Montpellier vs. Arsenal: Keys to Success for Gunners in Champions League Opener

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 18, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15: Mikel Arteta of Arsenal on the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Southampton at Emirates Stadium on September 15, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Luck was on Arsenal's side when the groups were drawn for the Champions League. The Gunners will join Schalke, Olympiacos and Tuesday's opponent, Montpellier, in Group B, giving them a golden opportunity to reach the knockout stages.

There are no guarantees, however. Arsenal needs a favorable start in the opener to avoid having to dig out of an early hole. Picking up all three points on the road would be the ideal way to get things moving in the right direction.

With that in mind, let's break down three keys to Arsenal success for the first game of Champions League action.


Be Aggressive Early

Montpellier has been struggling in Ligue 1 play with just one win in five games. The last thing Arsenal wants to do is allow them to gain confidence by controlling the game early, making it vital that the Gunners start quickly.

They should be riding high after putting six goals on the board against Southampton, the clearest sign yet that the offensive additions are starting to feel more comfortable in their new roles. It was a struggle for awhile following Robin van Persie's exit.

If Arsenal can score within the first 15 minutes, it wouldn't be surprising to see Montpellier fade away. When things have been going poorly like they have been for MHSC, it's easy to fold after falling behind.


Win Possession Battle

One area Arsenal should have a distinct advantage is the midfield. The combination of Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla gives the Gunners two terrific playmakers who are capable of making sure the team dominates possession.

Arsenal was able to generate nine shots on goal despite splitting possession with Southampton. Finding holes in a Montpellier back line that plays more conservatively is going to take more time on the ball.

After taking a couple chances early, it's important that the Gunners settle in and play the game at their pace. They just have to make sure to be ready for MHSC counterattacks.


Shadow Emanuel Herrera

Herrera is the one player capable of turning the game around in Montpellier's favor. The 25-year-old Argentine striker has been the team's most dangerous offensive player in the early going with two goals in five games.

He's the one player the Gunners defense must single out and make sure doesn't beat them. They can't allow Herrera to get clean looks at goal because he won't miss. If somebody else steps up and makes a key play, so be it.

Even though the Arsenal offense has struggled until recently, the defense has been solid throughout the new campaign. Should that continue, the Gunners should get all three points.