Lady luck certainly deserted Arsenal when the draw was made for the Champions League group stages. The fact that Borussia Dortmund and Napoli were even in the third and fourth pots to start with was bizarre, but for both of them to get picked for the same group was ridiculous. It could have been worse for the Gunners though, because PSG, Juventus, AC Milan and Atletico Madrid were all in the second pot.
The draw actually started well, and we were happy to get tonight’s opponents Marseille, so we really need to make the most of the two games against them. The Uefa seedings may be a bit skewed, but Marseille have earned their ranking and must not be taken for granted. They have a noisy and passionate home crowd and a pretty good team that is doing well in the French Ligue 1 so far this season.
Arsenal have the better players, but the French club have two particular players that we need to be wary of. Mathieu Valbuena, their central attacking midfielder is the ringleader of the team and is a very good player. Flamini and Ramsey, as well as the defenders, will have to keep a close eye on him, but Arsenal’s French players will know him from the national team and will not dismiss his potential danger. Hopefully, our own depth of talent in the middle, including Ozil, will give Valbuena little chance of attacking himself and leave him chasing shadows.
The other main danger, for me, is Florian Thauvin. Another attacking midfielder, the young star is likely to play on the left, so Theo Walcott will have to be careful not to leave Sagna on his own too much. Having said that, the best way to nullify his danger is for Theo to torment the left back N’Koulou and make Thauvin stay back to help him.
Arsenal are going for an incredible record of 10 away wins in a row, so the confidence will be high. As they say, attack is the best means of defence.