Resurgent Arsenal aim for tenth straight win against Napoli
Gunners up against Rafa Benitez and the man they almost signed, Gonzalo Higuain
ARSENAL boss Arsene Wenger is expecting Napoli to provide his Arsenal side with a searching examination when they take on the Gunners at the Emirates this evening. Arsenal go into the Champions League group game on the back of a nine match winning streak – including a 2-1 win away at Marseille a fortnight ago.
But Napoli also enjoyed a winning start to their Group F campaign, defeating Borussia Dortmund at home, to ensure that whoever wins tonight's encounter in north London will be in control of the group.
In charge of the Italian side is Rafa Benitez, well known to Wenger through his time in charge of Liverpool and, for a short spell last season, Chelsea, who he guided to Europa League glory.
"I'm not surprised Rafa is doing well," Wenger said when asked about Benitez. "Napoli are on the way up. He can give them more experience and quality."
Rather like Napoli, Arsenal have fallen on hard times recently, and their last trophy was the 2005 FA Cup, although the Gunners did reach the Champions League final a year later, only to lose to Barcelona.
When asked about his failure to win the Champions League Wenger said: "I will try to fight very hard to fill my CV with that. But you play against Barcelona, Bayern, Real Madrid – every year they are there with a chance. Every year you always think: 'Let's do it', and one year it will go for you. Let's hope it will be this year."
Wenger says reigning champions Bayern are favourites this year, supplanting Barcelona who have been Europe's dominant side of the last decade. As for Arsenal's chances of besting both of them, Wenger refused to be drawn: "After Christmas it's about who is available, who is fit and who isn't. If we get out of the group, I would say we have a chance."
Arsenal will be up against Gonzalo Higuain tonight, a player the club tried to sign in the summer as Wenger looked to strengthen his strikeforce. In the end he settled for one of the world's best midfielders, Mesut Ozil, and put his faith in Olivier Giroud, the French forward repaying the trust by scoring five goals so far this season to propel Arsenal to the top of the Premier League.
Wenger dismissed as "ridiculous" on Monday talk of winning the title, and nor would he be coaxed into saying which he'd prefer to win, the Premier League or the Champions League. "You don't choose," declared Wenger. "You just want to do well." ·