Arsenal vs. Marseille: Match Analysis, Commentary and More
The North London side Arsenal travels to the Stade Velodrome in Marseille, France today to play against Olympique de Marseille, the current leaders of Group F in the Champions' League.
Marseille look to this game to turn their form around, having started out slowly with one win and a whopping six draws from their first 10 games in Ligue 1.
Arsenal, on the other hand, look to capitalize on their win from the weekend that has catapulted them from flirting with the relegation zone to 10th place in the Barclay's Premier league table.
With this third group phase game, Group F could be really shaken up if Arsenal manage a win or a draw here and if results flow in favor of German side Borussia Dortmund in their match against Olympiakos.
Arsenal Starting Lineup
Arsene Wenger has chosen a side that is very close to the prediction I published earlier in the week, sticking to his stock and standard 4-3-3 formation.
In between the posts is the brilliant Polish international Szczesny, who was excellent over the weekend against Sunderland, only letting an absolutely exceptional free kick from Larsson past his outreached hands.
Across the back line is Mertesacker and Koscielny holding up the middle, with Jenkinson flying down the right and Andre Santos making his presence known on the left.
In the midfield, the rather consistent Alex Song, the former Everton man Mikel Arteta and a man who is regaining his form and sneaking under most people's radars with his recent solid performances, Tomas Rosicky.
Out on the wings is the pairing of lightning-fast Walcott and the powerful little Russian Arshavin, who gets the start over Gerviinho because he is still acclimatizing to the Gunners style of play and making his name known.
Up top is the absolutely on fire and lead Gunner himself, Robin Van Persie.
Marseille Starting Lineup
Didier Deschamps, the legendary French player and current Marseille coach, comes out with a strong 4-3-3 formation.
Pre-game note: Ayew, currently rostered on the starting lineup, looks to have picked up some sort of injury in the pre-game warm-up.
In goal for L'OM is captain and strongman Steve Mandanda—the one man who has kept Marseille in all of the draws they have had in the league this season.
Across the back we have Nicolas N'Koulous on the right side, Diawarra and Morel in the middle, with Azpilicueta and his awesome name out on the left-hand side.
In the midfield is the very dangerous and highly experienced Lucho Gonzalez, partnered with Alou Diarra and Benoit Cheyrou.
On the wings of the French side's offense is Andre Ayew and the always potent Mathieu Valbuena.
Up top for Marseille is their form of a target man, Loic Remy.
First Half Statistics and Commentary
A more physical Arsenal side has shown up to play in the the south of Marseille.
At halftime it is Arsenal nil, Marseille nil.
The shot count is five to two in favor of the French side. Marseille has certainly looked the more dangerous side, as they have broken down the Arsenal defense time and time again.
Both sides have only had one shot on target a piece, with the Marseille defense looking rather shaky in the beginning, but shoring up as time passed. Arsenal's defense, though, have been lucky to escape the first half without at least two or three goals conceded.
Arsenal have controlled the possession with 57 percent of the ball, as opposed to Marseille's 43 percent, but the orange-clad men used their possession to play quickly on the break.
There were several major fouls committed by Arsenal, with Song and Santos both receiving yellow cards. Santos has been dancing on the tight rope, with several of his decisions and challenges being very risky.
Especially that ridiculous hand ball free kick he gave away rather deep in the Gunners half.
Marseille are not without fault though, as Andre Ayew received a yellow card for dissent, as he colorfully protested a hand ball non-call inside the penalty box.
Arsenal will need to pick up the tempo in the second half and really play their game. A defensive mentality will not be the key to success with such a weak defense.
All Marseille have to do is continue to pound crosses into the box, namely from Valbuena, and finish some of their many opportunities to really take control of this game.
Full Game Statistics
Excellent back-and-forth game from both sides!
Shots: Marseille held the edge over the gunners with seven shots to the Gunners six.
Shots on Target: Arsenal had the advantage on frame though, with five shots challenging Mandanda as opposed to Marseille's two.
Corners: Arsenal had a ridiculous amount of unsatisfied corners with nine compared to Marseille's one.
Possession: Arsenal held the slight advantage with 55 percent of the ball to Marseille's 45 percent.
Fouls: This was a physical game for the Gunners, with 14 fouls conceded for Marseille, with Arsenal right in there with them with 13 fouls.
Cards: Santos, Song and Djourou received yellow cards for Arsenal and Ayew, Diawara and Gignac committing yellow-worthy atrocities.
Injuries: Carl Jenkinson looks to have picked up a knee injury. Alex Song may have picked up a slight knock, as he limped around the field quite a bit in the second half.
Arsenal: Djourou in for Jenkinson, Gervinho in for Walcott, Ramsey in for Arshavin.
Marseille: Gignac in for Remy, Amalfitano in for Gonzalez, Kabore in for Cheyrou.
Final Comments and Thoughts
Final Score: Marseille 0-1 Arsenal
An absolutely spectacular finish to the game for Arsenal!
This gives Arsenal its fifth win in the past six games as they move forward and upward.
Arsenal move into top spot in Group F with the win over the very, very tough Marseille side. Marseille put up an excellent fight and incredible game. Well, at least in the first half.
In the second half, Marseille came out looking lethargic and out of shape, as one of their defenders went down in the 78th minute with cramp. Not exactly in top form for one of France's top sides.
Arsenal made their second half look much better than their first, with Santos making few mistakes and playing quite a bit better, especially after the introduction of Gervinho and Ramsey.
With the result, combined with Borussia Dortmund's shocking loss to Olympiakos, Arsenal look rather safe in the top spot of the group, with seven points. Marseille are still right behind them though with six.
Olympiakos moves up the table to third, after demolishing their German opposition. Dortmund falls to fourth in the group on one point, looking down and out of the competition so far.
With this win, Arsenal look much more confident in their own abilities.
Though the defense was very suspect at times, they clung on and battled back for a well-fought win over Marseille.
I would give the Man of the Match award to Laurent Koscielny for his hard-fought effort and helping himself and Arsenal to a clean sheet.
After this match the Gunners look forward to a very testing match this weekend against the Stoke City rugby squad...I mean, no, that's what I meant.
Arsenal have had at least one player injured in each match against Stoke City in the past two years, so expect the already overstocked injury list to become larger after this weekend.
Be on the lookout for my FIFA 12 simulation and preview for the Stoke City vs. Arsenal game!