Montpellier 1 - 2 Arsenal
Day one of the Champions League saw Arsenal travel to Southern France, to face the current French Champions Montpellier. Arsenal arrived resting on an unbeaten run, whilst Montpellier were facing a dire start to their season, sitting in the bottom half of the table.
We started well enough, keeping the ball and playing with creativity & confidence. Montpellier, however, were hungry. Belhanda was using the ball well in the centre and driving into our box whenever he could. On the ninth minute, he forced a challenge from Vermaelen on the edge of the area, and the referee lifted his arm to point in that usual dreaded fashion. Penalty.
Belhanda stepped up, and dinked it past the diving Mannone. Not the start we had in mind.
Away from home in the Champions League, and a goal down within ten minutes is not ideal, and to top it off, Montpellier looked fired up and ready to cause more damage early in the second half.
But just six minutes later, Podolski and Giroud linked well up through the middle, and Podolski slotted home his third Arsenal goal in three games. Then, after just two minutes of play, Gervinho did brilliantly to wriggle past the Montpellier midfield. [quote_right]”It appeared that we were aiming to soak up the pressure instead, which isn’t exactly our forte. Or so I thought.”[/quote_right]The ball eventually dropped to Jenkinson, who played in a beautiful cross to the feet of Gervinho, who had carried on his run. He couldn’t, and didn’t, miss. Easy.
It was looking great. We’d overcome the Montpellier goal and secured a lead, yet you couldn’t ignore the fact that we were now sitting on a slim lead away from home, with 70 minutes of football left to play.
In the second half, Montpellier came at us with their full force. For the first 15 minutes, they bombarded our box with long balls and crosses, testing Mannone and our centre backs equally. It was looking uncertain, but at the same time, we appeared secure and compact.
As the game went on, we looked visibly tired. Cazorla, Arteta & Diaby in particular were misplacing passes and looking slow to react. Giroud was replaced by Ramsey, and we suddenly looked very flat. We lost our purpose of attack, and instead, it appeared that we were aiming to soak up the pressure instead, which isn’t exactly our forte. Or so I thought
You can’t help but think that, this time last season, or indeed, at any time last season, such a stance would have surely seen Montpellier score a late equalizer. However, despite a few close calls, and a brave stop from Mannone, we held on valiantly to our deserved lead.
[title]Arsenal Player Ratings[/title]
Made a fantastic save against Belhanda late on to keep us ahead. Commanding in the air. Might cause a goalkeeper headache for Wenger.
Passing needs to improve, but he was solid defensively and got the assist for Gervinho.
Continued his excellent run of form, forming a great partnership with Vermaelen.
Despite giving away the penalty, he was yet again the rock at the heart of the defence. Dealt with the pressure extremely well.
Did excellent all game up and down the left hand side. Did his job at the back whilst providing support for the strikers. Keeping Santos seated.
Man of the Match. Kept us ticking all game and dominated the midfield with his quick feet. Superb.
Kept us ticking over and provided good defensive cover. Gave away a few silly fouls, but he did enough to allow Cazorla & Diaby to go forward.
At the heart of most attacks, but wasn’t as involved as usual. Played his part well.
Battled fiercley all game, and did well to grab another goal to equalise. Quiet in the second half.
Excellent in the first half, as he has been all season. Darting runs and clever positioning are helping to rekindle his ability to score goals regularly. Lets hope he keeps it up.
Had one half chance from a volley, and yet again failed to score. But he wont most of his aerial battles, and got the assist for Podolski’s equalizer.
Ramsey [7/10], Walcott [N/A], Coquelin [N/A]
[title]Solidity & Fluidity[/title]
Fine, so a clean sheet was missing from the performance, but there’s no denying it. Arsenal are finally a defensive unit. We endured huge pressure from Monpellier during two intense spells in the second half.
Whats more is, Diaby, Arteta & Cazorla have fused together brilliantly to take us forward with amazing fluidity. Our passing tempo and creativity in the final third feels rejuvenated compared to last season. All we need now is for Giroud to get that first goal, and we’ll be firing on all cylinders.
What did you think of the game? Let us know in the comments section below.