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Match Review: Arsenal 2 Marseille 0 - Champions League 26.11.13

Here we are again, already so soon. Another home game, another 2-0 win which means we stay top of another table. Boring, boring Arsenal eh? This win, however, means that we are almost certain to qualify from our group and just a point will see us through as winners. It would take Napoli beating us heavily and Dortmund winning against Marseille to see us drop into the Europa League and with our current form, I'd back us for at least a point in Italy. We can't assume the job's done, but with the position we're in, we shouldn't lose it now.

Marseille had been open about their intention to rotate in this game, owing to the fact that they were already out and an intense run coming up in Ligue 1. Talents like Valbuena and Thauvin, a target for us in the summer, we're left on the bench and within seconds we took advantage. Wilshere was released down the right and he sprinted clear into the area.

As the left back caught up with him, Wilshere gave him the eyes shifted the ball onto his left foot and chipped a beautiful effort into the far corner. Half the stadium was still empty (getting to the ground on a week night is an absolute nightmare) and the Marseille defence looked like they hadn't turned up either. It wasn't long until gleeful chants of 'Are you Tottenham in disguise?' were ringing around the stadium. Alas, Marseille were a little more resolute than our North London neighbours, with the French side almost lasting almost 30 seconds before conceding. Take note Sp*rs.


It was quite a similar start to the Napoli game; Marseille had set up to defend and nick a one-nil, but we started brilliantly and caught them cold. The Marseille players pressed, but we kept the ball with ease, waited for an opportunity and then attacked with pace and simply overwhelmed the French side. We had another golden opportunity to score when we got away down the right again thanks to some lovely play from Grioud and Wilshere. The ball was squared to Ramsey in the six yard box, but the midfielder hit his shot straight at the keeper when he should have converted. From then on things got seriously quiet.

We were more than happy to just roll the ball around and let Marseille plod about after it. Özil had a chance to double the lead after Ramsey flicked the ball over the top of the defence, but the German's first touch skewed out for a goal kick. At the other end there was a brief moment of panic when a defencive mix up allowed Gignac a chance, but Szczesny was out quickly to smother the ball.

The game meandered along until near the end of the first half, when Ramsey flicked the ball over his head and was felled by the defender as he went to collect it. From where I was sat, I couldn't really see whether the foul was in or out of the area, but it looked very close and the ref pointed to the spot. Replays seem to show that the foul was, in fact, outside the area. Slightly surprisingly it was Mesut Özil who stepped up to take it and even more surprisingly he missed. The German took a short run, stuttered and hit a weak shot straight at Mandanda.

© Express/Stuart Robinson

It was a really crap penalty and it suddenly seemed to spark some life into the game, particularly into Özil. As soon as the penalty bounced away, he ripped off his gloves and threw them away, seemingly enraged by his mistake. He was suddenly bristling with energy (possibly indignation) and almost win another spot kick some great skill, but this time the ref said it was just outside the box. We continued to batter Marseille as if incredulous at their audacity in saving the penalty. But, we couldn't quite find the finishing touch and we had to settle for 1-0 at half time. 

The second half was a much more placid affair, Arsenal probed in a not too urgent fashion  and Marseille watched the ball pass from player to player in almost resigned fashion. The visitors introduced the aforementioned Valbuena and Thauvin on 57 minutes in an attempt to find an equaliser and within 10 minutes...We doubled our lead. Aaron Ramsey played a beautiful ball through to Özil who ghosted into the right side of the area. The king of the assist did what he does best and put the ball on a plate for Wilshere to finish. A deserved goal, beautiful in its simplicity and one that sealed the game. 

After the second goal the game idled along and if anything Marseille had the better chances, most created by the exciting Thauvin. Szczesny saved one effort, but the ball looped over him and had to be cleared off the line by Monreal. He was then called into action again when Thauvin was left in acres in the area and the Pole made a sharp near post save. 

Walcott, Cazorla and Arteta all came off the bench and had little involvement and despite a few late scares, we ran out comfortable winners. Unfortunately Dortmund's win over Napoli means that we have to wait until the final game to confirm progression to the last 16, but having done all the hard work, we should really finish top of the group. We've had one of the most difficult groups this year and the players deserve huge credit for the results they've achieved against tough opposition. The fixtures start to pile up now as the busy festive schedule commences. We play Cardiff, Hull midweek, Everton, Napoli midweek before an away trip to City and a home game against Chelsea. It's vital that players stay fit and we rotate successfully to get us through this month and a bit as it'll be vital to be in a strong position in January. 

As a last note, I'd like to congratulate my Mum on picking up the BAFTA for Children's Channel of the Year. She's known to be a massive Arsenal fan and the people at BAFTA surprised her by getting Carl Jenkinson to present the award specially for her. She informs me he is charming, quietly spoken and hopeful about his future at the club. Pictures and video of it are up on the BAFTA website. 'Till Saturday!

Stat of the game

Arsenal took 15 shots and enjoyed 67% of the possession. Very commanding.


Arsenal (4-2-3-1)
Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Ramsey, Wilshere (Walcott 75'), Özil (Arteta 82'), Rosicky (Cazorla 75'), Giroud
Vermaelen, Arteta, Walcott, Cazorla, Fabianski, Bendtner, Gnabry

Marseille (4-4-1-1)
Mandanda, Abdallah, Morel , Romao , N'Koulou , Lucas Mendes, J.Ayew (Valbuena 57'), Lemina (Cheyrou 82'), Gignac, Imbula (Thauvin 57'), Khalifa
Cheyrou, Thauvin, Samba, Diawara, Mendy, Fanni, Valbuena

Player Ratings

Szczesny - 8/10 - Another clean sheet and smart saves when needed

Sagna - 8/10 - Looked tired, but still put in an enormous shift, what a pro

Mertesacker - 8/10 - Simply majestic again, running out of words for him

Koscielny - 8/10 - Just as rock solid as his German partner in defence

Monreal - 7/10 - Looked rusty at first, but improved as the game progressed

Flamini - 7/10 - Very assured as usual, organised the team in typical shorty fashion

Ramsey - 7/10 - Should have scored, but looks confident and at ease with his game

Wilshere - 9/10 - Probably his best showing this season, seems to be hitting some form

Özil - 7/10 - The penalty miss seemed to snap him out of a stupor, much better after

Rosicky - 7/10 - All action as usual but less effective than usual

Giroud - 7/10 - Good link up play, didn't get many chances

Subs - All N/A as they were all peripheral really

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Tags: Champions League, Wilshere, Özil, Marseille, Group F

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