My prediction prior to yesterday’s game was a comfortable 3-0 win. The game was certainly comfortable but it turned out to be one of those days where the result could have been 6-0 or 1-0. The final result was 2-0 and I think nobody will have too many complaints because we put on a fantastic performance, kept a clean sheet and more importantly got the three points.
I said after yesterday’s game that the performance was different to the one we put on against Napoli. When we played the Italians I felt we was much better from an attacking point of view – we literally put on probably the best performance we’ve seen from an Arsenal side in years. However, last night was different because although it was a strong offensive performance, I can’t help but feel that Marseille made it easier for us with their positional awareness and closing down.
Pass after pass split their defence and created so many chances that it’s unbelievable we didn’t win by a larger margin. Take away no credit from our players – the majority of the passes were fantastic in themselves. However, against a stronger opponent I very much doubt we’d have found the room to attempt a handful of them.
The first goal came just 33 seconds into the game. Sagna played a nice first touch pass down the wing to a raring Wilshere who took it to the box before cutting in and curling it into the top left corner. It was a great goal and very well taken from a player that isn’t renown for his goalscoring exploits.
We didn’t score again until midway through the second half which was quite unexpected considering how many decent chances we had. One included an Ozil penalty save which really should have been the second goal. It was a poor penalty from him which was slightly expected when he stuttered on his run up. In all honesty Ozil had a fairly poor first half but there’s no doubt he upped his game in the second, highlighted by the assist for the second goal.
Ozil was fed the ball just on the outside of the box in which he pulled it into a waiting Jack Wilshere in the middle who calmly pushed it pass the keeper. It was one of those goals that looked so easy but in reality it was the accuracy of the pass from Ozil and the ability to do it with his first touch that I found anything but easy.
After that we had more opportunities to get the third but unfortunately it never came and it ended 2-0. The boss spoke after the game on a comfortable evening of football, saying
We were in control of the game and overall we were never really under threat tonight. We had a good control – maybe sometimes we were missing the cutting edge to finish the game off early on but we felt so much in control that we just played on, thinking that would come. It came a bit late for my taste but it came.
All the talk of an impressive attacking display kind of overshadows the equally solid defensive one. We never at any point looked under threat, we stopped and broke down their play in midfield but whenever they progressed any further our defence did and won the tackle their job every time.
Wenger went onto warn against complacency in the final group fixture versus Napoli. He said
It’s unbelievable [not to have qualified with 12 points] but it’s reality. We have to finish the job. It is not an easy situation – it is a tricky situation because you can think ‘OK, let’s just not lose big’ but I think that would be a mistake. [We need to] go there, play in a positive way and try to win the game. Everything else would be a dangerous gamble.
Going to Napoli with a laid back approach is the wrong way to go completely. Should Dortmund beat Marseille it would mean Napoli will require a three goal margin over us to qualify which in reality isn’t likely. However – football being football – there’s no reason we should sit back and go for a draw. We should aim for nothing but a win in Naples because I want to top the group by a clear margin and send a message to the rest of Europe that this ‘group of death’ was nothing more than the first test for this team.
There was a bit of controversy yesterday when at half-time our midfield battler Mathieu Flamini cut off his sleeves to make them short sleeved opposed to long. The boss addressed the matter, saying
I don’t like that and he will not do that again. Yes [it is a club tradition] and I was surprised. We don’t want that.
I believe the club tradition he’s referring to is where the team must all wear the same length shirt as the captain. The entire team plays with long sleeve so the boss clearly feels that Flamini not doing the same is a problem. I believe he’s done this before and it caused problems but I don’t understand why it’s an issue. Little details make a big difference to players and if Flamini is more comfortable and therefore a better player in short sleeve, then why force him to wear otherwise?
Anyway, the important thing is we got another win, we’re in a great position to qualify top and we now have four days to recover as best as possible before we travel to Wales for a tough game against Cardiff. I’ll have more on that game nearer the time but until then we can continue to enjoy our current position in both the league and Europe.
And what a great feeling that is.