(Originally posted November 26th 2013)
Arsenal took another huge step to Champions League qualification with a 2-0 win over Group whipping boys Marseille in what was a far from packed Emirates Stadium with Jack Wilshere scoring his first ever brace in an Arsenal shirt.
It was a rather dull first half by all accounts but you wouldn’t have thought that after the opening exchange. Arsenal kicked off and lost the ball straight away after a wayward backwards pass; French Forward Andre-Pierre Gignac surged onto the loose ball and ran at a gap in the Gunners back line however he couldn’t capitalise on this great chance and Arsenal won the ball back.
Arsenal didn’t waste any time in getting the ball up the other end either, a Sagna through ball on the right found its way to Jack Wilshere after some nice build up play and the young Englishman dribbled down the flank before cutting inside and finding the back of the net with a nice Left footed finish after just 27 seconds.
It should’ve been 2-0 moments later when Wilshere, set free on the right again, found Aaron Ramsey with a squared pass who fired a shot at Steve Mandanda that was saved at point blank range.
Marseille didn’t cause Wojciech Szczęsny any bother at all in the first 45, their only shot coming from a tame Gignac header that sailed over from a right sided Jordan Ayew cross. This was followed by Ayew finding Gignac again with a neat little through ball but instead of shooting, Gignac attempted to dribble past the Polish stopper; Szczęsny smothered though.
Tomas Rosicky then fired a poor shot wide before Ramsey won a controversial penalty for the Home side. A neat little flick over N’Koulou set him free from the Cameroonian Defender who went onto trip him outside the area and was booked for his troubles. Justice prevailed though as Ozil’s spot kick was saved…eventually, taking an age to take it, but Mandanda wasn’t fazed, saving to his right.
The Second Half didn’t start as lively as the First but Arsenal were as dominant as in the opening period. Their dominance began in the 55th minute when an Olivier Giroud volley from the left of the area was deflected wide and out for a Corner. The Premier League leaders threatened again just a minute later when a fantastic Wilshere pass found Giroud again who used his arm to knock it past the Marseille defender before having his shot tipped wide by Mandanda.
Arsenal doubled their lead with 25 minutes left. The Marseille left flank being exposed yet again. Ramsey had all the time in the World 25 yards from goal and his pass found Ozil who hit a first time ball to Wilshere who tapped in a simple finish for his and Arsenal’s second of the night.
Marseille burst into life when they brought on France U20 World Cup Winner Florian Thauvin for Ginaulli Imbrula with 57 minutes played. The Substitute hit a volley into the ground that Szczęsny can’t keep out but fortunately for him Nacho Monreal was there to clear it off the line. Thauvin troubled the Pole again minutes later, fizzing a shot towards the bottom left of his goal, but he got down brilliantly keeping it out.
Three minutes from time, a drilled Theo Walcott cross was deflected into the path of Substitute Santi Cazorla who blazed over. Walcott threatened again when he was in the clear but he dragged his shot wide when he really should’ve scored.
Arsenal now lead the group with 12 points, ahead of Dortmund in 2nd with 9 along with 3rd place Napoli with Marseille on a pitiful 0 from this Group of Death. The only way Arsenal won’t reach the last 16 now is if Dortmund beat Marseille in France and Napoli beat Arsenal by more than two goals at the Stadio San Paolo.