UEFA Champions League Preview: Predicting the Arsenal Starting XI vs. Marseille

Callum D'SouzaSenior Writer IOctober 18, 2011

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 16:  Robin van Persie of Arsenal is tackled by Michael Turner of Sunderland during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium on October 16, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

UEFA Champions League football returns after a three week hiatus, allowing the intensity and entertainment provided by Europe's best sides to recommence.

The group stage has already indulged fans with two encounters, and, despite the competition still being in the early stages, there has already been much excitement and quality.

In Group F, Arsenal encounter French giants Olympique de Marseille in what is set to be a tantalizing match.

Two sides who thrive on quick, attacking football will go head to head at the top of Group F in Marseille's phenomenal Stade Velodrome.

Les Phocéens have recorded victories against fellow group members Borussia Dortmund and Olympiacos, whilst the Gunners managed a draw with Dortmund before securing a 2-1 victory against the Greek champions.

Arsenal returned to winning ways at the weekend, with a 2-1 victory over Sunderland in the English Premier League. However, it was only their third league win of the season following a disastrous start to the 2011/2012 campaign.

Nonetheless, the Marseille game should suit the Gunners, due to the French giants more open and attacking style—in contrast to the physical approach adopted by many of the English Premier League sides.

However, the Velodrome is one of the toughest venues in Europe to achieve success, especially with the North London giants still lacking their former fluency and confidence.

Regardless, Wenger is convinced his side is on the rise, and the Frenchman will relish a return to his home country.

Johan Djourou returns
Johan Djourou returnsJulian Finney/Getty Images

Both sides are favourites to qualify from the group, and this game will ultimately be defining in who gains the upper hand at the top of the group.

What is set to be a scintillating match, fuelled by goals and attacking football, BleacherReport predicts the Arsenal starting XI, whilst, as always, providing numerous live blogs.




Polish shot stopper Wojciech Szczesny continued his fine form against Sunderland with another assured display. The 21-year-old is a definite starter against Marseille. Countryman Lukasz Fabianski voiced his desire to depart the Emirates should his inability to receive playing time continue. Nonetheless, the Polish international will deputize against L'OM, but will likely feature next week against Bolton in the Carling Cup.

Veteran Manuel Almunia is currently on loan with West Ham United, whilst Italian youngster Vito Mannone will continue to endure the third choice role.


Defensive leader Thomas Vermaelen is considered still two weeks short of match fitness following ankle surgery, but the signs are promising for the Gunners.

Renowned right back Bacary Sagna is still suffering from a broken ankle sustained at the start of the month, which raises questions to the Frenchman's replacement.

English teenager Carl Jenkinson was utilized against Sunderland, but Wenger may feel more assured by utilizing Laurent Koscielny at right back instead of the inexperienced Jenkinson. Reserve starlet Nico Yennaris is also in the fray, but is unlikely to be considered.

German giant Per Mertesacker is set to partner imposing Swiss defender Johan Djourou, who has fully recovered from a muscle strain, in the centre of defence.

Brazilian left back Andre Santos is set to start as England international Kieran Gibbs has suffered a stomach muscle injury.

Veteran Sebastien Squillaci could be in line for a substitute role, the Frenchman is yet to feature this term and is considered surplus to requirements under Wenger. Spanish teenager Ignasi Miquel is also in contention for a role.


Wales captain Aaron Ramsey missed the Sunderland clash with a hamstring strain and is unlikely to feature against Marseille.

Spanish playmaker Mikel Arteta will take on the attacking duties beside Czech Republic international Tomas Rosicky. However, Rosicky may be considered too fragile to start following long term injury worries, ensuring Israel captain Yossi Benayoun could start.

Cameroon international Alexandre Song will start as the defensive midfielder, the 24-year-old will be deputized by teenager Emmanuel Frimpong, whilst French youngster Francis Coquelin is set to miss out—but is certain to feature in the Carling Cup next week.

England international Jack Wilshere is expected to return in late January following his ankle injury sustained in preseason, whilst imposing Frenchman Abou Diaby is a week from returning and will also likely feature in the Carling Cup.


Arsenal captain Robin van Persie was immense against Sunderland, scoring both goals (including a majestic free kick to seal victory). The Dutchman will start as the lone striker, whilst Ivorian forward Gervinho is set to start on the left wing with Russian dynamo Andrei Arshavin on the right. Theo Walcott will be demoted to the bench.

Promising teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also set to receive a substitute role, the 18-year-old has scored in both his starts for Arsenal, including the victory over Olympiacos.

Moroccan forward Marouane Chamakh is also set for a bench position, though South Korea captain Chu Young-Park and Ryo Miyaichi are unlikely to make the substitutes bench.


With seven players on Wenger's bench, Lukasz Fabianski will deputize for Szczesny and Carl Jenkinson should be the lone emergency defender.

Emmanuel Frimpong and Yossi Benayoun should be the backup midfielders, whilst Theo Walcott, Marouane Chamakh and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be the impact attackers.

An exciting encounter awaits Europe, can Arsenal find victory in the Stade Velodrome?


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