Arsenal were arguably given the toughest draw possible for the Europa League quarter-finals, but made the perfect start with a 2-0 win in the first leg.
Although an all-English tie with Chelsea would have raised the stakes even higher, the challenge of Napoli posed a serious threat to the Gunners’ hopes of Champions League qualification.
Nevertheless, with the opening game at the Emirates Stadium – where Arsenal had won their last 10 games – it presented the opportunity for Unai Emery to assert his dominance on the tie.
It was a proposition to which the Arsenal players quickly arose, grabbing the bull by the horns and taking the lead against the Italians within the early exchange.
The opening goal came from a delightful Arsenal move, seeing Alexandre Lacazette and Ainsley Maitland-Niles before Aaron Ramsey provided the finishing touch.
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Arsenal 2-0 Napoli
It would then get even better for Arsenal a few minutes later as Lucas Torreira forced the ball home, only for it to rightfully go down as a Kalidou Koulibaly own goal.
Such a fast-paced start to the game had the Emirates Stadium crowd dreaming of the semi-finals and presented the chance for the Gunners to put the tie to bed.
However, Napoli started to show their class before the break and emerged from half-time as the better team, threatening for an away goal that would change the dynamic.
Huge advantage into the second leg
Ramsey responded with a rasping shot of his own, stinging the hands of Meret, before Nacho Monreal threatened to score his second European goal for the club.
Yet the biggest chance of the second-half fell to the feet Piotr Zielinski, who failed to beat Petr Cech from close range, ballooning his effort over the cross bar.
However, Arsenal managed to prevent an away goal for the full 90 minutes and despite not adding to their advantage, saw out an impressive victory at the Emirates Stadium.
It sees the Gunners take a massive step towards the semi-finals, but nothing is guaranteed when a journey San Paolo Stadium remains on the fixture list.
Napoli secured a home win over Liverpool during the Champions League group stages and will be hoping to replicate that result, albeit by a larger margin of victory, next week.
The ball is in Arsenal’s court, but it’s still all to play for in Naples.
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