Before the match against Montpellier I had certain fears despite the fact French side has problems of their own. Arsenal ha never won a Champions League match at home against the French opponent, we had nervous finish against 10-men-Spuds and the first match against Montpellier was smash’n’grab victory with our horrible performance in second half. Furthermore, our best attacker this season Theo Walcott wasn’t available because of shoulder injury.
Our first half performance wasn’t exactly what we were hoping for. Koscielny’s header hit the bar after a perfect Vermaelen’s cross and Mertesacker’s funny Messi-sh dribbling through the middle ended without a decent shot, but both of chances came within one minute. Koscielny was involved in one more dangerous attack we had. He brought the ball into the visitors’ box where he lost it to Yanga-Mbiwa. The Montpellier captain and one of our transfer targets gave it away almost instantly to Podolski. The German stroked the ball with his weaker right foot but it went wide. On the other side, Belhanda had one dangerous shot allowed by poor tackling and lack of aggression in our defense. The main impression from the first half was poor passing game from our team and limits of the French side that couldn’t make too much trouble to our defense.
Our performance in second half was much better. Man of the match Podolski and captain Vermaelen linked up very well at the left side with former making a cross to the box. Ex-Montpellier striker Olivier Giroud laid the ball to on-coming Wilshere with the youngster chipping the ball over Jourden into the net. It made our evening much easier and it was only matter of time when we would score again. Oxlade-Chamberlain had cut inside before Podolski and Giroud played a neat one-two. The German smashed the ball with astonishing volley under the woodwork. We should win with much bigger margin given that Giroud nearly got hat-trick of assists (Cazorla was denied by Jourden) and should have gotten on the score-sheet himself after another great combination with Podolski (Jourden again).
The Visitors had one decent shot in the last minutes but Herrera’s shot went wide. Given that Schalke managed to score a long-range shot by Fuchs to take another narrow victory against Olympiacos in the other match of Group B, Arsenal secured qualification for the Knockout Stage with a game to spare. It is deja vu since last season when Arsenal went into the last group match against the same opponent (Olympiacos) with secured progress from the group. This time, however, we will have something to play for given that our victory might be enough for top spot of the group provided that Schalke fail to win against Montpellier. On the other hand, Olympiacos’ destiny is already known – the Greeks will end group stage as as the third-placed team and continue their European campaign in Europa League.
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on reaching the knockout stages…
We needed two good results, our result and the Schalke result. We got the two, so of course we are happy.
on Montpellier’s performance…
I found them well organised, strong in the challenge and quite aggressive. So it was for us a question of being patient, not making a mistake and using our experience to wait for our chances, which we did.
on a slow start to the game…
In the first half we had problems in the transition from defence to attack. In the second half it was better, we moved the ball quicker and made more incisive runs.
on the two goals…
We scored two good goals, one for Wilshere which I am pleased about after such a long time out. It is great to see him getting stronger and stronger. The second goal was fantastic from Podolski.
on it lifting Wilshere’s confidence…
He had a difficult start in the game and after that he got stronger and stronger. You could see after the goal he was more confident. I don’t worry too much about his confidence levels, because that is one of his strengths.
on Wilshere scoring more goals…
He should not be too obsessed by that. He defended well, he is the kind of player who has to be a complete midfielder not purely an offensive player. I am quite happy with his performance because the goals will come naturally.
on how close Wilshere is to getting back to his best…
I don’t know. For example, in our last game against Tottenham, I felt after 60 minutes that he lacked a bit of petrol. I didn’t feel that here. He didn’t drop his level so he must not be far away from being at his best. I still have to manage him in the right way and not overload him with games.
on giving away the ball in the first half…
We didn’t find our way in the first half, and Montpellier won many 50-50s. Technically we were not completely clean and accurate and I was worried we could be caught on the counter attack. In the end it went well.
on Olivier Giroud’s display…
You always know with Olivier that you will get a guy who fights for the team. Technically it was not one of his best games, but after matches when you measure his performance it is [often] decisive. He had two assists here. Defensively he is always very reliable.
on the Giroud-Podolski partnership…
Giroud is good when he plays completely on the offside line. Sometimes when he doesn’t get the ball enough he wants to come deep. That is not his game. When he is a target man and uses his link-up play, he is fantastic because he can win in the air, he can score with his feet and can be a complete striker. He still has some work to do, but he is getting better.
on Giroud initially feeling under pressure…
Who wouldn’t? You know you will be compared [to Robin van Persie]. Life is great for that, but you can only make your life with your qualities, not the qualities of others. He has different qualities and he must use them.
on how Arsenal approach the final game…
We’ll play to win – to finish top of the group. If you look at some groups, you don’t really know if it is better to finish first or second. But statistically it is still better [to finish top] because you feel you have done your job better if you finish top of the group, so we’ll try to win at Olympiacos. Montpellier can beat Schalke at home.
on if he will take a full-strength side…
on how proud he of qualifying consistently…
Thirteen times in a row we [have] qualified. I’m very proud because it’s not the most glamorous thing, but it’s most difficult to be consistent at our level. It is a credit to the Club, because it is not as easy as it looks. If you look all over Europe, there are not many teams who do it.
on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s knock…
He should be alright.
on Wilshere saying they must improve…
He’s right. I agree completely with him and with you on that. We are conscious of that. But that’s exciting as well, because I feel we are now in November, we play in March. What will be important is that players like Jack have a few months of competition, that the team will hopefully be stronger and we have some time. In the Champions League we can now focus on the next step. But in the championship, we have to make points so it’s important that we get closer to the top by Christmas.
Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Vermaelen (c)
Wojciech Sczszesny | 6.5: It is very hard to make a valuation of someone who barely had touched the ball which is actually the best thing about last night match. The Pole didn’t have to do much given that the French side didn’t make too much troubles. He swept up on one occasion in the first half and saved only one shot on target from visitors.
Bacary Sagna | 7.0: Had decent partnership with Oxlade-Chamberlain last night in attack while he did his defensive work very well. His attacking share would be much bigger if Oxlade-Chamberlain didn’t cut so much inside. Sagna made one mistake but he recovered the lost ball before the visitors made a real chance out of it.
Per Mertesacker | 7.5: Our tower of our defense also recognized by the initials BFG had another secure display. His dribbling against two French players was both funny and successful. If he had scored, would have been an amazing goal.
Laurent Koscielny | 7.0: Koscielny almost came first on the score-sheet and created one good opportunity with his own run in absence of good passing from our midfielders and attackers. He picked up unnecessary yellow card due to his own mistake.
Thomas Vermaelen | 7.5: Our skipper has finally settled into the left full-back position, but only when Kieran Gibbs recovered from the injury. Verminator had put a couple of excellent crosses and linked up with Podolski very well. With a string of excellent displays I hope Vermaelen will continue that form for the rest of the season.
Mikel Arteta | 6.0: Not exactly his best performance. He can do much better but it seems he is a bit jaded and that influences on his concentration and passing. His free-kick nearly surprised Jourden.
Santi Cazorla| 6.5: Just like Arteta, Cazorla is usually subjected to fouls in order to prevent him from doing his magic on the field. It’s a good thing Wenger gave him a breather in the end replacing him but it’s not such a good thing Arshavin wasn’t the player that came on since the Russian might be a cover for Cazorla in order to save sharpness of our creative forces.
Jack Wilshere | 7.0: His passing wasn’t the best, to put it mildly but he ended on the score-sheet with intelligent clip over Jourden. He is still reaching his best form and it’s important for us that result isn’t suffering because of that.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain | 7.0: Made a lot of problemsfor his opponents and did his job before Podolski and Giroud the created second goal. He picked up a knock but Wenger claims the youngster will be fine (which is a reason to get worried about it).
Lukas Podolski | 8.5: The German scored a stunning volley that made people remember and forget about Verrader in the same moment. After his impressive display against the Spuds, King Luke managed to give another one against the French champions. He is now our top scorer in the Champions’ League with three goals.
Olivier Giroud| 8.0: If Mertesacker is nicknamed BFG, it is only matter of time when Olivier Giroud will be called BFF. His height and aerial domination over his former team-mates as well as his deadly partnership with Podolski could produce much bigger margin. He added two more assists to his tally and now he has 7 goals and 7 assists. The Frenchman made four assists in the Champions’ League and currently shares 3rd position with Wayne Rooney, Phillip Lahm and Christian Eriksen, with only Zlatan Ibrahimović and Mario Goetze creating more goals for his team-mates (five each). Should perhapswork on his one-on-ones, however.
Aaron Ramsey | 6.0: Was agile when he replaced Oxlade-Chamberlain.
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