Five talking points: Arsenal 2-0 Montpellier
Arsenal came into this Champions League tie with their qualification chances pretty much in their own hands without a win against a French opposition at home in the Champions League knowing that a win here and a win for Schalke in Germany against Olympiacos would guarantee them a place in the knock- out stages. At the end of the night, it all panned out according to script for Arsene Wenger’s men, a night when the French Champions found it strenuous to have any motivation after being already knocked out of the competition coming into this game.
A shoulder injury suffered by Theo Walcott in the North London Derby at the weekend meant that a rusty Oxlade- Chamberlain came in as a natural replacement due to his frightening pace, making just his fourth start this season. The lack of playing time became pretty evident when he misplaced a few passes in the final third in the first half, even Sagna seeming like a more potent threat on the right wing. Safe to say, he has yet to hit full throttle this season, which will follow when the games come in thick and fast.
I am pretty sure that the more optimistic Gooners and the sensible football fans realised that a long time ago but this one is for the moaners. The French International put in a typical center- forward performance last night, a constant threat in the attacking third, helping the defence out with his presence whenever called upon for set-pieces with 81% aerial success, conjuring up two assists in the process against his former club. Whoever said that Giroud lacked finesse in his game should have a look at his delightful pass for Arsenal’s second goal, the £13 million summer acquisition is finally coming good.
The 23- year lanky central defender was a stand out performer in a lack- lustre Montpellier side, short on confidence. The French International played as a defensive midfielder alongside Marco Estrada in a makeshift midfield. Working tirelessly, he didn’t shy away from a challenge, partly responsible for Arsenal’s slow start to the first half. Heavily linked to Arsenal last summer, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he seeks a move away from the defending French champions, a side currently languishing in 16th in Ligue 1.
Bacary Sagna has been in the centre of a lot of transfer speculation lately after the media added him to the list of disgruntled Arsenal players, not looking for a contract extension. His contract runs out next summer and Wenger would be looking to tie the French right- back down as soon he sorts the Walcott situation out. The 29-year-old looked like a shadow of the guy who fractured his leg twice in the last 18 months, running up and down the right flank, putting in dangerous crosses consistently, being the reliable himself.
Jack Wilshere made his second start to a Champions League match since returning his long injury lay-off , putting in a solid performance topping it up with a goal in almost two years. He was at his unswerving best, bringing the ball out of midfield, engaging in terrific link up play. One does get the impression if the 20-year-old was the missing piece in Arsenal’s jigsaw puzzle in search of a trophy. The prospect of a better understanding between the midfield trio of Wilshere, Cazorla and Arteta is mouth watering, really.