Let’s start with the good news. Marseilles have 8 games in 24 days and as such are likely to play a reserve team tonight. Of course, they will have some first teamers but their ambitions lie elsewhere.
They won 3-1 away in Ajaccio (beautiful place) on Friday so are in form but let’s be honest, Arsenal not taking 3 points from this game would be a surprise. However, let’s not take anything for granted, any team coming to THOF is inspired and we will have to be alert.
We mashed them in France and could have scored more than the paltry two – OK, a massive exaggeration – in fact we could have been at least two down at half-time and scored with our first shot on target, a superb Theo volley. Aaron wrapped up the points with a sweet finish.
What of The Arsenal? Not quite at the top of our game even if we are TOTL. We all know there is more to come from this side. Theo has yet to get a run of injury free games. The Ox is out, as is Podolski. Ozil is going through a quiet spell, though he is still making runs and passes which allow other players to perform. Santi has yet to find the form of last season and Jack is not yet playing at the level we know he can.
That said, the defence has been superb of late, an improvement which has taken place under the media radar. We look solid with every player on top of his game and working as a unit. The emergence of BFG as the defensive lynchpin has altered the way we defend. Take him out and we suffer (see OT). Our defence of set plays has improved with OG, Sagna, Merts, TPIG and Gibbs strength in the air meaning we are less liable to concede (unless it comes off the shoulder of a traitorous kaaskop – look it up!). Our marvellous midfield maestro, Mr Arteta is fit and named in the squad.
Some stats: Marseilles have lost their last 7 CL games. They have conceded at least two goals in each of those losses. Arsenal have won 6 of their last 7 CL games. and kept a clean sheet in 5 of them. Mmmmmmmm What do you think?
As players recover from injury we are arriving at the point where hard choices must be made. Arteta is back to full fitness but could be rested thus giving Rosicky a place on the left. Perhaps Monreal can get a game giving Gibbs a rest. Or should we revert to playing Cazorla out left leaving Flamini as our sole holding MF? Or should Ramsey be rested ahead of his return to Wales at the weekend thus giving Wilshere the opportunity to play?
We have to win tonight so perhaps a more attacking lineup could be considered with Wilshere starting in place of Flamini? So many combinations and mutations.
Once Podolski returns (could be for Cardiff) we have to find games to rest OG. A forward line of Ozil, Theo and Lukas is very potent.
I have a feeling that Mr Wenger will play it safe and include both Arteta and Flamini but if we can score early and be two up by half-time (a big IF) then he can relax and make substitutions. I would rather we went into the game with a full complement of attackers.
Win this match and we are almost out of the Group of Death from which few commentators gave us a chance – lose and we are looking at Spursday night football
But we won’t will we? Another stirring night of European football awaits.
p.s. Do you know why condoms were called Frenchies?
written by Big Raddy