Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Arsenal's Champons League Game With Marseille Previewed.

With Saturday's magnificent 5-3 victory over Chelsea still fresh in their minds Arsenal get back to Champions League action tonight with a home game against Marseille. In the reverse fixture a couple of weeks ago Arsenal left it very late, but they emerged with three points to put them to the top of their group. It means that they can secure qualification to the last 16 of the competition with a win in tonight's game.

It would be great for Arsenal to secure qualification with two games to go, and continue their current winning streak. They have now won eight of their last nine games in all competitions, and scored 22 goals in the process. They have of course conceded 10 goals in those games too, but their victories have been built on their ability to score and not defend.

There have been suggestions that Arsene Wenger will make a lot of changes for this game, but I think he should play his strongest possible team. The advantage of winning their group with two games remaining cannot be overstated, and it would offer Arsenal the opportunity to rest players in the last two group games. Even if Arsenal win tonight I think they need to make sure they win the group by beating Borussia Dortmund in their next game.

The Arsenal team were so good on Saturday that Wenger should consider playing the same team just to keep the momentum going. I would imagine that there will be a couple of changes though, and I expect the defence might be altered slightly.

Johan Djourou is not a right back and I imagine that Carl Jenkinson has to be favourite to fill that role now that he is fit again. With Thomas Vermaelen also fit again there is real competition in the centre of defence, and Wenger has some tough choices to make. I think Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny are the best pairing at the moment, but whether they are chosen together or not is anybody's guess.

I hope the three midfielders and the three attacking players all keep their places, and play the flowing attacking football that Chelsea could not cope with on Saturday. Besides the absolute brilliance of Robin Van Persie the performances of the other five players were all very good too. When Cesc Fabregas left I said the creative responsibility had to be shared among the rest of the team, and that was the case on Saturday.

I wasn't impressed with Marseille when they lost to Arsenal two weeks ago, and I think they could be in for a tough time tonight. Their form in the French league has improved after their very poor start, but they still look a long way from a team capable of making an impact in the Champions League. Their next group game is at home to Olympiacos, and they should qualify from the group if they win that game regardless of the result in tonight's game.

I still don't think Arsenal are completely out of the woods, but opponents might just start to fear them again after Saturday's result. Arsenal were given time on the ball against Chelsea, and they used it well but they might not get that time tonight. Arsenal have struggled to break down teams that defend in depth with numbers, and they are bound to see even more of that now.

Other teams will realise that it can be very dangerous to push forward against Arsenal when they are at their best, and they might face a lot of massed defences. I think the players who are most likely to break down massed defences are RVP and Gervinho, and they could be the ones to make the difference tonight.

In the game a couple of weeks ago Marseille didn't offer too much in attack for a team playing at home in Europe, and I expect them to offer even less tonight. A draw would be a good result for them, and they will do all they can to come away with a point. They will also know that the longer they can keep Arsenal scoreless, the better it is for them.

Arsenal's defence is still far from solid, and only two Premier League teams have conceded more goals than them this season. They have only kept five clean sheets in 17 games so far this season, and despite their win on Saturday they still conceded three more goals.

I'm a huge fan of Wojciech Szczesny, but I'm getting a little bit worried by the mistakes creeping into his game. He was very lucky not to be sent off against Chelsea, and he needs to cut out the Manuel Almunia style errors. He's still very young and he will learn, but he needs to learn when to stay on his line and when to come charging out.

Tonight's game will be Arsenal's second last game before the international break, and they need to go out on a high. A win tonight and a win against West Brom on Saturday will send the players off to their national teams on a high, and increase the belief in the squad and among the fans. I'm predicting a 3-1 win for Arsenal, and I think one of their defenders will get in on the scoring again.

Andre Santos scored against Chelsea on Saturday, and it seemed to be just the tonic he needed after a poor first half in that game. I still think he is too quick to go to ground when he is tackling, but he has an awful lot more to offer going forward than his predecessor. He has two goals already since he signed at the end of August, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him end up with more than five goals this season.

Thankfully the game tonight will be shown live on television, and there will be no need to go looking for a stream. It can be very frustrating searching for a stream at times, but that's the lot of a dedicated football fan. What happens on Saturday is an entirely different matter though, as the game against West Brom won't be shown live.
That's it for today.

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See You Tomorrow.

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