View From The North Bank: Arsenal 0 Marseille 0
After the high of Saturday there was always likely to be some kind of come down in our next game. This is Arsenal after all. A draw against a decent Marseille side is certainly not cause for major concern but it does represent an opportunity missed; a win last night would’ve seen us qualify for the knockout stages with two games left to play.
Arsenal lacked the extra spark required to break the deadlock. It’s hard to determine whether the lack of cutting edge had anything to do with Saturday’s exertions or if we should attribute it to the omission of our captain. It’s also hard to fault the effort put in by the likes of Gervinho, Walcott and Ramsey who worked hard to create an opening.
Ramsey missed two good chances in the fast half; Walcott saw a shot pushed wide by Mandanda whilst the Gervinho was frustrated in his continued forays into Marseille territory. Avenues in behind, usually exploited by the likes of Gervinho and Walcott, were closed off by a solid, well organised and pacey defence.
Park Chu-Young started ahead of RVP, given the opportunity to expand on his promising display last week against Bolton. The Korean looked a little bit lost at times but we should remember that he’s still had relatively little game time, particularly in the intensity of a Champions League match against an opponent desperate to give a better account of themselves.
Van Persie was introduced in the second half and he suffered the same as his team mates. Marseille were industrious and limited our space and the one time Van Persie did break free he tamely lobbed the ball into the keepers arms. It was to be indicative of the game; nearly, but not quite.
As Wenger said, the gamble to rest RVP and introduce him as sub very nearly paid off. If only Van Persie had put his foot through his chance and broke the back of the net as he does so often!
There were positives to take from the game. The back four, with Vermaelen and Mertesacker in tandem for the first time, looked solid. Vermaelen, captain on the night, was strong and authoritative, sniffing out danger and covering his team mates, whilst the German’s positional awareness is genuinely top class. He may look cumbersome and have made some defensive aberrations, but I feel his experience will provide an asset to this team.
Jenkinson had a steady game also, doing particularly well in the opening exchanges to get across to cover a ball across the face of the goal. He looks short of confidence on the attacking side of his game at times though.
A lack of confidence is certainly not something you can level at Andre Santos. Sometimes he plays how I imagine Andrei Arshavin might play if he had to fill in at left back. His coolness is not for the faint hearted and I’m sure he’ll get a few verbal bashings from Vermaelen but, that said, his self belief buys him time in situations where others might panic. His attacking input is valuable. He has a sense for when to overlap and his delivery is good; his cross gave Ramsey a good opportunity to score in the first half. I sense that watching Santos might be a bit of a rollercoaster.
It’s not really a surprise that we couldn’t quite live up to the giddy heights of Saturday but in fairness, a draw isn’t a bad result. A real comedown would have been to concede a late goal when the visitors began to apply late pressure. A point here, added to the victory at the Stade Veledrome, leaves us with the four point tally we targeted from these two matches. It’s an opportunity lost but we’re still on track to qualify and win the group.
Keep The Faith.