Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Arsenal's Champions League Trip To Marseille Previewed

Things are going so well for Arsenal at the moment that it's hard to think back to the feelings after the opening day league defeat to Villa. After that game we were told Arsenal were there for the taking by a good Fenerbache team, but when Arsenal destroyed them it turned out they weren't very good after all. The two legged win over Fenerbache put Arsenal through to the group stages of the Champions League and they got a fairly tough draw. 

As well ax tonight's opponents Marseille they will also have to face both Borussia Dortmund and Napoli. All four teams are capable of winning the group or progressing to the knockout stages, but Dortmund have to be seen as favourites after reaching last season's final. It won't be an easy task for Arsenal in this group but it's a group they're more than capable of qualifying from.

The biggest obstacle the team face at the moment is their long list of injuries and of course their relatively small squad size. Injuries to one or two key players at the moment could have an adverse effect to their chances, but thankfully the injured players are slowly starting to return. For the first time this season Arsenal should have all of their first team squad defenders available for selection.

I expect the boss to play his strongest defence which should mean Carl Jenkinson drops to the bench and Per Mertesacker comes back from his illness to play in the centre. Hopefully he can have a calming effect on Laurent Koscielny who has made a few rash challenges in the opening games this season. It also means Bacary Sagna will move to right back where he is defensively stronger than Jenkinson although Jenkinson certainly delivers the ball better at the other end.

In midfield with no word of Santi Cazorla returning I expect to see the same players performing as the ones that tore Sunderland apart on Saturday. I'm not too sure which of them was meant to be playing on the left of the attacking trio because the constant movement meant each player popped up there at some stage with the exception of anchorman Matthieu Flamini. The only possibility of a change among the midfield and attack will be if Olivier Giroud fails to recover from the knock he picked up on Saturday. 

If Giroud can't play I would imagine Theo Walcott will play as the central striker with one of the younger players coming in on the right or left. I have a feeling Ryo Miyaichi could be the player to get a chance if that's the case, but I think Giroud will probably play. The lack of another dedicated striker in the squad means there's a lot depending on Giroud at the moment and he has delivered with five goals in six games.

Arsenal won their ninth away game in a row on Saturday and a win tonight would equal the club record of 10 away wins in a row. It won't be an easy task against a good Marseille team who are currently in the top four in France. They're behind big spending Monaco and PSG with three wins and a draw in their first five games.

Arsenal are more than capable of going there and getting a positive result though and anything but a defeat would be a good result. It's always great to get the Champions League campaign off to a good start and a win would be the perfect outcome. It would leave them in a very good position before Napoli come to Arsenal early next month and make Marseille's task in the group a very difficult one.

I think Arsenal will get the win they want and new man Mesut Ozil will be the one pulling the strings in midfield. He will be ably assisted by Aaron Ramsey who has had a magnificent start to the season and has managed five goals from midfield in the opening six games. Walcott missed some very good chances on Saturday after Ozil set him up a few times and he could be the one to benefit tonight.

It will probably be a very close game but nine away wins in a row suggests to me that Arsenal know what they're doing on the road. The difference in the teams might just be the touch of magic Ozil has and I expect to see even more from him now that he has trained with his new team mates for a little longer. He showed on Saturday that he is going to fit in very nicely with the Arsenal style of play and he is the best player in the Premier League in my opinion. 

Marseille will have to work awfully hard to stop Ozil and they could find themselves tiring before the end. Even if things aren't going their way Arsenal will need to keep playing their own game right to the very end. Arsenal are well noted for scoring late goals and part of the reason for that is because they wear teams down with their passing. Let's hope they can win by a few goals tonight but any win will be acceptable and all the players coming through unscathed would be an added bonus. 

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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