Arsenal 2 Marseille 0: L’ OM Destroyed by Shere Wil-power
The destiny of the Group of Death, as it’s fondly known, was set to take another twist as all three teams vying for qualification needed victories to give them a likely chance of achieving that feat. However, Olympique Marseille has been appalling throughout the matchday fixtures and with no points in the bag, they were already eliminated prior to yesterday’s game so they had nothing to lose than to become party poopers.
Arsene Wenger rotated his squad, bringing on Nacho Monreal for Kieran Gibbs, Mathieu Flamini for Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky for Santi Cazorla. Right from the kick off, Aaron Ramsey was culpable for losing possession in midfield but Laurent Koscielny covered his tracks before teeing up Mesut Ozil. The German schemer fed Bacary Sagna who in turn located Jack Wilshere with a carefully-threaded ball.
The Englishman waltzed into the box, evaded his marker, picked his spot and sweetly curled the ball into the net after just 29 seconds to get his team off to a flyer. With barely a minute gone, Arsenal had already knocked Marseille to the ropes with a left-handed uppercut from Jack Wilshere.
Wilshere almost turned from scorer to provider when he was on the end of Olivier Giroud’s perfect pass and he quickly squared the ball into the path of Ramsey of all people, but the Welshman missed from point-blank range, a feat that seemed unfathomable taking into account his goalscoring haul this campaign.
Marseille’s left back, Morel, was having a torrid time and Arsenal capitalized on his frailties. Wilshere was in the thick of things again and he sent Sagna through on the right. The Frenchman latched onto the ball and drilled it to the path of an onrushing Giroud but Lucas Mendes was on hand to make a vital interception or else it would have been curtains!
Marseille made a rare foray at goal through Abdullah on the right flank but his tame attempt of a cross was headed wide off the mark by Andre-Pierre Gignac. Ramsey noticed Ozil making an intelligent run in behind the defense and the Welsh Dragon dropped a few jaws when dinked the ball over the top but Ozil’s first touch was rather heavy and a good chance went begging.
Monreal suffered a lapse in concentration and the ball was robbed off him before losing the ball to Gignac. Szczesny charged the striker and made himself big to anticipate the ball much to the delight of the Emirates faithful. Arsenal continued to probe the Marseille back line and a moment of controversy occurred when Lucas Mendes wanted to rip Giroud’s jersey off him inside the box. However, the Gunner’s persistence paid off as Ramsey was impeded in the box by N’Koulou after a superlative spin.
Mesut Ozil stepped up and decided not to take a considerable distance but he was left egg-faced by Steve Mandanda saved the spot kick.
At the start of the second half, Arsenal didn’t take their foot off the pedal with Ozil flicking the ball for Giroud. The forward was adjudged to be offside by the linesman although replays proved that it was the wrong decision. Wilshere was having the game of his life and he chipped the ball over the Marseille defense to Ozil. The German controlled the ball superbly by Mandanda was on hand to make another good stop.
Monreal made a foray forward and lofted the ball for Giroud but he had no clue where it was as it bounced off his back before Mandanda smothered the loose ball but Arsenal gave themselves some breathing space when Ramsey played the ball in behind the defense to Ozil and his one-timed pass to Wilshere was finished aplomb by the English maestro to make it two.
L’ OM responded with two attacking substitutions in the forms of Mathieu Valbuena the Hobbit and the red-hot Florian Thauvin, and both players laid their marks on the game as the young French starlet headed Morel’s cross over.
Khalifa clipped the ball for Thauvin and he used his technique to control the ball superbly then he lashed a shot but Szczesny made himself big to make another magnificent save. With the ball sailing effortlessly in the air before dropping towards the net, Monreal was very alert to clear the ball into orbit.
Arsene Wenger took out Rosicky and Wilshere (that earned a rousing reception) for Santi Cazorla and the returning Theo Walcott. Abdullah crossed the ball for Thauvin and he smashed in another goal-bound shot by Szczesny dived low to make another brilliant save before Koscielny mopped up the danger.
Wenger’s last throw of the dice was to bring on Mikel Arteta for Ozil to sure things up in midfield. After some patient buildup, Walcott drilled a ball that hit a defender before falling kindly into Cazorla’s path but his left-footed volley missed the target by a far mile. Late on, Ramsey executed a neat back-heeled pass to Sagna that sent Walcott through but he failed to connect well with the ball and sent is shot wide.
Arsene Wenger’s post-match conference had it all, ranging from Wilshere’s performance to Marseille poor showing in the competition and most importantly, the fact that Arsenal has 12 points and haven’t still qualified to the Knockout Stages. With Dortmund ending their streak of defeats with a vital win over Napoli, the group is going down to the wire and Arsenal has to be very alert to avoid defeat in San Paolo if they want to top the group, bearing in mind that Dortmund is likely to get the result they need against Marseille.
It’s one game at a time and all focus will be fixed on a Cardiff side that have gotten points of both Manchester outfits but have lost at home to Chelsea and Tottenham, two London-based teams.
Last night, Marseille was destroyed by some ‘Shere Wil-power’. Let’s hope his good run of form continues.
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