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Arsenal 2 Marseille 0: L’ OM Destroyed by Shere Wil-power

Jack Wilshere

Wilshere bags a brace

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.

Pick that one out: Wilshere's left-footed curler eluded Marseille keeper Steve Mandanda

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.

Game over: Wilshere converted his second goal of the night to ensure Arsenal grabbed all three points

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.

Sayonara.

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Marseille Preview: Opportunity to Gain Stronghold on the Group

Arsenal hosts Olympique Marseille in a vital Group of Death clash and a victory would aid their cause in qualifying from the group, as Borussia Dortmund and Napoli will lock horns in the other fixture in the group. The group has definitely lived up to its billing as the Group of Death as the top three teams have secured results against each other while the bottom team currently serves as the whooping boys.

Following the disappointing loss to Manchester United before the international break, the Gunners have bounced back with a comfortable home victory against this season’s over-achievers, Southampton, and Arsene Wenger’s men sit at the summit of the League table with a four point cushion over Liverpool and Chelsea.

The Gunners are also in pole position in their Champions League group after a historic victory against Dortmund in their feared home ground. They are currently joint top with SSC Napoli at nine points, while the German high flyers aren’t far off with six points. Marseille, however, have failed to register a single point with four games gone.

The visitors were in a poor run of form, losing three in four games but they are back to winning ways again, as they sealed victories in their last two Ligue 1 games. The French outfit is also in a very bad run of form in Europe’s elite competition losing all four games in the Group of Death. Their away form in Europe is equally appalling with four losses in their last six away games in the Champions League while Arsenal on the other hand, have won six of their last seven home games in Europe.

Arsene Wenger’s team will be high on confidence in the wake of such a weaker opposition but Santi Cazorla has promised that the team would avoid complacency,

“The main problem I see is everyone thinks it’s going to be an easy game for us to win. There is nothing at stake for Marseille because they have zero points but they are going to make things difficult for us

“It may be tough and if we’re not careful we might slip up and then we might not be able to get through to the next round. We need to understand it’s a vital match. If we obtained a bad result then it would make things very complicated for us to go to Napoli and win there.”

This is the kind of attitude we as fans expect from the players and I hope their concentration levels will be on check tonight. Arsenal will vividly remember that it was Aaron Ramsey’s lapse in concentration that cost the team a goal against Dortmund at the Emirates. It was only befitting that it was Ramsey that scored the match winner at Germany to atone for his error in the first leg.

The Gunners would have to be very wary of the threat Marseille’s attacking midfielders could pose as Mathieu Valbuena, Florian Thauvin and Dimitri Payet, all skillful and treacherous with the ball at their feet.

Valbuena’s low center of gravity is a huge asset for him, as he skips past players with consummate ease and France’s qualification to the World Cup could spur him on to put up a better performance. The world also witnessed the skill set Thauvin possesses in the recently concluded Under-20 World Cup. His outing in France’s triumphant campaign saw him move from LOSC Lille Metropole to L’ OM and he has scored four goals and supplied two assists in his last five games.

To injury news, With the absence of the usual suspects (Lukas Podolski (hamstring), Yaya Sanogo (back), the Ox (knee) and Abou Diaby (diabytes), Arsene Wenger’s squad has no major fitness issues ahead of this game. Influential talisman, Mikel Arteta, took a knock against Southampton, but he is fit enough to play.

Mathieu Flamini missed the last match against the Saints due to suspension, the Frenchman is expected to take the midfield. Theo Walcott is fully fit but he’ll need to get a run of games to get on his stride and I have a hunch that Wenger probably won’t start with him for this tie.

At Marseille, key player, Andre Ayew, and strong center back, Rod Fanni, are also going to miss out.

To team news, I’d expect both lineups to look like this,

Arsenal 4-2-3-1 football formationOlympique de Marseille 4-3-2-1 football formation

This is a perfect opportunity to gain stronghold of the group.

I hope the Gunners seize it.

Sayonara.

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Marseille 1 Arsenal 2: The Ramsey Inferno Keeps Raging

6 goals in 7 games. Phenomenal

Stade Velodrome (Champions League)

Marseille – (J. Ayew 90+1′); Arsenal – (Walcott 64′, Ramsey 84′)

Following the huge success of some teams from the first set of Matchday 1 Champions League fixtures, the second set of games went underway in various stadia across Europe with Arsenal kicking off their campaign at the Stade Velodrome in the south of France. Despite the fact that Olympique Marseille had lost just two games in their home ground in 2013, the Gunners set their sights on a 10th consecutive away victory.

The mazy run began with the spirited away victory over eventual Champions League winners, Bayern Munich, in the Allainz Arena and it was followed up with a comfortable win over Swansea. Tomas Rosicky inspired a victory over West Brom and this was followed by narrow victories over Fulham, QPR and Newcastle. This season, wins over Fenerbahce, Fulham and Sunderland made it nine consecutive victories which was lauded as a landmark achievement but the Gunners weren’t taking any prisoners in France, as Arsene Wenger is also known for never losing a game in his homeland in the Champions League.

The starting XI was boosted with the return of Per Mertesacker while Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil were fit enough to keep their places in the team as well. The home side began the game better with Andre-Pierre Gignac flicking Rod Fanni’s cross goalwards but Wojciech Szczesny mopped up the danger. Shortly afterwards, Mathieu Vabuena the Hobbit lashed a long-range shot that was easy pickings for Szczesny.

Aaron Ramsey came into the game high on confidence following his two-goal salvo on Wearside and he sent Theo Walcott through with a neat pass but after some intense pressure from Morel, the Englishman’s shot didn’t threaten Steve Mandanda in goal. Ramsey teed Walcott after with another delicious pass but the offside flag spared Marseille’s blushes.

The home side almost got the lead when a surprisingly unmarked Andre Ayew sent his glancing header just wide off the mark. Mertesacker hit the deck after he was kicked in the face by a trailing boot but he recovered from that knock to make an important merteception when Dimitri Payet and Valbuena the Hobbit launched an incisive attack from the right.

The last action of a rather tame first half came when Szczesny bravely raced off his line to anticipate a ball heading towards Gignac. Elsewhere, Borussia Dortmund’s Roman Weidenfeller dashed miles away from his box to anticipate the ball moved by Gonzalo Higuain but he handled the ball outside the box, earning himself an early bath.

With no substitutions at the start of the second 45 minutes, Marseille almost grabbed the lead when Fanni’s close-range drive missed Szczesny’s far post by a lick of paint. Ozil was trying to influence the game and he executed a brilliant back heeled pass to Kieran Gibbs but the goalie parried the fullback’s shot and smothered the ball on his second attempt. Morel swung a cross from the byline and Payet was the first to react and he fired a shot on the bounce that was saved by Szczesny.

Bacary Sagna didn’t send much crosses to support the attack but he managed to loft in a cross that was met with a first-timed tame volley from Jack Wilshere but Mandanda was on hand to parry the ball to safety. There was a moment of uncertainty from Arsenal when a communication error between Mertesacker and Szczesny almost resulted in an embarrassing own goal but both players had Gibbs to thank as he nodded the ball off the line with Gignac on the prowl.

Arsenal finally broke the deadlock when Wilshere sent Gibbs free and his cross into the box was headed to No Man’s Land by Morel. Up stepped Walcott to smash one of the sweetest volleys you’d ever see. It was so quick that it had already passed Mandanda before he could move his hands for a save.

Walcott opens his goalscoring account

Payet tried to level things up with another long-range effort but Szczesny made a rather unorthodox save. Walcott was replaced by Nacho Monreal but an awkward moment arrived when Ayew had initially handled the ball before wrestling Mathieu Flamini to the ground but the ref didn’t blow his whistle for an infringement. Ayew found Valbuena the Hobbit on his left but the midfielder’s effort hit the side netting.

Monreal showed great determination to win the ball in Marseille’s danger area before fashioning a chance for Ozil but the German forced his effort wide. With the game reaching its climax, the man on fire, Aaron Ramsey, received the ball on the edge of the box and closed in on goal before blasting a shot that went past Mandanda with the aid of a deflection off Nicolas N’ Koulou’s foot,

Arsene Wenger handed Ryo Miyaichi a Champions League debut late on when the young Jap replaced Flamini but Ramsey’s night of glory had a rather bitter twist when his carelessness in Arsenal’s box saw him concede when he tackled Andre Ayew after the Ghanaian nicked the ball off him. Ayew’s brother, Jordan, roofed his effort despite the fact that Szczesny guessed the right way.

Arsene Wenger was effusive of his praise for Ramsey in his post-conference tagging his Welsh Dragon as one of the most in-form midfielders in Europe at the moment. It’s really heartwarming to see how much Aaron Ramsey’s output has vastly improved in the final third as he has become surprisingly clinical with his finishing. This lad has matured so much, made him game simple, his hard work has seen excel above his peers and his sheer persistence has made him grow to an indispensable member of the team.

This Welsh Dragon is breathing fire at the moment and we can only hope that the Ramsey inferno will continue raging.

Sayonara.

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