It even appeared that they could crash out of the tournament altogether when Jose Callejon doubled Napoli’s lead with just 30 seconds left to play, but ultimately it was not enough time to score the all-important third goal and send the Premier League leaders into the Europe League.
Summer transfer target Gonzalo Higuain opened the scoring in the second half, demonstrating what Arsene Wenger missed out on after a moment of magic saw him spin away from the Gunners defence before placing the ball past Wojciech Szczesny with a fierce left-footed shot.
Despite being a goal down, Arsenal were still going through as group winners due to Dortmund’s 1-1 draw in Marseilles, until home-grown right-back Kevin Grosskruetz scored a crucial winner that lifted last season’s runners-up from third to first in one of the toughest group draws this season.
With Chelsea confirming their place at the top of Group E thanks to a narrow 1-0 win over Steaua Bucharest, and Manchester United and Manchester City already assuring their place in the last 16, the possibilities of who each team could face have now become rather limited.
Uefa’s rulings for the draw mean that no team can face any club which plays in the same domestic league, or the other side that qualified from the same group. This results in the Gunners avoiding a possible tie against Dortmund as well as Chelsea and United, but does set up the prospect of facing either Bayern Munich or Barcelona, who together have knocked the north London side out of the tournament in three of the past four campaigns.
Both Chelsea and United will avoid the group winners and thus earn a two-legged draw with one of the (on paper) weaker teams left in the tournament, while City will not be too concerned despite finishing second in their group having sent out a serious warning toe Europe’s elite with the 3-2 win at Bayern on Tuesday.
But who could each of the English teams face in the first knockout round when the draw is made on Monday in Nyon?
Arsenal: Real Madrid, Paris St-Germain, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona.
Chelsea: Bayer Leverkusen, Galatasaray, Olympiakos, Zenit St Petersburg, AC Milan.
Manchester City: Real Madrid, Paris St-Germain, Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona.
Manchester United: Galatasaray, Olympiakos, Schalke, Zenit St Petersburg, AC Milan.