Morn folks. I still have the occasional buzz resulting from Saturday’s win. Not as strong as after the win at Liverpool, but a buZzzzZz nonetheless. The UCL is upon us. We face Montpellier today in France, the first of four matches in two weeks which will see us face the French, English and European champs. Two weeks that can strengthen or utterly shatter the newly-resurrected belief and solidity in the team. *gulp*Anyway, that’s not why I’m here today.
We go into the match unbeaten in the EPL this season, on the back of a pretty solid defence, a disciplined midfield and a gradually-budding attack. We are unbeaten in our last eight(8) opening group stage games with the last defeat coming in ’03. We have also never lost an away game in France, winning five(5) of our nine(9) visits (three of those, one-nil wins). In total, against French sides in the UCL, we have played 16, won 8, drawn 6 and lost 2 having a cumulative goal difference of +8. (Arsenal’s Form: DDWW)
That unbeaten run on French soil looks like it will not halted today, if Montpellier’s current form is used as yardstick.
Montpellier have, by the standard of Ligue 1 Champions, had a poor start to their season. This being their 1st appearance in the UCL Group Stage though, expectations of the team would be to progress to the knockout round. Anything more, they’d jump at. Plus, they have a largely small and inexperienced squad. That squad won them the League but competing in the League and the UCL in one season with such may prove difficult for them. They will, however, be looking toYounes Belhanda, if given time and space on the ball, to make things happen for them. They have only faced English opposition once competitively; the mancs in the European CWC Qtr-Final in the ’90/’91 season. A game they lost. (Montpellier’s Form: DLLWL)
Another player that will be in the spotlight is our Olivier Giroud. So much has been said about the dude, especially as he goes into this match still hunting for his first goal for the Arsenal. A match against his former employers; a team whom his goals, in no small measure, helped win the League and who beamed the spotlight on him in return. I’m not ready to add to the pressure already on his shoulders.
We are without Woj. A reported ankle problem. I have a lil theory about that tho: I do not believe he is injured! I think he was dropped, but the injury was used as an excuse so the Press would not feed on Woj’s c*ck-up and AW will get his point made to him at the same time. That, is my humble opinion. Damian Martinez wasn’t registered for the UCL so James Shea deputises for Vito Mannone. Andrei Arshavin and Johann Djourou have also been left behind in London.
I’d like to pretend it’s FM and say I’d expect the Verminator, Gibbs, Santi and Arteta be rested for the City match. Kos, Santos, Ramsey and Le Coq can come in for them. The match may not be a walk in the park but it should be enough to rest key players. I’d have thought to rest Poldi also, but he seems to always be buzzing with energy and would never need rest plus he is getting into a stride. I’d suggest the Ox drops to the bench so Poldi and the Forehead be on either side of Giroud. I still think we haven’t used Giroud’s height to good effect; especially as he and Jenkinson are in the same eleven. That said, if I was AW, the 1st Eleven would look like this: Mannone; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Santos; Coquelin, Diaby, Ramsey; Gervinho, Giroud, Podolski.
The referee’s Carlos Carballo. He refereed our 2-1 win over Olympiacos at the Emirattes last season.
AW also begins his 3-match UEFA Touchline Ban with this match tonight.
In other news, it seems Theo will be offered a ‘sign or go’ contract. In all honesty, I’m in love with the all-new-and-ruthless-probably-steve-bould-influenced AW. Imo, the only reason Theo has even lasted. This long with us is his pace. He is nowhere near our first team technically. And we can’t be held to ransom while waiting on him to get that level of technicality and consistency. Make he shift abeg.
This piece would be incomplete if I didn’t famz Titi. He scored a brace and made an assist for the Red Bulls; one of the goals coming off a direct corner. I am pleased to announce I was of a generation who got to see him play. And play he did for my favourite team. Ko le tan l’ara om’oba ko ma ku ransaki. In this case though, he is the Oba, the Igwe.
That is all folks. For now at least.