It probably wasn’t easy for the players. Some team lives on the high of the magnificent victory from the previous game and goes on a rampage in the next few weeks/games. Some teams clings on to that magnificent victory and thought they didn’t have to do much to win the following games. Arsenal, it seems, are somewhere in between.
Compared to what we saw on Saturday, this was quite a flat performance. Of course, it would be rather ridiculous to expect the team to play like that every single game. Forms dip, injuries suffered and the opposition we play impact the performance. There were chances to win the game against Marseille but clinical as we were on Saturday, we were guilty of not taking our chance.
Andrey Arshavin spoke before hand about how we should take our opportunity to win this home tie and sitting on the bench for 77 minutes, he must have wondered whether he had jinxed the team. Arsene Wenger made just three changes to the side that beat Chelsea. Bringing in Carl Jenkinson, Thomas Vermaelen and Park Ju Young for Johan Djourou, Laurent Koscielny and Robin Van Persie respectively.
Despite those changes, I would certainly have us as the one who dominated the early proceedings. Aaron Ramsey being the hub of almost every one of our attacks. This time though, the final ball or the decision making were letting him and the team down. Hesitation to shoot and electing to shoot when he should have played to a team mate who is free from any marking were the disappointments from him.
Park and Gervinho were also guilty of poor first touch inside the penalty box, which enabled the Marseille defenders to cut in and clear the ball. There was also a shout for a penalty when Souleymane Diaware handled Andre Santos’ cross. The referee gave the call but decided that the offence was outside the box. Replay would show that the position of the foul was wrongly called.
That said, it wasn’t all Arsenal in the first half. The away team did threatened to score. Loic Remy with the best chance, a low curling grounder that just missed the far post with Wojciech Szczesny already beaten. Szczesny though, tried to make it easier for them by doing two consecutive Cryuff turn inside of his penalty area. He’s really a mad one. Like GabTheGooner said on twitter, someday when it backfires, hopefully it’s while playing for Poland.
Plenty of those chances for Marseille came from the left side of our defence. Santos looks a real threat going forward but provided little cover when defending. He was caught out of position repeatedly and thanks to the awareness of Alex Song, Mikel Arteta and Vermaelen; we were not caught napping. Just like Saturday, Santos’ display would improve in the second half, albeit with less foray up field.
Van Persie was finally introduced on the hour mark but was left with little time to make an impression. Though, he had the best chance in the second half to score. Put through first time by Tomas Rosicky, RvP went for the jugular. A chip at the edge of the box which was weak and easily claimed by Steve Mandanda in Marseille’s goal.
That was about as threatening as we got. Didier Deschamps men saw a lot more of the ball in the second half but found Arsenal’s defence impenetrable. Song was magnificent in front of the back four. He slot in when any of the defenders were out of position and moped up every second ball that were there to be won. Alongside him, Arteta read every single danger and provided the solid foil for Song.
Per Mertesacker and Vermaelen got their first clean sheet in their first outing as a pair in a competitive fixture. Which is really good to see. They have struck up a good understanding of each other’s play and that only augurs well for us. With the impressive Koscielny taking a breather last night, Wenger will have the good kind of conundrum when coming to choose who to play next.
On a day when RvP was afforded a rest, the pressure and responsibilities fell more on the shoulders of the wide men. It would be harsh on Park to expect him to replace RvP and take over the goal scoring responsibility. To be frank, he was not as good as he was during the Bolton game but that is to be expected of a player who’s playing only making his 3rd appearance for us in 3 months.
Most of the attacking burden were shouldered on the collective pace and trickery of Walcott and Gervinho. To their credit, they were busy. Trying to drive the play on their flank but found little change out of Rod Fanni and Jeremy Morel. Even when they switched flanks, the profited little extra.
In the end, a point was all we gained. The first time we’ve dropped points at home in the Champions League since the 2-2 draw against Barcelona 2 seasons ago. Borussia Dortmund claimed their first victory of the campaign against Olympiacos and they will be looking to get a win in the next fixture at the Grove. Instead of ensuring qualification, Wenger will now have to play his first team against Dortmund to avoid facing a tricky final fixture against the Greek side.
Not the perfect result that we wanted to continue our recent improvement in form. Not that we need to sulk after this result either. Time to switch the focus to a little bit of revenge in the next fixture.