Montpellier vs. Arsenal: Talking Points from the Gunners' 2-1 Win
Arsenal earned a 2-1 victory at the home of defending Ligue 1 champions Montpellier, to give themselves an excellent platform for qualification from their UEFA Champions League group.
A coolly-dispatched penalty from Montpellier schemer Younes Belhanda was cancelled out by quick-fire strikes from in-form duo Lukas Poldski and Gervinho. The second half saw Arsenal's fitness levels drop considerably, but they remained resilient enough to preserve the win.
Here are the main talking points from a successful start to the Gunners' assault on the Champions League:
Gervinho is providing a vital outlet in attack
Having hit three goals in two games, Gervinho is proving to be an essential part of Arsenal's attacking play. Unfairly criticized by many, the former Lille star is providing a vital outlet in forward areas.
Gervinho's quick and varied movement was exceptional against Montpellier. The Ivory Coast forward darted into threatening positions on both the left and right flanks and through the middle.
His pace provided an obvious outlet ball to turn patient possession into rapid attack at any time. In this sense, Gervinho is playing less as a winger and more as a fluid striker in a three-pronged attack. That sound you can hear is Theo Walcott kicking himself.
Olivier Giroud still can't put a complete game together
Olivier Giroud is making it easier for certain sections of the club's support to engage in their favourite past time, nominating a scapegoat. The French hitman was clumsy-looking for most of the game against his former team.
The misfiring striker seems set to join the likes of Emmanuel Eboue and Aaron Ramsey as easy and obvious targets for frustrated supporters. While it's not entirely unreasonable to be worried by Giroud's largely ponderous performances, there are also small signs for encouragement.
Three touches in particular showcased Giroud's knack for quality link-up play. His lay off for Arsenal's first goal was smart and decisive before he again tried to set Podolski free later on with a nice reverse pass played with the outside of his foot.
Late in the second half with his back to goal, Giroud attempted to flick the ball into the path of the German. Yes, Giroud might have recognised just how much space he was in, but had that flick made it through to Podolski, nobody would be complaining.
These moves showed that Giroud at least has a good understanding with Podolski and there is the makings of a fine strike-partnership. Like Gervinho before him, Giroud needs a goal of any kind to put a bit of swagger back into his game and demeanour.
Don't read too much into Arsenal's second-half dip
Nobody can deny that Arsenal's performance took a dramatic dip in the second half. However, this need not be seen as a sign of a fragile squad.
Remember, this was Arsenal's first midweek game of the campaign and came on the heels of an international break and a weekend Premier League encounter. Of course, the most important point is that Arsenal didn't wilt under the onslaught they faced in the second period.
Arsene Wenger's men have received plenty of criticism for crumbling under pressure and relinquishing leads, so they ought to receive a measure of praise for being resilient enough to protect a one-goal advantage, achieved with less than 20 minutes on the clock.
Any win away from home in Europe deserves to be celebrated. Montpellier are in stuttering form this season and tougher tests do lie ahead for the Gunners, but that would be true no matter how the team performed in France.
A three- or four-goal drubbing from Manchester City would warrant sterner words and grim recriminations. For now, though, Wenger and his team can justify taking pride and confidence from a three-match winning streak and being unbeaten after five games.
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