Arsenal 0 – 0 Marseille: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

There isn’t much to choose between the sides. In the two games over the fortnight, Arsenal and Marseille have shown they are closely matched with the Gunners nicking the away tie late but failing to score at home. Marseille were competitive but couldn’t produce enough in front of goal.

I was a bit surprised with the starting line-up. Wenger left his two best and most consistent players on current form on the bench as Park and Vermaelen came in for RvP and Koscielny. Jenkinson at right back was fairly predictable. I wasn’t expecting many changes and Vermaelen for Koscielny could be considered like-for-like and understandable. But leaving Van Persie out after he’d had a game and a half off recently was unexpected. One can only hope he still isn’t carrying that tightness in muscles that could potentially turn into a problem over the international break.

Nevertheless, it was a strong side and one that was expected to win the game. Credit to Marseille for their tactics and discipline.

Deschamps sent his players out with instructions to press higher up the pitch. That was an approach I’d not have guessed. It worked for the visitors in the first 8-9 minutes as it seemed that Arsenal were caught unawares. The midfield kept pushing up and it was easy for the French side to get into good crossing positions. Arsenal’s defence did well to limit the opponents to half-chances.

After a while Arsenal made some tactical changes. The midfielders, who were being caught away from the defence, dropped back. They players kept the ball on the ground instead of kicking it up and showed composure under pressure. Gervinho started making a number of runs in central areas as the visitors pushed up to press the Arsenal midfield higher up the pitch. Walcott remained in wide areas while Park made runs all over the pitch. The full back on Gervinho’s flank provided width while the one behind Walcott was more conservative. The midfield trio were fluid and interchanged positions but Ramsey got into advanced areas more often than the others. I have been looking for such changes for a long time now so was very pleased to see it all coming together.

The hosts created a number of chances for the rest of the half while restricting the visitors to a handful of bursts on the break that were well defended or resulted in hopeful shots from distance. The telling stat was that Marseille created 3 chances in the opening 8 minutes and the same number in the rest of the half. And those that came later on were further away from goal.

At the other end the Gunners could have done a lot better. Song’s passing in attacking areas was disappointing and ceded possession when better was expected. Park’s running was energetic but needs sharpening and better understanding as he tended to move towards the back post and away from the man on the ball when better intuitive runs could have been more productive. Ramsey missed a couple of decent chances – once when he arrived at the back post but couldn’t hit the target while sliding to connect with a Santos cross, and then, in the best chance of the half, delaying his strike after receiving a great pass from Gervinho on the edge of the box. The Ivorian was a constant menace with his central runs and some from wide areas as well but lacked strength in individual battles against the physically dominant defenders. He got into promising positions all through the game but was brushed off the ball rather easily.

Mandanda was tested twice – one each by Walcott and Gervinho – but those were saves you’d expect the keeper to make. Marseille would have been fairly happy with their defensive effort and the Gunners again failed to utilize the set-pieces.

The opening fifteen minutes of the second half were tight. Arsenal bossed the ball but there were hardly any chances for either side. Around the hour mark the Gunners started tiring. Subsequently the game became stretched and once again Arsenal’s midfield was getting caught away from the defence. Marseille got a lot of space down the wings and produced a number of half-chances. Szczesny wasn’t really tested though as Mertesacker and Vermaelen were immense at the centre of defence.

At the other end the hosts couldn’t create much. Van Persie came on for the ineffective Park while Rosicky was introduced for the visibly exhausted Ramsey. Little Mozart did put Van Persie through on one occasion but De Kapitein’s chip didn’t have enough elevation.

Towards the end Marseille looked more like the team that could snatch something but Arsenal were resolute in the central area in front of their goal.

Both managers will probably feel their side could have won it. I wasn’t very happy with Arsenal’s effort in the attacking third but the number of tactical adjustments were very encouraging as was the performance of the two central defenders. There is a concern over the apparent fatigue and one can only hope the cost won’t be paid against West Brom. The steady trot that the Gunners are on hasn’t turned into a run yet but at least it wasn’t interrupted.

Individual Performances:

Szczesny: Can’t recall the need for any big saves. Had some communication problems with Vermaelen that resulted in him flapping and getting out of position once or twice and a nervy moment as he came out to head a ball outside the box.

Jenkinson: Very strong in the defensive areas and tracked the runs of Ayew well. There could have been a big chance in the fifth minute if the youngster hadn’t been pressuring the striker into rushing his attempt. Passing and decision making in attacking areas needs to improve.

Mertesacker: Excellent game. MotM in my book. Dominated in the air, read the game beautifully, made a number of timely touches in and around the box.

Vermaelen: Very similar to the his partner. Dominated his area well, made a number of quality tackles, only blemish was his occasional communication gap with the Keeper.

Santos: Made some mistakes at the back, was erratic with his positioning, made useful runs and put in a couple of good crosses, overall defensive effort wasn’t too bad but needs improving.

Marseille got some joy down Arsenal’s flanks but the defenders were dominant in the central areas snuffing out danger before the opponents could capitalize. I thought some of the problems out wide came from leaving the wide players higher up the pitch and it could have worked given the quality of defending in front of goal.

Song: Absolutely dominated individual physical battles, got into excellent defensive positions, handled pressure with composure, needs to do better with his passes in attacking areas especially when he has time.

Ramsey: Not at his usual level from a finishing point of view but he reached the right places regularly. Passing was impressive and sharp in forward areas. Did a fair bit of tracking without the ball as he made up for the wide players staying further up the pitch.

Arteta: Solid shift on the left and bailed Santos out regularly. Steady passing. Tireless understated performance that was vital to the clean sheet.

The midfield took a while to get in the game but controlled it for 50 min or so after that. Song and Arteta deserve credit for their positional play and physical effort at the back. Ramsey probably worked the hardest but must be disappointed with his misses.

Walcott: Got a chance to run at the defence on a few occasions but Marseille made it compact when he reached the defensive third. His early balls weren’t as effective in this game.

Park: Lot of running but not on the same page as some of his teammates. Dropped deep regularly and his attempts at linking play were appreciable.

Gervinho: Was a constant threat with his runs, took up excellent positions centrally and between the lines to receive the ball and break forward, can do better with his final pass, needs to be stronger against the defenders once he gets the ball in and around the box.

The front three were a bit disappointing in this game. Better runs from Park might have made Walcott and Gervinho look impressive. It would be good to see further development of the “wide player making central runs” tactic, especially when counter-attacks are on with the midfield playing deeper. Theo and Gervinho should share this role.

Subs: Van Persie got only one real chance and I don’t blame him for missing it. Did put in a couple of good crosses into the box. Rosicky was tenacious and a bit unfortunate to pick up  a booking. Wasn’t as sharp with  his passing despite creating the chance for RvP. Arshavin struggled against physically strong opponents and put the team in trouble on a couple of occasions by losing the ball just inside the Marseille half with Santos pushing forward.

Wenger: Picked a strong enough side. First two substitutions were understandable but the introduction of Arshavin when the others were tiring was odd. Arsenal needed a player who could offer more physically rather than an odd moment of creativity. Tactical adjustments must be commended as they are clearly a result of work done in training. While this result was acceptable the real impact will probably be seen on the weekend as some players were exhausted by the final whistle.

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25 Responses to Arsenal 0 – 0 Marseille: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. Tim says:

    I thought Mertesacker, Vermaelen and Jenkinson were all excellent. Marseille clearly targeted Santos, and he was found severely wanting.

    Nonetheless, a subdued performance after Saturday wasn’t really that surprising. As for keeping RvP on the bench, I’m OK with Wenger being cautious. We are still in pole position in the CL, and it shows that our number 1 focus remains a top 4 finish, as it has to be.

    All in all, a draw was a decent result for both teams. It would have been lovely to have had another big win, but that’s the way football goes. As it is, we remain fully in control of our destiny, with a home game next up in which we can clinch qualification. That’s a hell of a lot better than most were predicting 2 months ago …

    http://thearmchairsportsfan.com/2011/11/01/stalemate-as-arsenal-edge-closer-to-champions-league-progression/

  2. MistaKen says:

    Agree Tim. Would not have believed it 2 months ago. Cant help thinking we are one VP injury away from serous lack of fire-power though.

  3. big tone says:

    its as predictable as day following night.
    Arsenal without RVP struggle, the defense only looks good against weak or non attacking opposition and wenger will continue to believe he can keep RVP going and therefore avoid a costly venture into the transfer market in january. Weve seen it all before,,,you can get carried away with a few good results,,thats your fantasy…i wont be happy till wenger goes…he keeps moving the targets(now its 4th spot) and fans accept the slow and seemingly unnoticeable drift in ambition.
    Wenger hasnt the bottle to spend big money so expect more mediocre players in january……if at all

    • BarDel says:

      God, please don’t start with that sack Wenger crap, its played out. Park looks like he has the potential to fill in for RVP, but he needs more games.

      If we sack wenger then what? Ancelloti? Fuck that. And then what? Which “top class” striker will come in knowing that they’ll be second fiddle to RVP? Wenger is Arsenal and you’re going to have to live with it.

    • Mohamed Zubairu says:

      To be talking about Wenger going at this time is a bit strange to me. I did not expect Wenger to go jugular in this game because of the after effect in the EPL. We are still leading the group and the team is getting better since they are understanding each other more. You need to know that if Wenger goes, Arsenal will not be the same again. It will be a change for the worse rather than better. Not even the current Barca coach can achieve as much under the same circumstances. The board does not want the club to get into serious debt that will ruin the club eventually and I back them on that.

    • Yemi says:

      I find it funny when I read comments of so called fans like u. Here we have individuals making genuine efforts to improve d team and all u can do is pointlessly criticize d team. Maybe u should become a Spurds or Shitty fan.

  4. Davi says:

    I agree with the assessment of Park, but there was one occasion that sticks out in my mind in the first half, where he was making a run behind the defence, and Walcott could have picked him out with a curled pass, but instead passed it behind him. There was also the chance where theo hit it very hard at him inside the box, and as a result, he couldn’t control it to get his shot off. Apart from that, I don’t remember him looking dangerous, however. Really liked his attitude, though, and he won some brilliant headers actually.
    I’d be interested to see him play against some average PL teams, because it has to be said that this Marseille side did have very good defenders. They were all big, strong, quick and looked like quite intelligent defenders to me, particularly Fanni. I was quite impressed we were able to hurt them so much without Van Persie, to be honest. Anyway, it was a tough game for Park to get in to; I hope he is given more chances with the first team in the future, because I really think he has a lot to offer.
    Gervinho just looks like a better signing with every game. His first touch isn’t perfect, nor is his decision-making at times, but he always makes himself available, and never gives up. He links up well with the rest of the side and takes defenders out of the game constantly. I think he has already established himself as our best wide player.

  5. santori says:

    As predicted, the defensive line up was correct IMO and we had a reasonably solid game at the back.

    I also thought Wenger would start Park to give RVP somewhat of a respite.

    However I do not think either of Chamakh or Park are as equally effective playing up front on their own in a 4-3-3 without someone close in support.

    Park was effective with AA playing close on hand. Wenger should have continued the budding relationship and played a slightly modidied 4-4-1-1 in my opinion.

    Also I thought slection in the middle was tricky. In the end, Wenger went for the form players with pace out wide (understandable given Marseille’s assets)

    However whilst we were effective centre of the park, I thought we missed a bit of zip. I would have preferred Arteta rested and maybe young Coquelin in alongside the more experienced Song.

    Also whilst Ramsey was getting into good positions, his decision making was a little off today. He should have shot the ball first time in the box on one occasion and in another he failed to pick out an open player. i think he knew it and was visibly frustrated at the half.

    Again, I thought AA would have been more effective considering the big shift put in over the weekend.

    I had a niggling feeling that this one was going to end in a stalemate (take nothing away from Marseille, they are an incredibly organised unit defending)

    Not the most dissapointing result considering the weekend effort but we could have nicked it with a little more zip on the field and I thought we may have risked it a little playing some players with tired legs. Particularly second half where I would have preffered to have seen benayoun and maybe a surpirise package (Myaichi being my pick) come on to keep the momentum.

    Reality check. On to the next one.

    Good thing, Defense looked reasonably solid.

    Oh and yes, shout to Szsc…great dribbling skills! 😀

    • dy says:

      Spot on, you’ve great understanding of the match.
      Arsenal did well enough against Chelsea because Chelsea played a wrong tactical game which left so much space behind their defence for Walcott and Gerv to explore and run into. But Marseilles is a different team and certainly they’ve done their homework. Their finishing isn’t great (in this game at least) or else Arsenal would suffer a defeat. I’m really impressed with their defensive play too. So 0-0 is fair result though a bit disappointing being at home.

  6. Northbanksy says:

    A predictable performance after what must have been a mentally & physically draining game against Chelsea at the week-end… solid defensively but lacking in any great creativity or flair on the goal scoring front.
    Perverse choice to leave our captain on the bench from the off, but my suspicion is that AW was attempting to respond to recent criticsm that Arsenal are currently a one man team…& it back-fired.
    Still waiting for Theo to be played as a central attacker, rather than being wasted out on the right wing.

  7. OMG Aesenal says:

    Excellent tactical analysis of a very fluid attacking game and a very tight defensive performance from both teams. The fatigue factor definitely showed tonight as AFC were dragging it at the end. they have 3 days to recuperate, which I am sure is enough with the bench strength we have. We finally have 3 excellent choices for CB and that is comforting as well. Jenkinson will improve game by game and Santos is gradually starting to understand the rythmn of the Arsenal team, but he’s not in the best of form yet. Park hasn’t played enough to understand how the attack functions but once he does, he’ll be better and better.
    OM are no pushovers and have very pacey wingers so this was a good test for our defense, which seems to have passed inspection. We have a fairly tame November for a change so that will help us and with the Verminator back, we can afford to breath a little easier defensively.

  8. Davi says:

    By the way, desi, I’m glad someone recognises the importance of Arteta to the way we play now. A lot of people seem disappointed with him, I think because everyone expected him to be a creative attacking midfielder, but he’s playing more like gilberto than fabregas or nasri. He’s much more dogged than I would have expected, and he really helps us to take control of games. It is since arteta has adjusted to this new role that we have started to look more solid and difficult to beat.
    Ramsey is now starting to impose himself more, playing some nice passes, and gervinho in particular is making things happen from the wide positions. We definitely need an answer for when van persie will be unavailable, but I think Park could provide that. He shows all the work rate and aerial ability that was so impressive about chamakh in the early stages of last season, but looks to be more composed and confident when he gets the chance to shoot. He needs to be given time, though.

  9. OMG Aesenal says:

    big tone…go tinkle your little bells somewhere where AAA’s grovel before their AW voodoo dolls while continuously chanting ¨Wenger out¨……you are pitiful and have long ago lost the plot!

  10. Dove says:

    The performance was not that bad. Yet, it showed the team’s dependence on Van Persie. We could not also break organized defences. We create chances when teams play open games. But, when the defence is deep and organized, we struggle.

    The manager has to look for some alternatives. Maybe he needs to buy a dependable center forward. Park may need some more games to adapt with the league.

    • Mohamed Zubairu says:

      “The manager has to look for some alternatives. Maybe he needs to buy a dependable center forward. Park may need some more games to adapt with the league.” If what Park needs is time to adjust, then why the need to buy a dependable center forward? Which is easier, to get Park adjust to EPL or buy another player? I think Park should be given more game minutes from the substitutes’ bench and in the cup ties. It is important to rest RVP as much as we can afford and in this game, I think the decision to rest him was a good one.

  11. Opeyemi says:

    Very detailed match report as usual. I just hope and pray that we top the group. A repeat of last seasons draw against tough opposition should be avoided at all cost.

  12. Shagx says:

    I thought we played a good game. We controled the game pretty well after the first 10 mins. What we lacked was the final pass really. Most passes were just inches off. Not much but couple of inches in front or couple of inches behind which halted our attacking play. Having said that, Ramsey had 2 great chances, Gervinho had a great chance as well. On another day, we would’ve buried at least 1 of them, but we’re only human and these things happen. I like Santos, he’s not as bad as people as people are making out of him. He intercepted loads of passes and won back loads of balls. Yes, he does bomb forward a lot and leaves spaces behind, but is it what the other players should pick up on, and cover for him? He worked the left flank tirelessly. Absolutely full hearted display. Arteta covered for him well. As long as he doesn’t do that when Arshavin is playing in front of him, then we’re all good.
    To say our defense only look good because Marseille is rubbish going forward is absolutely ridiculus. If anything Marseille looked good when going forward, they defended well also. Getting 4 points from them is indeed not bad at all!

  13. AbachaGhana says:

    Its always bad and morale killing how we the fans react towards the team after every unwanted result by da Gunners. Every team fans get that… The best performance of Mert’s career since he joined the Gunners as i lost count on the number of rescues he offered at the back… I thought u would be to see arshavin as he tends to be ur favourite player now so you in particular my give credit to wenger 4 bringing him on but it seems u are blaming him… I was crying 2 see him as he can be creative on tired opponents.. Hats off Desi for ur good job. We the gud fans love that

  14. AbachaGhana says:

    Park needs game to adapt, his confidence level, ability to shoot runs and prescence make him more reliable back up 4 rvp in my opinion

  15. zaragooner says:

    when our opponent came to Emirates to get a draw result, most of the time we will be trapped in their style of game.. I will take a draw result at anytime against OM. I believe that Desi has covered details on match report. the only things that worrying me is how quick people forget their wishes to see boss start Park, and when Park had a ‘doggy’ moment, they start called him “cunt”. Bare in mind that he only played three games as at now, and he still need game. To write him off after that three game, that was ridiculous.. i hope to see him play regularly in CC game and maybe start in EPL game.. Last night, boss has answered our question, why he took so long to play Park. In Arsene we trust.

  16. Frankie Parke says:

    people are milking the dependence on van persie way too much. we only scored in the last minute with ramseys goal at marsille last time and van persie played the whole game. you can expect us to win every game then when we draw blame it on not playing van persie

  17. dy says:

    Park is good and so are Santos and Mert, glad Arsenal bought them. All three of then came from different countries and different style of play, certainly need time to adjust to the EPL games and fine tune to the Arsenal way .

  18. Oceania says:

    One thing I think should be remembered is that Park was in for Chamakh. We have seen Chamakh, Gervinho, and Walcott play up front before, I can’t remember the game, and they did a great job. So for anyone else other than Chamakh or RvP to come in, they were going to be put in a difficult situation. It looked as if Gervinho was tired but he gave it his all, in which case I think Arshavin was saved for this weekend’s game and will do the heavy lifting.

  19. Zgunner says:

    I can easily say I am happy with every single signing we made in the transfer window + Miyachi. I have every reason to Have faith in them from what I’ve seen in the last 6 weeks.

    I like the recipe.. now the proof is in the pudding.

    Arsenal!

  20. james says:

    Still very surprised that with all the clamor out there, Arsene doesn’t make any effort to attempt a basic 4-4-2 and see how it turns out; I’m looking forward to a noticeable improvement in our backline with the progression of Metzy and Vermy. I wished we’d seem Arshavin play in a front-2 with someone else just to see what happens but that doesn’t seem to be coming anytime soon.
    All in all, it’s a nice point but I clearly remember us failing to capitalize in a similar way last year and coming 2nd in our group thanks to a mixture of bad luck, poor plays and bad decisions. I really won’t be optimistic if we end up meeting a Real or Barca in the next round.

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