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Napoli star Dries Mertens reveals why Arsenal are a stronger opponent under Unai Emery

Napoli forward Dries Mertens fears the greater experience Arsenal have in their squad will make them a tougher test in next month's Europa League quarter-final.


The tie pits two of the competition's three favourites against each other and is likely to be hotly contested, with both sides having formidable frontlines led by the likes of Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.


Certainly Arsenal and Napoli proved to be tightly matched when they last met in the 2013-14 Champions League group stage, each side winning their home match 2-0, with the Gunners pipping their Italian opponents to a place in the knockout round by a margin of one goal.


 

But Mertens believes the experience the Gunners have added under Unai Emery, including the likes of veteran centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos, has made them a more formidable prospect than five-and-a-half years ago.


"The team has grown and the players have grown," Mertens said. "They have lost players but have bought others.


Kalidou Koulibaly in action (Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)

"With some older players, they have gained more experience. And they have made Arsenal stronger."


Arsenal will host Napoli at the Emirates on April 11 before facing an intimidating trip to the Stadio San Paolo a week later.


The Neapolitans dropped down to the Europa League after finishing third behind Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain in their Champions League group but pushed two of the continent's strongest clubs close indeed.


 

Mertens is insistent that Arsenal should hold no fear for the Partenopei.


"We are happy with the draw, as it’ll be difficult, but if you don’t win games like this, then you don’t deserve to lift the trophy," Mertens said.


 

"We faced Arsenal when Rafa Benitez was the coach, but the team has grown so much since then. We lost some players, but brought in others, while gaining experience. We’re stronger now.


"Napoli had a good Champions League group phase, especially against Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain, so we ought to have faith in ourselves."


 

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