“If we get out of the group I would say we have a chance. But remember Dortmund played in the final last season, Napoli are a very good team and Marseille are not easy.
“What we have to show now is that we have strength [in the group stage].
“In recent years we have finished second. To finish first is better.”
It says something that Arsène Wenger is now in a position where he has to deflect questions about winning the Premier League and, in this case, the Champions League.
In recent years we have finished second. To finish first is better
Previously the tone has been about winning one trophy, any trophy - now the candidates are queuing up.
But then Arsenal are in vogue right now thanks to nine straight wins in all competitions with stand-out performers like Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil plus a seemingly irresistible team spirit. Although early-season form can flatter, Wenger will soon have natural rotation as a clutch of players are close to coming back after injury.
Despite all that, Tuesday will be vital.
Victory over Napoli at Emirates Stadium will not exactly kill off the challenge from the 'Group of Death' but it would deal it a mighty blow.
These two sides won on matchday one; crucially Arsenal’s was away at Marseille.
The general Champions League wisdom is this:
a) Ten points will put you through (or “10.2” as the economist in Wenger could not help pointing out during his press conference)
b) winning your home games is key
That victory in France means Wenger could easily top Group F via the results at Emirates Stadium alone. But this could be the biggest test of the season against a side who are P7 W6 D1 L0 themselves in Serie A.
This was entirely expected. Napoli were serious title contenders last season and, although they sold Edinson Cavani in the summer, new manager Rafa Benitez invested the proceeds in, among others, Pepe Reina and Gonzalo Higuain. The latter was a target for Arsenal of course.
“They sold a player for £63 million and bought one for £40 million,” equated Wenger. “Napoli are not a team who usually invests that kind of money but their chairman is very, very ambitious.
“I’m not surprised Rafa is doing well as he has experience. In his first job in Italy [at Inter] maybe he took a team who had been at a high and they were just over the hill so that was a bit of a gamble.
We will be faithful to what we always do in the Champions League and try to have the ball. We know that this way we stop them from counter-attacking. This is vital as that is their strength
“But Napoli are on the way up and he can give them more experience and quality.”
Higuain is doubtful with a thigh problem. The striker was muted when he played at Emirates Cup in August but Lorenzo Insigne stood out. The 22-year-old native Neapolitan put the visitors ahead that day and scored a stunning free-kick the win over Dortmund.
Last season’s finalists will be playing catch-up if they fail to win at home to Marseille. While not looking too far ahead, the Frenchman is aware that next up is 180 minutes against Jurgen Klopp’s side.
“This is a massive game for that reason,” said Wenger. “It puts us in a strong position because we then have a double confrontation with Dortmund.
“But we will be faithful to what we always do in the Champions League and try to have the ball.
“We know that this way we stop them from counter-attacking. This is vital as that is their strength.”
Arsenal’s weakness is yet to be found this season.
But Napoli’s search may be the most thorough so far.
Arsenal: Sanogo (back), Cazorla (ankle), Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), Podolski (hamstring), Walcott (abdomen), Diaby (knee)
Napoli: Higuaín (thigh) Albiol (thigh), Maggio (knee)
Referee: Milorad Mazic (SRB)