Monday, October 31, 2011

Match Preview: Arsenal Vs Marseille; The Gunners Are Favourites To Win And Possibly Qualify

Tomorrow's Group F UEFA champions league fixtures are guaranteed to make or mar the prospect of qualification in the long-run for the likes of Arsenal, Olympique Marseille, Borussia Dortmund and Olimpiacos. In the meantime, the north london outfit is occupying the highly coveted 1st spot courtesy of an impressive 7 points haul from 3 matches, closely followed by Ligue1 in-form side Marseille (6 points). A win for Arsenal and Group F's surprise back-bencher Dortmund (1 point), against Olimpiacos (3 points) will almost certainly guarantee the possibility of qualification for the Gunners.

During Match Day 3 at Marseille, Arsenal were not 100 percent solid at the back, but they somehow managed to keep their host's numerous danger men at bay - from the playmaker known as the "little bike" to Andre Ayew and Loic Remy in attack, the Gunners showed that they came prepared by giving answers to every threat Didier Deschamps men posed. Deschamps has a very potent attacking force that is spear-headed by the duo of Ayew and Remy, and the tactician expects his attackers to live up to the lofty expectations of the fans given the frosty relationship between him and the club's sporting director Jose Anigo. Arsene Wenger has had his own fair share of problems with the Arsenal faithful, but a good defensive display coupled with an exhibition of real attacking quality that has the potential to ensure an express ticket to the next round of the competition would be very welcome by his admirers and critics alike.

After fighting off resistance from a highly motivated Chelsea team on Saturday Arsenal will go into their Champions League clash with Marseille on the back of that 5-3 victory. Arsenal showed great determination and courage against Chelsea, and through out the thrilling encounter their attacking prowess was never in doubt thanks to the current understanding being generated by the likes of Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott and Yao Gervinho in attack. The Netherlands international was clinical and merciless in front of Petr Cech, as the hapless goalkeeper watched the 28-year-old stroke the ball casually home at will. Theo Walcott was at his flying best - He conquered the wings very early in the game by literally terrorising the old guards with his messmerizing runs. And as expected, this impressive display culminated in the dictionary definition of a soccer punch less than 10 minutes into the second half. Yao Gervinho extended his steady run of healthy performances in the premier league at the weekend. The Ivory Coast international was unselfish as usual in front of goal, and quickly made amends for his earlier miss with a well laid out pass to van Persie which resulted in the equaliser.

In Midfield, I think Wenger will start with his strongest trio of Mikel Arteta, Alex Song and the in-form Aaron Ramsey - the youngster has tapped so much from the massive experience the Arsenal midfield department can offer and just like the absent Jack Wilshere I think our boy will go places if he maintains or strives to improve the current standard he operates on. Although I would like to see a midfield that comprises of the afore-mentioned players, I would not be disappointed if Tomas Rosicky or Yossi Benayoun is drafted in to dictate midfield proceedings, in the eventuality that the manager decides to hand any of his high flyers a well-deserved rest.

The Gunners are set to hand their fit again Belgium import Thomas Vermaelen a place in the heart of the defense alongside Per Mertesacker or Laurent Koscielny. On second thoughts; I will opt for the more versatile Koscielny - the France international has successfully passed the stern premier league test with flying colours. As for Werder Bremen's former skipper I think his adaptation cycle is incomplete yet. At right back, it is very obvious that Arsene Wenger's summer acquisition Carl Jenkinson will relieve Johan Djourou of his defensive duties come this time tomorrow. In left back Andre Santos will certainly start pending the return of Kieran Gibbs from injury.

In all, from an Arsenal supporter point of view I expect us to seize the day.