So, a 0-0 draw with Marseille means there’s still work to do in the Champions League. Expectations were high after Chelsea but if football has taught us anything down the years it’s that highs such as the one Stamford Bridge mean things can feel a little flat afterwards.
I’ll confess, I only saw the last 20 minutes, my plan was to come back, ignore the scores and watch the game in full but I’m just no good at that. I have to know, so when I sneaked a peek at my phone and saw no updates of any kind I knew there had been no goals.
From what I can gather the best of the action took place in the first half, the manager’s decision to rest van Persie was not a surprise and we struggled to break down the French side. Which is pretty much like the game we played against them away from home. Maybe they have a way of nullifying us. Didn’t Ajax do something similar for a few years in the Champions League? I certainly remember more than one 0-0 draw.
Inevitably, when Robin did come on, he had a chance to score but I think it’s obvious from the attempted finish that we badly miss Carlos Vela. Let’s face it, if this had been a Carling Cup game in which we playing lower league opposition and found ourselves 3-0 up Vela would have finished that with no problem. Van Persie out! In seriousness, the manager said leaving Robin out was a ‘gamble’ which didn’t work (imagine that, Arsene taking a gamble without success), but I can understand the reasons behind it.
There’s no room for error in the Premier League and we need Robin firing on all cylinders for that. In Europe we have two more games to secure qualification, one of them at home, so the opportunity is still there for us not just to qualify but to finish top. It would have been something of a comfort for someone else to score a goal last night, to show that we’re not completely reliant on the Dutchman but it wasn’t to be.
Afterwards, Arsene said:
I felt it was a game where we were not physically at our sharpest. Marseille started stronger than us and after that we got back in the game. ou have to give credit to Marseille – they defended very well. They stopped us from playing and we were not sharp enough to get them out of position. The positives are that we did not concede a goal, Marseille only had one shot on target and overall we know that in the final third we can do better.
And he was slightly critical of the finishing, particularly in the first half:
We had opportunities, especially Ramsey in the first half, he had two great chances. Gervinho had a chance, and in a game like that you still expect to take one of these chances.
The result means we stay top of Group F, a point clear of Marseille and 3 of Dortmund who beat Olympiakos 1-0 last night. Ensuring qualification last night would have been nice but we’ve had a tendency to make things a bit awkward for ourselves in Europe in the past. And this isn’t something unique to this particular Arsenal team. Long time readers will remember the YADNIEFA (Yet another disappointing night in Europe for Arsenal) template that was par for the course after Champions League games.
It is the first time we’ve failed to score since being beaten 2-0 by Liverpool back in August and our sixth clean sheet of the season. However, it does set things up nicely for the next game, home to Dortmund on November 23rd. A win would ensure qualification and if Marseille fail to beat Olmypiacos we’d go through top of the group. So, plenty still to do and it’s all well within our capabilities, I think.
There are no reports of any injury problems following the game so we go into this weekend’s game against West Brom with a clean bill of health. Thomas Vermaelen played 90 minutes for the first time since August and that’s encouraging too. So, overall, nothing compared to the celebrations post-Chelsea, and certainly some measure of frustration that we couldn’t nick a goal, but not the end of the world by any means either. We can start looking ahead to the weekend’s fun over the next couple of days.
In other news Andrei Arshavin says that his performances during his time at Arsenal have been nothing special, despite the four goals at Anfield. Speaking to the matchday programme, the Russian said:
Speaking honestly, I think my performances have been average. I’ve done some good things, but I don’t assess my game on goals or assists – I look at the whole picture. Normally when I’m on the pitch I take control of a game, but I haven’t done that here. I’m an extra tool in the team rather than the main one, so it’s been different.
He certainly got plenty of credit in the months after he first joined for providing something of a boost to the team. We all wanted Wenger to sign a defender, he bought a mercurial forward instead, such is his wont. There’s little doubt thought that overall his contribution has been disappointing. Maybe he has found it tough going from being the guy the team is built around but he’s experienced and intelligent enough to deal with that.
The self-awareness is good, I suppose, and every now and again you get a flash of something from him which shows the talent is there, but it’s hard to disagree with him. It’d be nice to see him find his sparkle again and contribute more. This is going to be a long season and we’ll need everyone to do their bit.
Right, that’s about that. There are still a few bits and pieces to do with the book this morning so I’m going to crack on with them.