Arsenal vs. Montpellier PreviewBy: Lachlan | September 18th, 2012
So the Champions League begins. Once again, Arsenal have managed to draw what I think is a good group. I don’t think we have unfairly drawn any competition that has been overly tough, and there is no reason why we won’t top the group. Tonight we face Montpellier, and also in the group are Schalke, who have been an impressive team in the past few seasons, even making the semi finals in the 2010-11 tournament, as well as Olympiakos, who I’m sure we are all very familiar with. The boss is suspended for this match for something that doesn’t matter, so it will be Steve Bould who is in charge of what happens during the match, unless Wenger decides to make some sneaky phone calls again of course.
Who: Montpellier HSC est. 1919 (D-L-L-W-L)
What: Champions League Group Stage Away Match
When: 18th September, 7:45PM Local Time
Where: Stade de la Mosson (32,900)
How: ESPN 2 or other channels
Them: As I’m sure you all know, Montpellier are the defending champions in Ligue 1. This is quite an impressive feat for a club on a relatively low budget, and who managed to fend off big-spending Paris Saint Germain and match fixing Olympique Lyon. However, most have suggested that Montpellier outperformed last season, and it is a feat that is unlikely to be repeated this season. Nonetheless, the team we will face this week will be a very similar one to the team that won the title last season, so we must be prepared for a tough game. Obviously, their leading scorer last season, Olivier Giroud, is unlikely to be featuring for them, so Emanuel Herrera will need to fill the striker’s role, with playmaker Younes Belhanda playing behind him.
Montpellier haven’t been in good form so far this season, however, having conceded 8 goals in their opening 5 games, leaving them with only 4 points, an entire 11 behind league leaders Marseille. Montpellier look to be a team who are struggling, and as such there is a good chance they will be vulnerable, especially in defence. On the flip side, it could be argued that given their poor league performances so far this season that they might begin to turn their focus to the Champions League and to see if they can make a good run. Whilst they are unlikely to move beyond the group stage given the quality of the other teams, Borussia Dortmund finished bottom of the group last season, despite being the strongest team in their domestic competition quite clearly.
Us: Arsenal on the other hand, are in quite a good run of form. In our four competitive games so far this season, we have scored 8 goals, and conceded only 1, for a total of 8 points from 4 games, leaving us in third on the table in the strongest league in the world. I will be the first to admit that I am very impressed with how well the team seem to be working together, and that many of the partnerships that I had concerns about are coming along nicely. Podolski seems to have developed a great relationship with Gibbs, and Cazorla is also working very well with both Podolski and Arteta to form a strong attack threat. Compared to last season, Arsenal are looking like they have improved, compared to the Montpellier side who are likely weaker without their star player.
Also working in Arsenal’s favour is that we have some good depth, which may allow us to implement a fair bit of rotation without having too much impact on our performance. Szczesny is not travelling due to an ankle injury (which has been suggested as part of the reason for his poor distribution on Saturday) and as such Mannone will start. In defence, we have Koscielny, Djourou and Santos on the bench ready to come on. It is my feeling that Koscielny will come on for Mertesacker, and Santos will come on for Gibbs. I feel like there isn’t really a performance hit for us if those changes do occur, but I would like to see Djourou get a run. In midfield, Diaby is back to fitness and will likely feature, and in addition Ramsey will likely get a run, especially given his decent performance on the weekend. I think Arteta will remain in the trio for tonight’s game. What that means for Saturday I’m not sure, but I think it is vital that he plays on Saturday, so I think I would rather see him rested tonight if at all. In attack I think Walcott and Giroud will start, and on the left I’m not quite sure who will start. I would like to see Arshavin get a run and have us save some other players for City on the weekend, but otherwise Gervinho or the Ox on the left would be a good option.
So that gives us:
Jenkinson Koscielny Vermaelen Santos
Diaby – - – - – - Arteta
Walcott – - – - – - – - – - – Arshavin
Bench: O’Shea, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Coquelin, Cazorla, Podolski, Gervinho
So I think one really good way of looking at our team for the game is that the team I think will/should start is a very strong one and one that shouldn’t have too much trouble winning, but in addition we have many high quality players running off the bench who could come on if we are in need of a late goal or two. It is vitally important for the team to keep the good run of games we have managed so far this season going. Losing to a weaker team like Montpellier is just the sort of thing that we really need to avoid, as it will put a massive dent into confidence just before we will need a heap of it in our match against Manchester City. What would be really handy is if Arsenal manage a comfortable win tonight despite rotation, whilst City send their top team to Madrid and get torn to shreds. I would personally love to see Pepe give Balotelli a real smacking.
So I’ll leave it there I think. We have a busy couple of weeks at the moment, so it would be great to see the boss make use of a fair bit of rotation for tonight’s game. If we are going to have players on the books, we might as well give them a chance to test themselves, and I think tonight’s game is a great opportunity.
I’m not sure whether Perry has a liveblog planned, but if he doesn’t then I will try to get one up.