After the euphoria of Saturday’s emphatic win at Stamford Bridge, it’s time for the players to take their mind of that and concentrate on the next game. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, this is just as big a game as the last match. Marseille are our closest challenger in Group F, standing just a point behind us.
Marseille’s league campaign almost mirrors that of us. The last time both teams met, they were in 15th place. We’ve climbed up the table with successive wins and so have they. Since the last minute defeat to us, they have won 3 on the trot. The last one being away to Dijon. Leading by 2 goals, they surrendered the lead but eventually ended up winning the match.
What we saw at Stade Velodrome was a side which got specific instruction from Didier Deschamps. To pressure us quickly and not allow us time to play our brand of football. Up until the 50th or 60th minute mark, that plan worked. However, our higher fitness level was the difference and we gained control of the match from that mark onwards.
Marseille have strikers in form too. Loic Remy leads the form table with 3 goals in 3 matches, followed by Andre Ayew with 2 goals in 3 matches. The danger-men will be similar to what we saw in France. Deschamps rested several key players at the weekend to prepare for this game. The likes of Mathieu Valbuena, Alou Diarra and Lucho Gonzalez will be raring to go tonight.
The key question for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger specifically would be, whether to rest his players for this match. First, let’s take a look at the fixture schedule. After Marseille, we play WBA at home before a 2 weeks break for international matches. The game after doesn’t come until the 19th of November away to Norwich. On paper, Marseille are surely a better side compared to WBA (even though, we only got 1 point out of them last season). If there’s any resting of players, it should be for the weekend’s game.
Qualification for the next phase of the Champions League has not been secured yet, let alone the first placing in the group. Strange to see many that blamed Wenger for resting players in the corresponding matches last season (which lead to us drawing Barcelona), are now clamouring for him to do the same this season.
Granted, some players do deserve a break after playing almost non-stop football since the start of the season. However, that player should not be Robin Van Persie. He has already got the break when he only played 30 minutes against Stoke. If anything, the likes of Laurent Koscielny and Mikel Arteta are the ones who should be afforded some rest. Even Wenger himself is reluctant to divulge more information on his selection.
On the bright side for us, Thomas Vermaelen and Carl Jenkinson has suffered no ill-effect of their short involvement in the Chelsea game and looks confirmed starters for tonight. Yossi Benayoun has also been declared fit despite the vitriol received from Blues fans. But it’s almost as if we have to maintain the quota of those being injured as Marouane Chamakh joins the injured list while Abou Diaby’s absence has been prolonged.
Diaby’s injury is a bit problematic. He’s been out since the start of the season and has been unable to be fit long enough to stake a claim for first team places. Every time there’s a slot for him to fight, he loses out due to injury. I seemed to remember Matthieu Flamini got his place because Diaby was injured. Had Diaby remained fit at the start, I doubt Aaron Ramsey or Mikel Arteta would’ve played that many games.
So, here’s my take on the line-up tonight;
There’s other possible choices as well, if resting of players are the order of the night. Johan Djourou could come in for Per Mertesacker while Park Ju Young could replaced RvP. However, I would very much prefer if we played the first choice side and set out to get a result. With 2 or 3 goals lead at the hour mark, then we can start to think about giving some tired legs a rest.
If we play like we did in the second half against Chelsea, this could end up to be another big European win for Arsenal. Theo Walcott was key in that victory. His all round display providing the platform for our success. He has had bad games this season but not as many as others would like to point out.
I distinctly remember being very impressed with him at Borussia Dortmund. Not because he played the pass for RvP’s opener but because of his defensive work. It does tie in with what Wenger’s has been saying. That Walcott has suffered recently due to the adaptation with the extra workload of attacking and defending. If he can mix the two together like on Saturday, he’s going to be really important for us.
Lastly, I will leave you with this quote from Wenger.
After that, we must remember that we have won nothing.
Saturday’s win was good and will always be one of the most remembered games but that has now passed. The season is still a long way to go.
Up The Arsenal!!!