With a 2-0 victory at the Emirates Stadium last week, Arsenal travelled to the Stadio San Paolo for the return leg of their UEFA Europa League quarter-finals with Napoli. The Italians looked at the Europa League as their final challenge of the season. Already eliminated from the Coppa Italia, they are almost assured of second place in the Serie A. They are currently 17 points behind first-place Juventus but seven points ahead of third-place Inter.
Arsenal looked at the Europa League as a way to ensure their place in the UEFA Champions League next season, as they are competing with four teams for two Champions League berths in the Premier League. Keeping the option open to qualify for the Champions League through the Europa League would allow Arsenal more leeway as the domestic season winds down. After the turmoil of the late Wenger era, the chance to lift a European trophy would show the success of Unai Emery’s first season in charge.
This meeting between two of the strongest clubs remaining in the competition was highly anticipated. However, it proved to be a low scoring, cagey affair. Napoli had twice the possession of the English side, but they struggled to break down a well-drilled and aggressive Arsenal defence. The visitors weres able to seal their place in the semi-finals with a 3-0 aggregate victory after an Alexandre Lacazette free-kick against the run of play in the 36th minute.
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