M. Wenger must have breathed a sigh of relief that last night we were at least adding to the team that started against Sunderland rather than having another injury/sickness to deal with. For many of us watching it was a great relief to see Mertesacker return to the starting line up, and Sagna moving back to his more familiar full back role, this is nothing against the young man Jenkinson replaced but more to do with the calmness and organisation Mertesacker gives the team. The midfield and attack presently picks itself with so many regulars injured.
The Marseille home following were certainly keen to create an oppressive atmosphere and in the first half their team responded for them, it was uncomfortable viewing for most of it, passes going astray for us, and pressed at every opportunity when we looked to have few options, when we look back at the stats though it becomes clear that this is more about our expectations than the team performing too badly, we were pretty equal with Marseille in terms of possession and passing.
We were allowing them to play rather than stamping our authority on the game and we were giving them encouragement to continue their game plan with some wasteful use of the ball in and around the half way line. Thankfully for us they were not making the most of their pressure in the final third a free header sent wide with Szczesny stranded and later a useful clearance from BFG with the striker behind him, we were equally toothless and apart from Theo’s early effort (when he was probably being fouled) struggled to find a way through the Marseille defensive line.
The second half was a more open affair, Marseille struggled to press us as effectively as they tired and we started to play the channels more and have more of the game, Marseille also kept probing and Szczesny was called upon several times to show good handling and deal with shots from distance.
With fifteen minutes of the second half gone it could have easily been a different story, a hopeful cross from our right had BFG swinging a right leg as Szczesny came to claim, the ball looped over the latter but thankfully Gibbs reacted to head the ball off the line and back into Szczesny’s hands.
Five minutes later saw us take the lead, another overlapping run by Gibbs saw him deliver a good cross into a threatening area, Marseille’s left back made a hash of the clearance and the ball looped up towards Theo, who waited for what seemed an eternity before smashing a volley into the net. This was such a good finish, anyone who has played football will know what it is like waiting for the ball to drop, how many times do you see players snatch at it thinking they have less time and failing to make good contact, Theo set himself kept his eyes on the ball and cracked it home.
Half chances came and went at either end, Szczesny dealing with everything coming his way and us nearly finding a way through for the second.
The second goal came from our man of the moment Aaron Ramsey, receiving the ball from Gibbs and with white shirts in attendance he spun and drove into the box before finishing into the bottom corner (with the aid of a little deflection). Watch this goal again if you don’t believe me but Giroud was key to this goal, his run took two defenders away and Ramsey had the room to burst into.
Unfortunately we blotted our copybook at the very end by giving away a sloppy penalty, tired legs from Ramsey (its about time he looked a little leggy given the yards he puts in) saw him take a heavy touch and was adjudged to have fouled the forward as he tried to recover. Szczesny could do nothing about the penalty but thankfully there was not long left so we didn’t have to sweat on the result for long.
10 away games won on the trot a new club record and much deserved for this group of players that are really starting to repay the belief the manager has placed in them.
Win the three home games and we will see the knockout round.
Szczesny – 8 A solid display from the young Pole, great handling and comfortable shot stopping all night. Didn’t actually have to make any worldies and you would be disappointed if he had conceded any of the shots on target.
Sagna – 7 Not his most prolific display but did the important stuff well
Mertesacker – 7 Minor blip with the Gibbs goalline clearance, but otherwise the usual reliability we have come to expect.
Koscielny – 8 A solid commanding performance, constantly pressures the forwards high up the pitch gives them little space and competes for everything.
Gibbs – 9 MOTM Two assists, goalline clearance, he has come a long way from the player I used to get frustrated with turning inside whenever he received possession, has grown in stature immeasurably over last two seasons.
Flamini – 7 Bit of a struggle in the first half as the others in midfield left him a little exposed, looked more comfortable when we had better shape in the second half.
Ramsey – 8 Very nearly another man of the match performance. Cracking goal, fantastic tackling back he really is an all action midfielder the kind we haven’t had for a while.
Wilshere – 7 Another game under the belt, he is getting better and is moving more confidently with the ball, unlucky with a half volley at the far post.
Özil – 7 Quiet first half as we struggled to get the ball to him, came into the game in the second half and was unlucky not to have a couple of assists to his name by the end of the night.
Walcott – 8 Exceptional volley to give us the lead, could have had another couple but did well all night to provide a threat.
Giroud – 8 His silent assist for Ramsey’s goal sums up this lad, constantly willing to work for his team mates, could do with a rest soon!
Monreal, Miyaichi - No real time to judge.
Gööner in Exile