Carlo Ancelotti Wants More 'Courage' from Napoli in UEL 2nd Leg vs. Arsenal

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2019

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 11: Head coach Carlo Ancelotti of SSC Napoli gestures during the UEFA Europa League Quarter Final First Leg match between Arsenal and S.S.C. Napoli at Emirates Stadium on April 11, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
TF-Images/Getty Images

Carlo Ancelotti has called for Napoli to show more "courage" and "heart" in the second leg of their UEFA Europa League quarter-final against Arsenal on Thursday.

Napoli trail 2-0 after the first leg, but Ancelotti revealed on Wednesday he's confident his team will be better at the Stadio San Paolo, per Sky Sports News:

"I'm sure we're going to put in a brilliant performance tomorrow. Will it be enough? I think so, I think we can do it. What do we need in three words? Courage, intelligence, heart. I didn't see much courage in the first leg, especially in the first half."

Napoli may also need some good fortune to overturn an aggregate deficit against an Arsenal team that has been stylish and efficient going forward in this season's tournament.

Despite the Gunners' dominance of the first leg, Ancelotti felt his players "were clever in the second half." It's a reasonable belief since Napoli didn't yield a third goal after Aaron Ramsey and a Kalidou Koulibaly own goal had given the Gunners a 2-0 cushion at the break.

Napoli were more stubborn defensively after the restart, but the visitors also needed to rely on Arsenal's profligacy in front of goal. Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang both missed chances to perhaps make the tie safe before the trip to Naples.

Stand-in goalkeeper Alex Meret also came to the away side's rescue more than once during the second half.

Meret's outstanding display was a response to how much Arsenal kept Napoli on the back foot. Ancelotti had to be disappointed about how a team loaded in the forward positions mustered little in attacking areas.

The stale display is no doubt why Ancelotti is demanding more fortitude from his players: "Heart and passion is what we need tomorrow, along with intensity because it's an opportunity we have to take. I think it will be a game of great intensity."

Napoli have the quality to cause Arsenal's defence problems. Notably, Lorenzo Insigne, Jose Callejon and Dries Mertens all have the pace and scoring instincts to pose a threat from wide areas.

The issue in the first leg was this trio had no focal point to play off and around. It was no surprise Napoli looked more effective once target man Arkadiusz Milik was brought off the bench.

Ancelotti would be wise to involve the prolific Poland international from the start.

While he can make some obvious changes to improve Napoli's attack, one other thing Ancelotti must encourage is more bite from midfield. Allan and Fabian Ruiz are both skilled technicians, but they were easily overwhelmed by Ramsey, Lucas Torreira and Mesut Ozil in north London.

The latter ran the game from a position between the lines, dropping in to defend when Napoli had the ball and roaming freely in the final third whenever Arsenal attacked.

One thing Ancelotti won't be relying on is Arsenal's poor away record in all competitions this season: "We know Arsenal's results in away games, but tomorrow is a different story. I don't know what's going on."

Arsenal beat Watford 1-0 away on Monday to secure a first clean sheet on their travels in the Premier League this season. The Gunners also lost the away leg of their last two Europa League ties, falling to both BATE Borisov and Rennes.

Napoli are always formidable at home, so a fast start and an early goal would put Arsenal under pressure and perhaps get the away struggles playing on the minds of the visitors.

Ancelotti knows the importance of the game since it represents Napoli's only hope of silverware this season.

The 59-year-old has never won this trophy, but his record of three UEFA Champions League triumphs as manager no doubt appealed to a club still craving regular success on the continent.

Both manager have a winning pedigree in European competitions.
Both manager have a winning pedigree in European competitions.DANI POZO/Getty Images

It's a similar story for Arsenal, with the club's last European triumph being winning the now-defunct Cup Winners' Cup in 1994. Head coach Unai Emery's history of winning the Europa League three seasons running with Sevilla made him a sensible choice to succeed Arsene Wenger last summer.

Emery may need this win more, given Arsenal are still not assured of a place in next season's Champions League. Finishing fourth domestically would do it, but qualifying by winning a trophy would surely be sweeter.

If Emery's Europa League expertise trumps Ancelotti's big-stage experience, the latter will have to consider his first season in Naples a failure.

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