Making a strong statement that their performance in the UEFA Champions League so far has not been a fluke, Arsenal made it a memorable night in Marseille with a hard fought 1-0 away win. The 92nd minute strike from under-pressure Welshman Aaron Ramsey was enough to secure all three crucial points that took them to the top of the group. More importantly, it eased the pressure off Arsene Wenger who might be hoping that his team take this form to the Premier League too. If you include the qualifying phase, then the Gunners are unbeaten this season in the Champions League; a stark contrast from their run of form in the domestic league.
As a Gooner, it was a good game to watch; particularly the second half. I won’t say that first half was bad; what we lacked in that period was the penetration against the tough and strong Marseille defense and there was also a bit of uncertainty in the central defensive partnership. But in the second half, Marseille rarely forayed into our half and whenever they did, Mertersacker and Koscielny did a wonderful job in warding off the danger. Marseille defended but could not hold it together in the final moment. All three substitutions made by Wenger played a part in the goal. Djourou was the one who sent the ball towards the box, Gervinho got a faint touch and in the process, the ball reached Ramsey’s foot which he delightfully converted into a goal.
Now that the emphasis is again on the Premier League form, and Wenger needs to look into some players who are not performing and had a disappointing outing in France.
This English winger has loads of talent but currently, he is wasting it. There were numerous opportunities in the game when he could have made the difference but it never happened. For me, Walcott’s main weakness is his lack of composure. As soon as he gets the ball, whether inside the box or in the wing; he looks more eager to get rid of it with the first touch rather than control it and get into dangerous positions. His crosses were never dangerous against Marseille and the one opportunity he got to score was also not materialized. Wenger needs to talk with the boy and counsel him.
What Walcott was on the right flank, Arshavin did pretty much same on the other side of the pitch. Like Walcott, he has pace but does not have stamina to sustain it for long and often is outpaced by defenders. He does not have the physical strength either to outmuscle his opponents. Wenger will have a tough time reviewing his wingers and I must say that more opportunities should be given to Gervinho and Oxlade- Chamberlain. Several of Gervinho’s runs were fantastic and he created a lot of problems for the Marseille defense.
But then, many players were on top of their game and two players that shone against Marseille, apart from all the substitutes were:
Song has been superb this season for Arsenal and always up for the challenge. He traverses the whole pitch, aiding the attacking moves and the defensive work whenever required. Although he got an early yellow card against Marseille, he was cautious throughout the match while performing his defensive duties well. For me, he is the best holding midfielder we have ever had after the legendary Patrick Viera. He needs to be fit for Arsenal to make things happen for them.
There has been an optimistic turnaround in the play of this little Czech Republic man recently. The way he ran in the match against Sunderland and last night against Marseille; I am very much sure his glory days are just around the corner and if he keeps making those energetic runs in the box, he will return to goal scoring mode again. In the absence of Wilshere, he needs to be there alongside Arteta to marshal the midfield.
Die-hard Arsenal fans are seeing the Champions League results as a return to form and I am no different. The focus will be on how long the team can sustain it. It will be a delight to have Vermaelen back by November and then, things can really change around for the Gooners.