Arsenal 0 – 0 Marseille
So Arsene Wenger answered the hotly debated question of who his favoured defensive partnership was by opting for the giant German and the fans favourite Belgian.
The game started much in the same way as the Chelsea game, our full backs being exploited and our goal tested by the inaccurate shooting boots of strikers who luckily couldn’t find the target!
The Marseille fans were loud and rowdy, probably excited Santos was in the festive spirit of giving. He twice made unforced errors leading to good Marseille chances.
Arsenal tested the French for the first time when Alex Song slipped Theo in on goal, the Englishman’s trademark low shot tipped round the post.
Chezzer was in attention seeking mode nearly making a meal of a Jenkinson back pass, luckily for him his two clumsy Cruyff turns evaded two Marseille attackers. We laughed, but he needs to be careful. Silly risk taking has a habit of biting you in the ass when it matters.
The French were pressing Arsenal extremely well, they were desperate for an early goal.
We played some classy football at times but things were failing to click in the final third. Passes were too direct into feet or marginally behind the run.
Gervinho and Theo were swapping wings and passing slickly, Park also looked comfortable without ever looking threatening.
Our best chance in the first half fell to Rambo at the back post when Theo crossed well, sadly a his volley could only find the upper tier. What happened to the diving header my Gooner pal said?
As the half drew to a close we started to look lifeless up front, both widemen lost their width, fighting it out for space through the middle causing a congested penalty area and making the job of marking them far too easy.
Our final frustrating move came when Gervinho played Rambo in but the Welshman dithered and passed up his shot.
Half time in club level was interesting, a Chicken burger costs £9.90 and a Hot dog £7.80. I’d rather starve… or eat my free programme.
The second half was really weak. We didn’t really chase a win.
Jenkinson really grew with the game, his engine is incredible. He played some great crosses, just a shame there was no real target.
Park who failed to sparkle made way for the captain on 65, the boss hoping the Dutchman hadn’t run out of magic tricks.
Arshavin and Rosicky entered the fray and things tried to liven up. Robin was put through by Rosicky, he elected for the chip, it didn’t work, but rest assured, Carlos Vela was pleased, lady boys on him at the Christmas do.
Theo came close to playing a decisive ball into Andrey after expertly keeping the ball in play but failed with the simple 8 yard pass.
Song of all people was driving the last ten minutes, not to great effect, though he deserves an honourable mention for his back heel that let Robin rip a cross dangerously across the box. He also did well to win a free kick at the death… Robin could only fire it at the wall.
The game ended 0-0 and qualification would have to wait another day. Still, a clean sheet was hugely important as was the fitness of the back 4.
Taking 4 points from the French Champions would have been satisfactory outcome before we’d kicked off the group stages, the fact they were there for the taking leaves me a bit disappointed. The group is still wide open with two relatively tricky games against Dortmund and Olympiacos to come.
We’re still really struggling in two areas. Our full backs are suspect. Andre Santos is a real mystery to me. He was garbage against Chelsea and last night he did nothing to convince me I’d be rash in giving him a 4.5 there. He makes far too many basic mistakes and he’s so far off the pace I wonder if he’ll ever catch up. I never thought I’d be looking forward to seeing Gibbs back.
In attack we were really toothless. Robin is hugely important and Wenger was right to rest him last night. His mistake came from not replacing Nik B with a top notch striker in the summer. Forget the form of Robin, he still needs competition and the team needs to know if he’s rested there’s someone there who can come close to matching him. It looks like we’ve landed another striker who fits into our style but doesn’t have that edge we need. Our front three struggled last night. It took the captain to spark the team into urgency, too little too late.
People take offence in Arsenal being called a one man team, sad thing is, the more matches we play like that, the more obvious that assessment is. We depend on Robin not only for goals, but morale, leadership, speed of play and spark. Someone else has to take step up, I’m just not sure who?
Positives are that the two centre backs seemed to have an understanding and we ground out an uninspiring 0-0 in a professional manner. We’ve been on a great run and have to accept that perhaps the game at the weekend took the wind out of our sales a bit.
Next up is West Brom on Saturday, we need to stay focused and make sure there is no complacency. We need to keep this points train on the right track, no let up. Let’s make sure this November is the whitest one since time began.
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Chezzer – Didn’t have much to do. Wish he’d calm down on the risk taking. 6
Santos – Needs to be sat down in a dark room with a two hour video of his low-lights. He’s supposed to be our experience, must improve, we’re a top 4 team, it’s not acceptable for 2 teams inside a week to target the full back as an exploitation tactic. 4
Jenkinson – Much improved with a great engine. Defended well, really improved in the 2nd half. Needs to watch his positioning and remember he is a defender first and foremost. 7
Mertesacker – Much more assured last night. Kept the ship steady and improved in the air. 7
Vermaelen – A great communicator, looked strong, excellent at sniffing out danger. 7.5
Song – Great game, looked very motivated, maybe assumed too much responsibility for creating an opening, but if no one else will, why not? 7.5
Arteta – Jury is still out, solid, dependable, occasionally erratic in the pass… no dazzle yet. 6.5
Ramsey – I love his hustle. When he gets older, he’ll be a menace on the pitch. Final third passing was missing last night, but he more than made up for that with a solid work ethic. 6.5
Gervinho – Our most attacking threat but also our most wasteful player. The ups and downs of an undoubted talent. 6.5
Theo – Very quiet for large parts and not the best night for his final ball. 6
Park – Started ok, but failed to inspire the doubters he was anything more than an ok stop gap. His runs dried up after 20mins, he was taken off on 65 mins. 5.5
P.S. For those who don’t get to games, make sure you tune into our Tumblr / Instagram (search Le Grove) account. I’ll be uploading pictures of the game so you can get a feel for the bits of being a season ticket holder you don’t get from watching the TV.
P.P.S I’m disgusted and ashamed that people from my country would sing such disgusting chants at an away match in Europe. Shame on Chelsea, shame on their fans. They should be taken to the cleaners for the song they were singing last night.