Arsenal have implemented special security measures for their players and fans for the Champions League trip to Napoli due to fears over hooliganism.
There had been violence when Arsenal hosted Napoli in a 2-0 win on Oct. 1 as travelling supporters caused significant damage to a pie shop near the Emirates Stadium and left one man hospitalised, and there were further problems when the Italian side hosted Marseille in a 3-2 win last month.
Ahead of that game, despite the presence of around 1,000 police officers, the windscreen of a minibus bringing Marseille players to the stadium was smashed and local police discovered fans carrying knives and other weapons, and there were suggestions last month that UEFA could prevent fans attending the Stadio San Paolo for the visit of Arsenal.
Napoli were ultimately fined 55,000 euros, and Marseille 58,000 euros, as a result of both sets of fans throwing flares and other objects onto the field, but the stands will remain open for Wednesday’s game.
As a result, Arsenal players will not be able to leave their hotel unaccompanied, according to reports in the Daily Mirror and Daily Telegraph, while a special ‘safe area’ in Naples has been designated for the expected 700 travelling fans, who have been issued with information sheets to help avoid trouble and will be bussed directly to the ground.
An Arsenal spokesman told the Telegraph: “We have worked closely with the authorities here in Napoli to ensure the safety of our travelling fans.”
Despite the intimidating atmosphere, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is confident his side will cope in the 60,000-capacity Stadio San Paolo as they seek the point they require to top the Group F.
“When you go from Fenerbahce to Dortmund, you are used to these kind of atmospheres and we know how to deal with that,” said Wenger, whose side are certain to progress if they avoid a three-goal defeat in Italy.
“We have our usual game, we try to take the ball, take control of the ball, try to play our game. It is another game that we want to win. It is the only way we can approach the game.”
Argentina international Gonzalo Higuain, meanwhile, has spoken of his love for the club and the city following his summer move from Real Madrid.
His compatriot Diego Maradona remains the most celebrated player in Napoli history, and Higuain told The Times: “There is a special ‘cariño’ -- a unique sentiment attached to Napoli for people in Argentina. The warmth of the people, the fact that the city is a little crazy, means there is a special bond. It is a very Argentine city. That has helped me adapt to life here.
“And the stadium itself has a lot of history. It was where someone very special to all Neapolitans and to all Argentinians played. To play here, in this mythical stadium... it makes me very happy. I love it.”
Arsenal had been keen to sign Higuain in the summer, and he told the newspaper that a move had been on the horizon.
“Yes, but I did not speak to them,” he said. “They said Arsenal wanted to sign me, that they were there negotiating [with Real Madrid], but it was Napoli who came and bought me.”
Wenger, though, said he was happy to have instead brought in Higuain’s former Madrid teammate, Mesut Ozil, particularly as Olivier Giroud has excelled as Arsenal’s main striker.
“Am I happy with the player I got in Ozil? Very much,” Wenger said. “For Higuain, I think he is a player you have to keep quiet. He is very dangerous. The more we can play outside the box, the easier it will be for us to keep him quiet.
“We have Giroud, who shows as well that he is a great striker. Higuain has joined [Napoli coach Rafa] Benitez. He is in good hands and shows he is a great striker.”
Information from the Press Association was used in this report