up yet because of the investigation. There is a lot of damage to the shop. The tables and chairs are wrecked.
Arsenal next face a double-header with Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League group stages, before a visit from Marseille to North London.
Wenger's side will hope to take some of the sting out of their visit to Napoli by ensuring qualification prior to their final group game. The Partenopei are unbeaten on home soil across all competitions this season and racked up an impressive 2-1 win over Dortmund in their first Champions League match at the Stadio Sao Paolo.
While outplayed by Arsenal throughout the Emirates clash, Napoli will look towards Gonzalo Higuain for inspiration across the rest of the tournament. The former Real Madrid striker, who was a target for Wenger during the summer, failed to appear against Arsenal after struggling with injury, as reported by the London Evening Standard.
Although Goran Pandev scored two goals during Napoli's recent win over Genoa, the Macedonian international couldn't prolong his run as a useful deputy against the English side. Napoli struggled to gain significant rhythm throughout an encounter that was dominated by Arsenal's plethora of creative midfielders.
With trips to Dortmund looming for Wenger and Benitez's teams, their next meeting has the potential to become a deciding fixture. Napoli are sure to play fearlessly in front of their own fans, ensuring Arsenal have a difficult task to prepare for.
Both teams will be looking to escape from what is widely regarded as this year's "Group of Death," so it is pivotal that as many points as possible are racked up before the final clash in Italy on Dec. 11.