10 lessons learnt from Arsenal’s clash with Olympique Marseille
The match between Olympique Marseille and Arsenal wasn’t a tie that blew everyone away. For starters, both sides were struggling in their domestic leagues and their managers had come under strong criticism from the media Vultures of both countries.
Caution and patience were two virtues that were exhibited by Arsenal while their French hosts were resilient in their approach to the game. There were no real standout performers ‘in quote’ but Marseille’s Mathieu Valbuena was a nuisance for the Arsenal defense. Loic Remy also had a moment on the touch-line that made him seem like Thierry Henry for a split second and Andre Ayew spent more times on the ground or arguing with the match official for infringements not given.
From an Arsenal perspective, Wojciech Szczesny had another boring day at the office but he delivered when he was called into action. Carl Jenkinson put up a number of crosses but a large percentage of them hit a defender and ended up as throw-ins. Arsenal also had a large chunk of corners but they didn’t really threaten with anyone except the Robin van Persie header that was cleared off the line by Souleymane Diawara.
I’ll like to give my take on 10 lessons that were learnt from the clash between Arsenal and Marseille.
The referee’s inconsistency
Damir Skomina from Slovenia wasn’t all that bad as a ref in yesterday’s game but he made some decisions that would have altered the course of the game. He was quite lenient with Alex Song and Andre Santos but the yellow card to Johan Djourou was an appalling decision. He also missed out on a deliberate handball by Souleymane Diawara in the box from a Mikel Arteta corner.
Bad refereeing decisions have been an issue with Arsenal over the years and a simple tackle from Djourou afterwards might have gotten him sent off but that never happened though.
Marseille’s resolute defense
Nicolas N’ Koulou and Souleymane Diawara are not household names in world football but they gave a good account of themselves against a lethal forward like Robin van Persie. The full backs Jeremy Morel and Cesar Azpilicueta were even more impressive as they locked Andrey Arshavin and Theo Walcott in cages and threw the keys away.
Laurent Koscielny’s anticipation skills
The French centre back came back to familiar surroundings and he proved his mettle once again to Arsene Wenger. There was a pivotal moment of the game when Alex Song decided to go nuts and dribble his way out from his box only to be blocked by a Marseille player; up stepped Koscielny to read the game superbly and take the ball out to safety.
Alex Song’s decision making
I can’t deny the fact that Alex Song has grown into a very fine defensive midfielder but he still makes some mistakes that can be likened to the play of a toddler. In only the third minute of the game, Song had a lot of teammates to pass the ball to but he dallied on it only to be robbed by an opponent and he ended up picking a silly yellow card for a late tackle afterwards.
Song was also suspect in Arsenal’s box after doing well to win the ball in the six-yard box; he decided to dribble his way out instead of launching the ball to orbit. If Koscielny wasn’t present in the box, Marseille would have gone one up.
Arsenal’s injury proneness
With a club like Arsenal, registering only 25 players cannot be enough to play all season long in a grueling league like the English Premier League. Arsenal had lost key figures like Jack Wilshere, Thomas Vermaelen and Bacary Sagna coming into this tie and it seems as if Carl Jenkinson has joined the list of players that have booked an appointment in Arsenal’s treatment room.
Andrey Arshavin’s poor performance
Andrey Arshavin should be given a real award for his level of inconsistency at the club because it’s second to none. When he came on as a sub against Sunderland, he showed good movement and was heavily involved in the proceedings of the match.
Wenger gives him a shot ahead of Gervinho then he decides to give a performance that will earn him a place in the bench when Arsenal hosts Stoke on Saturday. To think that he was the same Arshavin that took the Premier League by storm and bagged four past Pepe Reina when Arsenal visited Anfield.
For a player like Arshavin, I still believe that form is temporary and class is permanent though.
Gervais Yao Kouassi has certainly been a big hit at Arsenal and he showed what he was made of in the few minutes he had to spare at the Stade Velodrome. There was a lovely moment on the right flank when he waltzed past the full back and hugged play in the touch-line only to be intercepted by the defender.
However, he played a slight part in Arsenal’s winner because his mistimed control of the ball guided it well to Aaron Ramsey’s path and the rest they say…………was history.
Steve Mandanda’s commanding performance
Steve Mandanda is currently the number two French goalie behind Hugo Lloris but he made the box his own every time Arsenal played a corner kick with series of catches and punches that were long enough to reach the centre line.
He also made some vital saves from Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie but he was finally beaten by Wales’ version of Sylvester Stallone, Aaron Rambo.
Arsenal’s lack of threat from outside the box
This has been a familiar story regarding Arsenal and tonight was no different. There were times when Alex Song and Tomas Rosicky had chances to let one rip from outside the 18-yard box but they chose to pass it to a teammate and the play ended up dying.
Arsenal has to resurface the habit of shooting from outside the box because teams tend to drop deeper when defending against the Gunners. When Chelsea hosted Genk, Raul Meireles showed the Belgian side why it’s a football sin to back off from a player like him when he’s in shooting distance.
The goalie didn’t even move to make the goal a lot sweeter.
Arsene Wenger’s tactical proficiency
Le Boss has been at the helm of affairs of this London club for 15 years and he showed that he knew when the timing was right to make a sub as well as the player meant to be subbed.
Johan Djourou for Carl Jenkinson was a swap that had to happen because of injury but Theo Walcott and Andrey Arshavin had to be removed from the pitch because they turned out to be peripheral figures as the game progressed. Everybody expected Arshavin to be replaced by Gervinho but Wenger opted for Walcott first because he believed that Arshavin still had something to offer.
Aaron Ramsey came in for Arshavin when he became truly ineffectual and it was an ace in the deck that was played well by the boss because Ramsey scored what proved to be the match winner with seconds to spare.
Arsenal grabbed the win against the French outfit to leapfrog them to the summit of Group F with 7 points from three games played. It’s funny to know that Arsenal managed 7 points from 7 games played in the Premier League before the win against Sunderland.
Well that’s football for you.
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Posted on October 20, 2011, in Arsenal, Champions League, Football and tagged Alex Song, Andrey Arshavin, Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, Champions League, Gervinho, Laurent Koscielny, Marseille. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.