Last night was one of those European nights that we have started to become accustomed to at the Emirates. A very lacklustre start, misplaced passing and a tense atmosphere in an expectant crowd. One thing is for sure; Arsenal don’t like to do things the easy way!
On a night where we hoped to continue the va-va-voom football of the weekend, the team started out like a drunken friend of mine. Not knowing where anybody else was, looking lost and not really sure where to go or what to do.
Jack Wilshere wasn’t his effervescent best during the first period of the game. I counted three passes in about five minutes that went straight to the opposition. This passage of play summed up Arsenal’s football for the first 15 minutes of the half.
Our first real chance of note came from a Koscielny header, which rattled the bar. Following good build-up play from Vermaelen and Arteta down the left, the former swung a beautiful ball in which Dave connected with brilliantly. Unfortunately for us, it hit the bar and bounced away.
Not long after this however, were we treated to a sublime piece of skill from our Big Friendly German. Having stayed up for a set piece, he found himself in unknown territory. With Messi-esque skill, he left one defender for dead and cut back to his left. Just as he was about to score the goal of the season, a defender nicked the ball from his boot. Absolutely gutting!
These two chances seemed to kick some life into our players. Although chances were few and far between in the first half, we looked like we could score at any time if we decided to move into another gear. A prime example of this came towards the end of the half, when Podolski, who’d made a great run into the box, sliced his shot wide. It was a difficult chance but for a player of his calibre, a chance that perhaps he should have done better with.
Arsenal aside, Montpellier looked devoid of any ideas and didn’t really threaten, apart from the odd half-chance from a poor Arsenal pass.
Whatever Wenger said at half time seemed to work. Oxlade Chamberlain, who had been generally quiet in the first half, looked more incisive and kept himself more on the wing, allowing Sagna a bit more relief defensively and a willing partner in the attacking third. Arsenal started the second half with more urgency and it wasn’t long before we were ahead.
Vermaelen, who had been crossing rather efficiently with his left foot in the first half, cut back inside to his right and crossed a high, floating ball into the penalty area. Giroud, who has been one of our form players of late, knocked the ball back into the middle, where a willing Wilshere was ready to tap home. Although he made it look easy, his finish was sublime and shows that he’s gradually getting back to his best. More like that please Jack!
The goal seemed to galvanize Arsenal and deflate an already weakened Montpellier. We took complete control for the next 15/20 minutes and it came as no surprise that we doubled our lead during this period. Podolski and Giroud, who both now have 7 goals for the season, played a neat one-two before the latter lofted a beautiful ball to the left-hand side of the box where Podgoalski was on hand to smash it, dare I say it like our former captain, over the keeper’s despairing hand and into the net.
2-0. Job done? Normally you would think so, but with this current Arsenal side, you can never be too sure! With substitutions being made every few minutes, the flow of the game became disjointed and Montpellier came into it a little more. Although they never particularly threatened, you could tell that both fans and players were a little edgy.
The only other chances of note fell to Giroud, Arteta and Emmanuel Herrera. Olivier had a great chance to score against his old club, and God knows he deserved to, but his right foot shot was well saved by the goalkeeper. Had it been on his left, I’m sure the ball would have hit the net.
Arteta’s effort came from a free-kick near the left touch-line. Ala Mata and other free-kick specialists, he curled a beautiful effort in-between keeper and defenders in an area where neither are comfortable. With the keeper flat-footed, the ball almost sneaked into the far corner but just went wide. It would have been a fitting end to a much improved performance from the Spaniard.
Herrera attempted to pull one back with only a few minutes left, but his shot went just wide. Although Szczesny had it covered, if his effort had gone in it would have made for a very edgy last few minutes.
In terms of our substitutions, I was very pleased with Aaron Ramsey’s performance last night. I’ve never been the biggest fan of his, but he looked bright, didn’t lose the ball and contributed well in midfield. His fellow substitutes, Coquelin and Gervinho, didn’t really get much time to put their own stamps on the game but didn’t disappoint when called upon.
All in all, a decent performance and the three points we needed to qualify, thanks to Schalke beating Olympiakos. I don’t know whether I would like us to finish first or second in the group. Usually first place is the more preferable, but with many of the so-called bigger teams looking like finishing second, taking a weaker side to Olympiakos and accepting second place in the group might not be a bad idea.
Not the greatest performance, but nowhere near the worst. We seem have a hit a vein of form, so let’s hope that continues away at Villa Park on Saturday. Not the easiest place to go but they are struggling this season so hopefully we’ll be too strong for them.
Up the Arsenal!
P.S. A great big hahahahahahahahahahahahaha to Chelsea. As much as I don’t like Di Matteo, he didn’t deserve to be sacked. It just shows you how pathetic and petty Chelsea are.
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