Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Arsenal Beat Montpellier To Ensure Champions League Progression

Arsenal played at home to Montpellier last night in their final home game in their Champions League group. They went into the game in second place in the group with Schalke a point ahead of them. A win for both Arsenal and Schalke was required to ensure qualification for the knockout stages for both clubs.

Arsene Wenger made only one change from the team which beat Spurs 5-2 at the weekend. The injured Theo Walcott was replaced on the right side of the attacking trio by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The young Englishman was making his first start since his return from injury.

The ideal scenario was for Arsenal to beat a Montpellier team who had taken only one point in four games and for Schalke to win too. Any other scenario would have left Arsenal needing something from a trip to Olympiacos in two weeks and that's never an easy task.

There wasn't too much to report from the first half with Arsenal coming closest when a Laurent Koscielny header from a Jack Wilshere cross hit the bar. At the other end Wojciech Szczesny had to be at his best to slide in and deny Montpellier.
Half time arrived with no goals and a similar score line in Germany.

Arsenal needed to pick up the pace and take control of the game as quickly as possible. Only four minutes into the second half they got the breakthrough goal that they needed. Jack Wilshere's last competitive goal for the club came 725 days beforehand and he was the man to get the goal.

Thomas Vermaelen lobbed a pretty ordinary cross into the box with his right foot from the left hand side. Olivier Giroud rose above the defence to head the ball back into the centre of the goalmouth and Wilshere was on hand to prod it home. It was just what Arsenal needed and a welcome boost for Wilshere too after missing 17 months through injury.

Arsenal had Montpellier where they wanted them and they assumed control of the game. A one goal lead is a slender one and the team worked hard to try to earn a two goal cushion. Recently a two goal cushion has been far from enough for Arsenal, but it's still better than one.

The second goal came just after the hour mark after more great work from Giroud. Lukas Podolski played a pass to him on the edge of the box and his first time return dropped over the defence for the advancing Podolski to volley. He caught the volley perfectly and it flew straight over the keeper before he could even move to make it 2-0.

Arsenal now had the cushion they wanted and they played some good possession football from there on. A few reasonable chances were created, but the most important thing was that they stayed tight at the back. Montpellier never really had a chance until a last minute shot went narrowly wide.

With Arsenal 2-0 up it was up to Schalke to do their part and they obliged with 15 minutes left. They then saw the game out to win 1-0 and keep their place at the top of the group table. More importantly both Schalke and Arsenal have qualified for the last 16 with a game to spare.

Arsenal will more than likely send a fringe squad to that game in Greece in two weeks time. There is still a possibility they can win the group but they would have to win that game while Schalke fail to win at Montpellier to do so. The prospect of a better draw in the last 16 is always better if you win the group but it's certainly not guaranteed.

Arsenal have now advanced from the group stages of the Champions League for 13 seasons in a row and very few teams can match that record. It's one to be proud of but it would be even better if they could place the trophy in their cabinet at some stage. I can't see it happening this season, but hopefully so in the not too distant future.

Next up for Arsenal there are three Premier League games in eight days starting with a trip to Aston Villa on Saturday evening. There are nine points to be won in those games and Arsenal need as many points as possible from them.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment