For the third straight friendly encounter, Goran Pandev got on the scoresheet with his goal today coming against English giants Arsenal.
Heading into the summer preparations, Goran Pandev faced some uncertainty regarding his future when Rafa Benitez was appointed manager of Napoli. Regardless of what was said after the hire, Pandev and Benitez did not have the best of relationships while the two were together at Inter. Goran did not receive much playing time at Inter under Benitez, and there was not much dialogue between the two.
Pandev, meanwhile, was adamant in his desires to stay at Napoli and play Champions League football for this forthcoming season. For that to happen, however, Pandev would have to convince Benitez that he was worthy of staying with the club. So far, so good as Goran has been in good form for Napoli during the summer friendlies and consistently scoring goals. Pandev has scored a goal apiece in the past three friendlies against Carpi, Galatasaray and now Arsenal.
It is evident that Pandev worked hard in the offseason to get in better shape. Goran has always been a technically gifted player, but his physical condition has not always been the best which negatively affects his stamina and the amount of minutes he can play at a high level during a game. In the summer friendlies thus far, Goran looks leaner and fitter so the added motivation to impress a potentially skeptical Benitez has paid dividends so far.
In today’s friendly exhibition at Emirates Stadium in London, Pandev played the opening 45 minutes for Napoli and scored the second goal for his team in a 2:2 draw against Arsenal. The goal came in the 28th minute when Marek Hamsik set up Pandev who then rounded the Arsenal keeper Lukas Fabianski before scoring with a cool left footed finish past defender Per Mertesacker. Napoli led 2:0 at halftime but Arsenal added two goals after the break to tie the game at 2:2. Goran played up front as the lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and was substituted at the start of the 2nd half by new Napoli signing Gonzalo Higuaín.
This game was part of the Emirates Cup tournament which is hosted by Arsenal. The other participants include Napoli, Galatasaray and Porto. Napoli will face Porto tomorrow before heading back to Italy.