A Tough Night in Marseille (w/ Player Ratings)

Marseille (1) – (2) Arsenal
Walcott 65′, Ramsey 84′
Stade Velodrome, Marseille
Champions League Group Stage

Arsenal did well to win the game and get through what was a tough night in Marseille.

I haven’t seen much of Marseille but from what they showed last night, they’re a very physical side. They go into challenges 110% and I did think some of the “tackles” they made were well over the top, especially for Europe. The incident when Mathieu Flamini was literally thrown to the ground was unbelievable and how the referee didn’t blow for that was amazing. The referee on the whole was okay, but in trying to “let the game flow” failed to pick up on some blatant fouls.

For large portions of the game, Marseille were the better team, without really threatening until the second half. We huffed and we puffed but couldn’t get our rhythm going and it was one of those nights where we had to dig in deep to get a result, and that’s exactly what we did.

The home side did well to keep us at bay and they were compact, quick and strong into the challenges. We struggled to impose ourselves on the game in an attacking sense and on 65 minutes Theo Walcott scored what was a really fantastic goal. Gibbs linked well with Wilshere on the left hand side, sent in a decent cross which Morel failed to clear. The ball seemed to take an eternity to come down but Theo blasted the ball first time into the top corner of the net.

What a volley!

After that, the game opened up and we managed to force a couple of good saves from Mandanda, in particular a shot from Gibbs after a delightful back-heel assist from Mesut Ozil.

On 84 minutes Aaron Ramsey, the man of the moment, surged through the middle of the Marseille midfield and rifled a hard shot low into the net to double our lead and kill off the tie.

But a minute into injury time, Ramsey clipped Andre Ayew in the penalty area and his brother Jordan stepped up and scored a late consolation goal. Replays showed they Ramsey actually nicked the ball first and that Andre Ayew threw himself to the ground without any contact. But Marseille were good at “buying freekicks” all the way through the match so it was hardly a surprise the referee “fell” for it (excuse the pun).

OVerall, it was a very professional performance and a massive 3 points. In a group with Marseille, Napoli and Dortmund, it is vital to get 3 points in the bag if we want to progress to the knockout stages, and in terms of that it is job done.

Bring on Higuain and Napoli in 2 weeks time.

Player Ratings:

Wojciech Szczesny: 7/10
Wasn’t called upon much during the first half but had to make a few important saves in the second and did very well. Looked really solid and very assured at the back. Also came out and collected some crosses with ease. Had no chance with the penalty.

Bacary Sagna: 7/10
Very solid and supported Theo well on the right hand side. Delivered some good crosses and gave as good as he got to a big, physical Marseille side.

Laurent Koscielny: 7/10
Did well against Gignac and restricted the big forwards influence. Made a rash challange early on in the game but was solid for the rest of the game.

Per Mertesacker: 8/10
Had to withstand a lot of pressure from Marseille throughout the game but coped well. Organised the defence well and made some very important tackles and interceptions. Almost scored one of the worst own goals of all time.

Kieran Gibbs: 9/10
Outstanding. Up and down the left hand side all night and created the chance for Theo to score the opener. Almost got on the scoresheet himself and was unlucky not to score after being crowded out by 3 Marseille players. Positionally excellent all night, typified by the awesome goal-line clearance after the Mertesacker and Szczesny mix up.

Mathieu Flamini: 6/10
Seemed a little off the pace but moved the ball around well and organised the team when required. Will be a very important player for us if we continue to struggle with injuries.

Jack Wilshere: 7/10
Full of running, and linked up the midfield and attack well. Popped up everywhere on the pitch and did well against a strong Marseille midfield.

Aaron Ramsey: 8/10
Another assured and excellent performance from the man of the moment. Scored a massively important goal with 5 minutes to go to seal the 3 points. Linked up well with Ozil, Wilshere and Theo and made some excellent tackles. Deserved his goal and he is in the form of his life.

Mesut Ozil: 5/10
Struggled to get into the game as Marseille were quick, powerful and controlled the tempo. Laid off a exquisite back-heel for Gibbs but could impose himself on the game. Struggled with the physical approach from Marseille.

Theo Walcott: 6/10
The enigma that is Theo Walcott. He had the beating of Morel in the first 15 minutes but then was ineffective for the next 50 minutes. He misplaced passes and wasn’t making any kind of positive impact. Then on 65 minutes he smashes in a volley of the highest quality. Excellent goal and one of such importance.

Olivier Giroud: 7/10
Did well to even compete with the power of Marseille’s midfield and defence. Only had on real chance to score which was a header from a corner which he really should have got on target. Linked up play well considering and caused a nuisance up front.


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