We have now to forget about Chelsea, carry on, and prove that we can keep doing the job.
Wenger knows what he is saying. The victory at the weekend was as uplifting as any in recent memory but most fans will recall how a similar win against Barcelona was quickly forgotten when the subsequent results disappointed.
It will be a new day and a new game when Marseille set foot at the Emirates turf. Arsene also knows it will be an even tougher game than the one in France a fortnight ago.
I believe they have the team which certainly is more at ease away from home… They have gained in confidence in between the two games like we have so it should be an interesting tie. But for us it’s an opportunity to qualify and of course we want to take this chance.
They are a side who can defend well with very physical and quick players on the break, so I believe that the counter attack suits them more than dominating the game.
Marseille always make life difficult for teams in England, so let’s be cautious, prepare well and be completely focused tomorrow night.
Arsenal can move to ten points with a win. While mathematically two teams could still match that, the Gunners will probably qualify due to a better head-to-head record against Marseille. However, that’s just a minor point. There is no reason for repeating the second place finish from last season so the Gunners will want to win this one and get more points from the remaining two fixtures.
Tactically, this game will be noticeably different from the humdinger at Chelsea. Deschamps’ side will play deeper in their half, will be structurally stronger, and will make fewer individual mistakes. They cannot boast of an array of attacking talent similar to the Blues but they do have pace on the counter attacks and a fair degree of technical quality that could lead to quality balls and finishes when given space to attack.
Arsenal will have to work harder in the attacking areas to win this one. When a team tries that it can at times leave the back door open. It would be excellent if the Gunners can completely eliminate that but perhaps a touch unrealistic. Some chances will be conceded. The central defenders will have some tracking and intercepting to do whenever the visitors try to get in behind. But if the defenders and the Keeper don’t make any major mistakes they should be fine.
Marseille are also strong on set-pieces. At the Stade Velodrome Arsenal looked more threatening from free-kicks but it would be unwise to let the guard down.
It will also be interesting to see how Wenger approaches this one. Will he put his strongest side out? Will Le Boss rotate and rest a few players with an eye on the weekend clash? I am glad I don’t have to make these decisions as there don’t seem to be any obviously right answers. If he rotates and loses he will be criticized. But starting and losing a player to injury will also be a major problem. We just have to hope Wenger has the right information to make these decisions and nothing untoward happens during the game. It’s November now so fingers crossed.
I believe Arsene will play his best possible team with a few changes if a player really needs a break.
At the back there is a big decision with Vermaelen returning to fitness. Should he come into the central defence straight away? If so at whose expense? Koscielny has been in exceptional form but Mertesacker is more complimentary to the Belgian. Should Djourou retain his place ahead of the rookie Jenkinson? Should TV5 start at left-back? Does Santos have enough in him to play three games in a week or so?
Most fans will probably have instinctive opinions on these questions. I know I do. Jenkinson seems like the right choice for his favoured position. Koscielny and Mertesacker should remain in the centre of defence while Vermaelen should come in at left back. Based purely on what I have seen it’s hard to imagine Santos putting in a solid shift every three days. But Wenger will base his decision on hard facts related to fitness and form so there would be no arguments from my side on these selections even if hindsight proves him wrong.
I can understand calls for replacing Mertesacker with Vermaelen and Arsene could do that but I’d prefer stability in that partnership.
The options in midfield are also quite interesting. Song, Ramsey, and Arteta are developing well together but Benayoun and Rosicky also need games. Up front, Arshavin and Park would be hoping to dislodge a couple from the trio that tormented Chelsea. Again these decisions are just not easy.
I’d leave Walcott out of the starting eleven as he probably won’t be that effective against a team that sits back.
Song is a hard player to replace and the only ones with similar styles are the young guns, Coquelin and Frimpong. It would be risky to put either of them in the starting line-up. Arteta too has a special role and helps the side keep the ball moving while making significant defensive contribution in deeper areas. Can Benayoun do that? I am not sure.
Ramsey and Rosicky could battle for the attacking midfield birth or Little Mozart could start on the wing. Rambo is just getting into a rhythm and could benefit from a continued run.
So after all that discussion I would recommend only three changes to the side that demolished Chelsea.
Szczesny – Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen – Song, Ramsey, Arteta – Rosicky/Benayoun/Arshavin, RvP, Gervinho.
Park would have to do with a place on the bench.
Arsene will also have to take the country-football into consideration. For instance, Arteta has played a lot of games but he had a break during the last international fortnight and will have one after this weekend. So does he really need a breather right now? It’s quite possible that Le Boss has had a word with some of the managers of national sides to know their plans for his players. That should also help him balance the load.
After a few rounds of two steps forward one step back, Arsenal are finally on a run of sorts. Well, at least a steady trot. This game should provides a chance to build on that leading up to the West Brom game and the international break.
One thing is for sure, Arsenal have sufficient players to pick a very strong line-up while having respectable bench strength. Touchwood. Now it’s a matter of sending those players out with the right instructions and for the players to deliver on the pitch.
I want to end by sharing a link to my analysis of the Chelsea game for Epl Index. That article has some chalkboards and stats along with a couple of tactical observations. I believe it’s got some interesting points. Those who have enjoyed such articles on this blog in the past will most probably appreciate it. Have a read if you are still relishing that magnificent win and fancy another look at the events of the game.