Arsenal went into this game unbeaten in nine visits to France in the Champions League, but after unconvincing trips in the past to Lens, Marseille and Lyon, being the second set of boobs exposed in Southern France this month was not on Arsene Wenger’s agenda at the Stade de la Mosson. Here are the main talking points from last night's game...
Giroud Still Can't Get Off The Mark
Oliver Giroud fluffed his lines for the second script that had been written for him in four days. The first had him down as scoring against The Saints on Saturday, to follow in the footsteps of Arsenal luminaries Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry. The second script had him scoring upon his return to Montpellier. However, a delightful assist for Podolski’s equaliser and some good centre-forward play will ease his disappointment I hope. Fear not Gooners, this guy is class, but because he doesn’t have the speed and skill of Thierry Henry, the unpredictability of Kanu, the versatility of Robin van Persie or the vision of Dennis Bergkamp, he’s a different proposition than recent Arsenal striking options. He is similar to Davor Suker in this author’s opinion; a pure front man who is more likely to need service to score, rather than make a goal for himself (a quality Suker was known to have...just ask Peter Schmeichel...).
We Miss The Big Pole In Our Goal
Arsenal’s goalkeeping situation is still unconvincing. Vito Mannone (fully recovered from the brutal gunshot wound inflicted on his foot by Joe Pesci in ‘Goodfellas’) is a capable ‘keeper, but he is no David Seaman or Jens Lehmann. He was left soundly beaten by Younes Belhanda’s cheekily chipped penalty on 9 minutes and looked shaky at times, but redeemed himself with two saves from Cabella and Belhanda in the second half. Had Belhanda’s deft lob on 55 minutes gone in rather than clip the bar, the goalkeeping situation may be under greater scrutiny...it beggars belief that free agent Craig Gordon is being looked at by Southampton, rather than their 6-1 victors who have their first two ‘keepers out with injuries. The very same Gordon who Arsene Wenger had thought about buying before his record breaking Sunderland transfer.
Vito Mannone (fully recovered from the brutal gunshot wound inflicted on his foot by Joe Pesci in ‘Goodfellas’) is a capable ‘keeper, but he is no David Seaman or Jens Lehmann.
Montpellier's Players Put Themselves In The Shop Window
This game was crammed packed full of players who have had Arsenal scouts flocking to Montpellier (I went through the city once on a Euro-Rail trip to Barcelona, it looked very nice, palm trees, terracotta and flowers as the TGV hammered it’s way south) and in Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, the French team have a captain who is confident on the ball, good at stating fast breakaway moves from defence and who’s strong in the challenge. He looked good, but was drawn into challenging Giroud before he released Podolski for 1-1 and left a gap the aforementioned TGV could’ve got through. Younes Belhanda, France’s Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year 2012, showed fans why the he is so highly rated (many rate the Moroccan as a player who will eclipse the talents of the mercurial Eden Hazard) and young French starlet Remy Cabella tormented Arsenal throughout the game and was very unlucky not to equalise with a sublime lob. His right-wing play was wonderful. Arsene, I am sure, was impressed whilst watching them from his lofty position in the stands.
Where Will Jack Wilshere Fit In To The Side?
How will Arsenal look when Jack Wilshere returns? Although Abou Diaby did his level best to show every quality – both good and bad – that he has exhibited during his time at Arsenal in one 90 minute spell (dominant midfield play, crazy tackling, faffing on the ball, cute tricks and lung-bursting runs), he looks undroppable. As does the imperious Mikel Arteta. Santi Cazorla had his worst game in an Arsenal shirt so far, but he was still an 8/10 rating, so who gets dropped or shifted? Podolski links wonderfully with Kieron Gibbs and Cazorla on the left and has now grabbed three goals in his last three games. Many Gooners do not want to see Cazorla moved out wide in order to shoe-horn in another centre-midfielder...
The Group Is Already Shaping Up
Schalke 04’s 1-2 victory in Greece against Olympiacos tonight has perhaps confirmed this group as the two-horse-race may have believed it to be already. The Germans represent Arsenal’s biggest group stage challenge. This evening’s 1-2 victory in France has shown that Arsenal can win this season whilst playing poorly, and has also shown again that Steve Bould’s defensive influence is paying dividends. One could easily imagine the onslaught Montpellier put Arsenal under for most of the second half reaping rewards last season.
A very fortuitous win for The Gunners. Two great goals overcame a soft but fair penalty which was coolly despatched by the assassin-like Belhanda. And with improvements seen in the performances of squad payers like Mannone and Carl Jenkinson, the season has continued to show great promise. The real test will be against a Manchester City side stung by Cristiano Ronaldo’s late goal in Madrid...
You can follow Greg on twitter @GregCross82
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