Arsenal travelled to France for the third Champions League matchday in what turned out to be a difficult and relatively boring encounter. A lack of quality from either side in the final third left most of the possession to the midfielders. And our best player was probably a midfielder – Alex Song – a rock in defence and a powerhouse moving forward. But let’s not also ignore a great game from Laurent Koscielny who is finally showing a consistent side to his game.
This form of Koscielny’s started soon after the Carling Cup final – but who could notice anything good that he did in the aftermath of that match?! He has been growing in confidence and tactical awareness for months, and today he showed just how good he has become. He won aerial battles, put in plenty of tackles and his passing was pretty decent too.
Our wingers – Walcott and Arshavin – were poor. In this formation, when the wingers are off form it throws the whole team. It forces van Persie deep which can really reduce his impact. Further to that, every cross will be met by no one. Arshavin seems to struggle in a full 90 minute game – does he still not have the fitness? And Walcott’s decision making just needs to improve. He made some good runs but just not enough of them. To be fair, Marseille played quite conservatively at times, making it difficult for Theo to find space. But in the first half, there was plenty of space and our Englishman failed to take advantage of it on enough occasions.
The only talking points of the first 45 minutes were two penalty shouts and a clearance off the line from a van Persie header. The first penalty decision was from a handball by Jenko. It was 100% a penalty, the ball came from a far distance and Carl raised his hand to the ball. The second was from one of our many corners (which rarely threatened the opposition, as per usual). A Marseille defender raised his arm quite clearly, lifting the ball higher into the box. Funnily enough, van Persie’s header arrived as a result of that infringement, and the player who handballed it ended up clearing the ball off the line!
The second half was more Arsenal’s – plenty of possession and no end product. Van Persie was having a tough time getting into the game, which left chances scarce. A few long range efforts failed to trouble the keeper, so the first big chance fell to Theo. He took a poor touch from Gervinho’s pass but the defender made an even worse attempt at a tackle. Walcott was through on goal but hit a tame effort straight at the keeper.
Other talking points in the second half included Jenko going off injured, leaving no recognised RB to take his place. The increasingly-dodgy Djourou took his place and had a fair game, although was booked for a great tackle and slipped in a very dangerous position when trying to clear the ball. He did cross for the winning goal, so he redeemed himself slightly. Gervinho came on for the ineffective Walcott and Ramsey took Arshavin’s place.
Van Persie had a great chance in the final minute of normal time as Gervinho ran at the opposition defence before threading a sensational through ball to our captain. RvP smashed the ball at the keeper to cap a frustrating game for the Dutchman. However, the winner came moments later through an arching cross from Djourou. Gervinho tapped the ball onto the oncoming Ramsey who slotted it home with ease.
With 7 points and two Champions League home fixtures to come, qualification looks almost a certainty. A win at home against Marseille will all but secure it.
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