The Arsenal winning machine continued on last night after a solid compact performance was rewarded with three points away from home in an impressive half built stadium. We also broke an away wins Champions League record. Magic.
The first half we failed to find our stride in any major way. We had our chances, Theo forcing a tidy save early on probably the clearest opportunity. Marseille pushed a fair amount of pressure on our back four. Marking wasn’t as tight as it should have been on numerous occasions. Lucky for us their finishing was off or our keeper insisted on continuing his good form.
The second half was about making the most of our chances. Theo Walcott opened the scoring after a fairly tepid Gibbs cross was basically ducked from a standing position by the Marseille defender, it bounced up for Theo, he watched, waited and riffled a supreme volley into the top corner. As crisp a strike as you’ll have seen anywhere in Europe. Appalling defending (reminicent of the terrible defending in the United game the night before).
Our second came from the Welsh Steven Gerrard. He let the ball run past his body, held off a couple of defenders and unleashed a shot that was deflected into the bottom corner (Hello Mr Lampard). He’s banged in a serious amount of goals so far this season, the 6 he has so far this season took him 95 games to accumulate previously. Something has clicked in his head this year and we’re looking at one of the strongest midfielders in Europe at the moment.
… imagine if someone had said that to you this time last year when he was consistently trying to play through balls for Steve Bould.
There was still time for us to concede the standard penalty associated with our game of late. Rambo was pulled up for a soft tackle on Andre Ayew. His brother, Jordan Ayew, superbly dispatched it into the top corner, it didn’t matter, the victory was ours. Our campaign was off to a flyer.
In the other match, it was a bit of a shit storm. Some spectacular goals were scored. Higuain banged in the first with a poachers header. The second for Napoli came from an incredible Insigne (what a player by the way) free kick from about thirty yards. Klopp and Weidenfeller both managed to see a red card. Total carnage. Anyway, good to see last years finalist take a beating. I personally think that works in our favour as they’re the group favourites.
Arsenal are really shaping up as a team that can contend with most sides in Europe… when they have a first team fully available and fit.
The struggle we’re facing this year is that we have a small squad of injury prone players. As was pointed out in the comments yesterday, the size of the squad isn’t the issue… it’s the lack of players Wenger trusts that sit outside the treasured 16. You can’t win the the league with a squad that short. Which is a shame. We’re still three players light of being able to go the whole hog this season… but the side has progressed.
Wenger, though coming off a relatively poor summer, has been ruthless with the players he has at his disposal. We have a seasoned Spanish international as our spare left back. We have Jack Wilshere being shunted out onto the left. Vermaelen is still bench fodder. And obviously, the biggest change… we have a Mesut Ozil. Which I’m still struggling to come to terms with. Maybe the penny will drop when I can nearly touch his face on Sunday…
I can’t wait… the atmosphere should be electric.
Next up? Stoke on Sunday. A lovely 1330 kick off. I honestly can’t wait to see what Mark Hughes has done with their set up. Kind of like heading to Chicken Cottage when they’re under new management.
See you in the comments…