Arsenal 2 – 0 Montpellier: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

The Gunners had to win this game and they did just that. It wasn’t an easy win but I think it’s safe to say Arsenal did more than enough to come out worthy winners.

Montpellier came out with a simple enough plan. They wanted to stop Arsenal from dictating the pace of the game. In order to achieve this they had to push up and press intensely in the central third. The overall tempo of the game was very high in the opening 20 odd minutes where both sides were trying to control the midfield. Arsenal had more possession at the back but weren’t finding a way forward, something we have seen in many other games this season. Montpellier were able to create some openings but didn’t have sufficient quality in the final third to convert the promising moments into goals.

Apart from a Koscielny header that rocked the bar in the 11th minute from a follow up to a corner, neither side really created any clear openings. The frantic pace of the game forced too many mistakes from both sides. For Arsenal, Giroud and Oxlade-Chamberlain really struggled to get into the game in the opening 25-30 minutes. Often their contribution was to lose possession in tight spaces. Wilshere too was having an uncharacteristically sloppy game from a passing point of view.

Podolski was making some useful runs without receiving the ball but he did get a golden opportunity in the 31st minute when Koscielny’s powerful run caught the Montpellier defence out of shape. The German dragged his right-footed shot wide when a pass for Giroud, who was free on the edge of the box, might have been a better option.

It was around this time that Arsenal started controlling the game better as the visitors couldn’t quite sustain the intensity of their pressing. Their transitions were no longer as threatening and the Gunners started looking relatively comfortable at the back. This also had a relieving effect on the midfield who were able to take more risks with the passing and positioning.

Nevertheless, Montpellier remained well-organized at the back and limited clear goal-scoring opportunities. A Podolski shot from a tight angle that went wide is the only other half-chance that comes to mind.

The early goal in the second half was enough to put the Gunners in complete control. It was a neat build-up down the left where Podolski and Vermaelen combined to put the full-back into the final third on the flank. The Arsenal captain was clever on the ball and made space by cutting back and across. His cross went to the back post where Giroud won the aerial duel and had the awareness to knock it into space for Wilshere to pounce. The Englishman’s outside-of-the-boot finish was composed and clinical.

After the goal it seemed the pressure felt by the players was eased considerably. They were able to play with greater assurance and did not make the mistake of backing off completely. Montpellier now had to chase the game and Arsenal started finding more spaces in their half of the pitch.

The second goal was again down to good teamwork. Oxlade-Chamberlain won the ball on the halfway line and brought it forward to the edge of the box. Podolski arrived with him and played a quick one-two with Giroud that culminated in a sensational volley.

After the second goal, I thought the Montpellier heads dropped and they neither defended collectively, nor did they attack with purpose. The Gunners could have won the game with three or four goals but I thought 2-0 seemed a fair score.

On the whole, it wasn’t quite the imperious performance that Arsenal have produced in group phase at home against similar teams in the years gone by, but it was a fighting effort from a team that is working hard to get the confidence and rhythm back.

Individual Performances:

Szczesny: Made a very vital challenge early in the game when he came out to take the ball away from the feet of an attacker who was through on goal. Didn’t really have to make many saves but his handling was assured.

Sagna: Excellent work up and down the flank. Put in a number of good crosses and was almost always available to receive the ball when his teammates needed an outlet away from the crowded centre. Solid defensive game, made up for the odd error that he made.

Mertesacker: Another steady game from the German. Was composed on the ball and made a number of vital interceptions.

Koscielny: This was the first time this season I saw the Koscielny who so impressed me last year. Calculated aggression, excellent reading of the game, put his body on the line when he had to, and reliable distribution. There was that moment when he overdid things in front of the penalty box and conceded a free-kick but other than that it was a superb effort.

Vermaelen: Probably his best game as left-back for the Gunners. Made numerous valuable contributions at both ends of the pitch. I thought his role was the most vital in the first goal. Defensive positioning and decision making was commendable. MotM in my book.

The defenders had a difficult time in the opening 25 odd minutes when the visitors looked a constant threat on the counter but they did enough to keep Montpellier at bay. It wasn’t pretty at times but it was effective. Got more composed once the midfield started controlling the game better.

Arteta: It’s difficult to write about his performances after every game because it’s always the same, and I mean that as a big compliment, obviously! Played a big part in keeping the team connected in the opening 30 minutes and was a constant shield for the defence.

Cazorla: It seemed to me he worked even harder than usual to get on the ball in this game and popped up all over the pitch. But I also thought he lost the ball more often than he usually does through poor touches or misplaced passes in the tight exchanges. Another player who remains consistently influential in the central and attacking areas.

Wilshere: Was sloppy with his passing and unsure with his positioning early on. Improved noticeably as the game went on. Got into the decisive area and took his goal well. Also had a better defensive shift in the second half as he stayed deeper after scoring. As Wenger said, “he is the kind of player who has to be a complete midfielder not purely an offensive player.”

The midfield wasn’t able to handle the early pressure as well as I’d have liked. They need to reach that level if Arsenal have to become a genuine force. Teams must feel that pushing up and compressing the central third against Arsenal is a risky tactic rather than one that gives them hope. Work rate was excellent and they slowly earned the right to dominate the park.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: Was virtually anonymous in the first 15-20 minutes. Grew into the game after that as he started drifting into useful positions. Had a better time in the second half once spaces opened up in the Montpellier half as they started chasing the game. Played a vital part in the second goal.

Giroud: He’s very efficient in the final third if his teammates can find him there. Picked up two valuable assists. Needs a lot of work on his ability to receive the ball and gain territory for the midfield when they’re under pressure. In the first half hour or so his passing accuracy was less than 40 percent, and that kind of limits the options for the midfield and puts pressure on the defence due to the high number of transitions. I thought Wenger’s assessment of Giroud was spot on but I do believe he’ll have to develop his game in deeper positions, he can’t simply rely on contributions in the final third.

Podolski: Wasn’t on the same wavelength as Wilshere or Giroud in the initial phases but I thought his movement was clever and could have been useful. Goal was well-taken and might have had a second but for a good block by the defender. Saw a lot of the ball and combined well with Vermaelen (and Cazorla), not just for the first goal but in general throughout the game.

The Arsenal front three have changed quite often this season and we haven’t quite seen them hit the right rhythm as a unit. There’s enough final-third quality to make the difference against smaller teams but much more is needed if the Gunners have to become a consistent threat against every team.

Subs: I thought Ramsey had a very good cameo. Was reliable in possession, worked hard to win the ball back, and moved into useful areas all over the pitch. Coquelin and Gervinho didn’t get much time to make an impact.

Wenger: I really love the specific and insightful comments he made after the game that show he’s completely aware of what’s going on and knows the individual strengths and weaknesses of key players in the squad at the moment. When Arsene talks about the performance and players in a matter-of-fact manner without unnecessary praise and without deflecting the conversation away from the negatives, it gives me the impression that he’s in control and can see this squad developing. It’s much, much more comforting than interviews or media briefings where Le Boss is trying to wriggle out of the tough questions without giving much away.


31 Responses to Arsenal 2 – 0 Montpellier: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. Cupsui says:

    Hey desi…great comments as always…

    you do a sterling job fella

    Anyway it was a very frustrating start to the game. Seems the was just a disjointedness to things. No body was reading anybody else and the passing was shocking. Wilshere especially giving it away a lot. Credit to Montpellier for the closing down.

    And on this point desi i think it is a risk for teams to press arsenal hard because this team now is deadly on the counter. We have some really good players who can hold the ball turn and make a quick break if there is too much closing down and this is something we have seen…however it can obviously come off somewhat for the opposition too if we turn it over cheap too often…

    Giroud did struggly early but he was not getting good service at all. There is no effect in playing the ball into your striker from 5-10m when he has two defenders on him and then making a run straight past the guy dragging your own defender into the mix essentially causing him to be marked by three…9 times out of 10 thats going to cause a turnover. But he did also give it away a few times too. When the wingers and jack and santi started making better runs and drawing defenders away from giroud he was much more effective. He does drop deep and hold the ball up and players and coach are learning how he plays and how best to use his skill set. His second half was immense.

    Great to see Kozzer back to form the last two games…he is a class player and with him in form i think we will have an improvement in defence Sanga, Jenko, Kozzer, Merte, TV5 and Gibbsy to fill the back 5…thats the best it has been for years…and years…

    One more point Poldi’s movement was top class this game. a few times he made runs in the first half but giroud and wilshere picked him to go elsewhere, and in the second his movement was perfect, that alone really helped giroud thrive too

    well played (2nd half esp.) through to another knock out phase and a game to give some rotation in athens!!

    • santori says:

      Giroud’s been very positive from the start.

      His ‘presence’ in and around the box is critical in creating space for us.

      It also affords us an alternate route to goal (headers) and space to strike from edge of the box, thereby opening space within the box for runners coming in on flanks like walcott and Podolski.(which is why this argument about Walcott starting up top is moot at best)

      • Cupsui says:

        Totally agree with ya fella. Walcott practically plays like a second striker now. He just hasto defend on the wing a bit which he should do anyway. I wish he would stop making such a big deal out of it. He has a strikers conversion rate on the wing and I think if he played as the lone striker he would score less

  2. Faisal says:

    lol..love the fact that u made poldi’s goal sounds like nothing to shout about..sensational goal..end of..later in his rating…well taken goal…wat an understatement..dont u think?..good reading though!!(winning always makes a good one..lol)

  3. stefan says:

    wilshere had maybe 5 or so bad passes, a bit much for a player of his quality, nonetheless for most of the game he looked really assured and composed. I woudnt focus critisism on him at all, our problems are elsewhere

  4. Dianjuh says:

    Hey Desi, sorry its me again 🙂 The transition from 1st half (dodgy performance) to the 2nd half (much better) shows all too clear that our current squad is full of individual talents, but in that phase where they are all trying to learn how best to harness those talents into one efficient team, both defensively and attackwise. A goal (and a win) always helps to quicken that transition, remember even Steve Bould is a ‘new signing’ as wel and it takes time to get everythng right. As soon as everyone is on the same page, well I myself cant wait to see this players playing at full-team potential!! Till then, we take it a game at a time, with we fans FULLY BEHIND THEM!

    • santori says:

      Off ball movement was not good first half.

      That improved second half. We need to ensure that whoever has the ball for us has options so he can play the ball quicker.

      Its as simple as that.

      • Cupsui says:

        While I agree that the movement wasn’t as good I also think it wasn’t bad in the first. The passing is what was really bad and players were not in sync. Run would go one way and the pass another. But both passing and movement improved in the second…a vicious combo! 🙂

  5. bc says:

    its uncanny that the defence is taking such a pounding this season from the fans yet at this stage last season we had conceeded 22 goals in the league to this seasons 13. last season we conceeded 6 goals in 6 matches in the champions league group stages the same as this season albeit from 5 so far. So really apart from that crazy match at reading where a 2nd string defence had a nightmare 40 minutes it has still been an improcement on.last season

    • santori says:

      Well said.

      As I mentioned before, when we let goals in, it is always dissected by press and fans a like to microscopic detail and attributed to individual errors.

      The favoured scape goat of the day is then castigated for being too slow (Metersecker) or generally a panic buy (Koscielny) etc etc.

      Rather most goals can be attributed to human error if you look hard enough.

      Considering when our opponents let one in, there is always some sort of excuse pertaining to the fact that “there was nothing they could do” (Robbie Savage), you begin to wonder…:D

      • santori says:

        Outstanding game by Koscielny and Metersecker.

        Outstanding.

      • Cupsui says:

        I just chose not to listen to the British football press…makes that much easier! The have a combined iq barely equal to George bush…and that includes Martin keown…did anyway see that ridiculous combined north London team? The worst was he put walker ahead of Sagna and Sandra ahead of artera…sorry but the man is a moron. Good player but a moron, fits well into his role

    • cornelius says:

      Well, you forget that last year we had conceded 10 goals by our third game, 8 of them in one match.So, really apart from that crazy match in Manchester where a second string team had a nightmare for 90 minutes, there’s no much difference in the number of goals conceded last year and the current one.
      What was different then was that the whole press and a considerable number of Arsenal supporters were convinced that the team was going nowhere.

  6. Hazyz says:

    Gudmatch, Arsene wenger we trust.

  7. Harji says:

    Winning the game and qualifying for the last 16 was the most important thing, and we did it.

    Positives;
    1. Podolski. Motm for me today. He was brilliant on the ball, some nice flicks and good link-up play with tv5 and cazorla. Made some great runs off the ball, was always trying to make something happen and scored a beautiful volley. This is the podolski i want to see on the left, not the passive podolski who passes sideways and back everytime he’s on the ball.
    2. Koscielny. Strong in the tackle, reads the play very well and always tries to start a fast counter-attack.
    3. Ramsey. Ive been frustrated with ramsey the last 2 seasons. He is a quality centre mid but since his leg break he tries too hard to be effective. Simple is effective. Loved his cameo today, got the ball, played simple and looked great!
    4. Defense. Once we settled in, we never looked like conceding and finally won a clean sheet.

    Negatives;
    1. Arteta. When we kept losing the ball in the 1st half, i was expecting him to get hold of the ball and spray it left, right and centre. He needs to demand the ball off our players and help us retain possession like we know he’s capable of. Arteta is our MOST important player…when he’s bossing the midfield it allows cazorla and wilshere the freedom to create. Needs to express himself on the pitch and control the pace of the game.
    2. Build-up play. My favourite game this season was the 6-1 win over southampton. The football we played in that match was a joy to watch and we ended up creating about 20 chances. We need to get back to playing like we did against southampton, where we were patient with our attacks and waited for the right opportunity to play that killer pass. We’re rushing our attacks far too much and part of me blames that on giroud who wants our players to play the long ball over the top or deep crosses to him too frequently.

    Can’t wait for gibbs to be back in the starting and, most people are gonna criticise me for saying this, i wish we use giroud as a dzeko. An impact type sub. I wanna see against villa theo up to top, gervinho/ox on the right and podolski on the left. Off the ball movement is exactly what arsenal will need against villa, who will most likely sit back and try to counter.

    • Big Frenchie says:

      I would have to say that Giroud should now be the first choice fixture up front-it is no surprise that his goal surge has benefited from a wing supply (Theo generally) and he must continue to be fed this supply to his more than capable bonce either to score spectacular headers and volleys or flick on for Jack and Poldi.He and Lukas are natural strikers and need to be fed their staple diet-not made to search for cracks in the brick wall of a packed defense, or as a result of us playing too narrow.The direct running of Jack is our other ‘new’ weapon.This gets defenders back peddling and creates spaces for the through ball or diagonal for Theo. Looking good on all fronts!

      • Cupsui says:

        yeah seriously…

        its no surprise too that our improved wing play and improved combination play with giroud has led to more goals and a decent run of form…

        Jack and santi’s movement will allow more space for giroud to be even more effective…things are looking up right now! lets just hope we smash the villans now!

      • Redcore says:

        Good post. Agree with you. Arsene usually makes his attacking acquisitions switch positions, but there is no way he can play Giroud anywhere other than CF. The man is built for that position. If you knock the ball towards him in the box he will knock it to the goal / onrushing team mate- simple.

        He is like Chamack v2 – stronger, better link up play and without the penalty box phobia and has to be our first choice forward.

      • santori says:

        We still need another CF.

        Talk of Henry coming in for a short spell likely as an insurance but I expect Wenger will use this to enter the market IF opportunity arises.

        Problem is he will want to offload Bendtner, Park and Chamakh first to make space on the wage structure.

        The other issue is what we lack right now up top (which to some extend Gervinho has been filling) is a pacy striker with trickery (Henry so to speak)

        Both Podolski and Walcott can give more pace (than Giroud) but Walcott lacks the presence. I think Podolski may be a little more effective in that respect if necessary, something that needs a bit of exploration beyond one to two games at start of season.

  8. sebas says:

    I find it funny how arsenal has changed the formation and the type of players we have in our squad compared to the early 2000s, yet we play our best football when we play that quick 1-2 touch always forward a la early 2000s.

    • santori says:

      This has nothing to do with formation.

      This has to do with familiarity, confidence and moving the ball quicker.

    • amahgfur says:

      AW has done a lot of squad building after the Invincible era. But slowly, we can see that the iconic ‘wengerball’ is starting to come back.

      If AW’s hands weren’t tied by budget limitation (or whatever other reasons) that forced him to lose his (best) players, I’m sure we’ve won one or two PL trophies by now.

  9. Willy young says:

    A much improved 2nd half display and perhaps shows these players need time to get used to playing together. JW with Carzola run at players to create the space we were not getting in other games.

    We need only tweak a few things to have made an improvement on last year and if we could win the Carling Cup and finish top 4 then perhaps we could be genuine title contenders next year. Tweaks to make

    1. I believe Szc could become world class but sell Manone Shea Flappy and buy a reliable 30 yr cover for Scz ( nil net cost )

    2. Sell Diaby and Rosicky ( always injured ) and replace with a Fellani or alike ( nil cost)

    3. Sell Santos and acquire a LB to press Gibbs

    4. Sell Chamack / Park and buy a striker to compete with Giroud

    5. Clear out squad of non quality

    Squid , Eastmond , watts Galinda Boateng

    6. Gnarby Eisfield Aneke Afobe Ryo Miguel Martinez to start playing together next year in C Cup.

    There is hope just needs to be realistic given budget

  10. Gerry Lennon says:

    Mmmn .. Desi, whilst your review is accurate although I think a second viewing might give way to a bit of a re-write?
    From a Montpellier point of view I think their report would say; We kept their midfield quiet, particularly the dangerous Cazorla and Wilshere for 45 minutes. We did not allow Giroud to turn in that period too. Created a few good chances. However, the second half their passing was quicker, Giroud was too good in respect of both goals and our keeper had no chance. We kept trying but the result was fair.
    From that I took Giroud as MotM. He never shirked away from a pass, got frustrated or sulked. Instead, he put himself in the right position to drop two perfect headers for Wilshere and Podolski to run on to, the latter a brilliant finish.
    Kos had his best game this season, so who Gibbs displaces will be interesting?
    Vermaelin showed when he did go forwards what we are missing in Gibbs’s absence. Defensively, hardly MotM other than fewer mistakes, but that is a matter of opinion of course.
    Podolski certainly was close to top honours, but got his acclaim for a superb finish and general hard work down the flank.
    Expectation for AOC was high, but largely due to the effort Montpellier put in, and occasional poor touch and passing, he was never going to reach the level we hoped for. Should have been closer to Sagna at times too.
    Job done. Villa next.

    • santori says:

      I’m not sure I’d say Vermaelen is MOTM but I do agree with Desi that the Captain has knuckled down and made great strides quickly in improving our LB position in Gibbs absence.

      This in particular when considering the careless Santos.

      Montpellier loaded up (as expected) the left flank to exploit the likely Belgian’s weakness. They had Yanga-Mbiwa, Belhanda and Cabella (switched to RW) for that specific reason.

      Vermaelen (And with Koscielny, Podolski and Giroud contributing) kept our left reasonably covered.

      He even managed to bombard forward on a number of times contributing to the first goal.

      I expect, he is making a good case for being an alternate (not replacement) in time to come for Gibbs (which we will need)

      AND where as many seemed to have bemoan his lack of vocal assertiveness as captain in recent month, I think he has done the correct thing by sorting out his poor form first (he is a fighter) and then reasserting himself with greater moral authority down the line.

      Well done Vermaelen.

      • santori says:

        Familiarity is key.

        This team looks like its starting to click again with the stability in midfield with Jack having a couple of games under the belt now.

        If we get a good 8 game run (the next 8 are winnable) we will have amassed 24 points in the league.

        We need to target out of say two sets of 12 games , 9 wins.

        That should bring us to 73pts with 2 games spare. (Maybe some draws in there with the 6 dropped)

        Anywhere between 76-82pts is feasible this season.

      • Cupsui says:

        Only problem with vermaelen at lb is that he has already complained about it in the past (last season). I think it’s effective so I hope he just sucks it up…

        Can miquel become what we need him too?

  11. Nick from Portugal says:

    Santori is correct, familiarity is key as is a sequence of games for players to get back in the rhythm witness Koscielny, as Desi says, powerful last night. A very good performance given the tough run of games we have had, two more to go and they are big ones. I am against Henry coming back, he was effective last year but only a pale shadow of what he was, sad to see a genius playing like a mere mortal, don’t want to see that again. Still that goal against Sunderland was MASSIVE for us and the goal vs Leeds could have been.

    • Cupsui says:

      Strange comments on henry. It was a very effective cameo..why not again. He is a legend and anything to see him back is a good move cause I know wenger hopes to see him in his back room staff in the future too

  12. stevetosin says:

    Reblogged this on stevetosin's Blog.

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