Game in a sentence

Arsenal reach the knockout stage (with some help from Schalke) in a straight forward affair at the Emirates.

Observations

  • The future was on display with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain playing in place of an injured Theo Walcott on the wing. English rags ’report’ Arsene Wenger has requested the Board improve their offer to Walcott in an attempt to quell the endless speculation that has plagued this contract dispute. The money men on the board — those of them who watched the game – - got a glimpse of life without Theo. The result: meh.
  • The start would be key for the Gunners, who started poorly in the derby versus Spurs on the weekend. Adebayor’s thickness sparred them an unwanted result. They got away with it again today, as Montpellier didn’t pose an immediate threat at the Arsenal goal. Giveaways from stalwarts like Wilshere and Cazorla was a worrying trend. Schalke made them pay for similar play one month ago at the Emirates, Montepellier didn’t have the talent to do so.
  • They’ll never be mistaken for defensive maestros, but the left side duo of Koscielny and Vermaelen appear to be settling in quite nicely at the back. The former nearly opened the scoring, clattering the crossbar with a header from a Vermaelen cross.
  • Like clockwork the “lack of atmosphere at Emirates” jokes began to pour in on twitter. This joke has become much more annoying than the lack of atmosphere. We get it.
  • Though they were balless for much of the half, the visitors were dangerous on the counter. Rémy Cabella, Younés Belhanda and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa — an Arsenal target supposedly — shone the brightest. Though they were the better side, Arsenal wasn’t good enough in the final third.
  • Four minutes into the final half, the Gunners broke through. Vermaelen streaked past Mathieu Deplagne — playing in only his third game for Montepellier — and sent an excellent ball that was headed on by Olivier Giroud to Jack Wilshere. The Englishmen scored his first goal for Arsenal in nearly two years, a welcome sight for both Wenger and Hodgson. Giroud was immense on the goal and has asserted himself as a legitimate threat in the last month. After providing fodder for nervous Gooners still lamenting the departure of key players, it’s time Olivier got his due.
  • The Arsenal sit back and pray tactic after a goal reared it’s heart attack inducing head once again. They aren’t good enough to play such passive football.
  • No matter, a piece of brilliance from Giroud and Podolski put this game to bed in the 63rd minute.

  • Once again Giroud was the provider, playing a  perfect ball into Podolski, who struck the ball as well as one can.
  • Another positive takeaway for Wenger will be the improving play of Bacary Sagna, who looks to be all the way back to his pre-injury form. He’s playing at a level that has relegated Carl Jenkinson — who was playing well himself — to the bench. Arsenal need to have this problem at more positions.
  • Meanwhile in Gelsenkirchen , Christian Fuchs 77th minute goal sealed a spot in the final 16 for Arsenal. However, there is plenty to play for when the Gunners travel to Athens in a few weeks. Getting top spot in group B should be a priority. They got lucky with their draw this time around, it’s unlikely to happen again when the hapless are removed from the tournament.

Three stars

1. Olivier Giroud

2. Jack Wilshere

3. Lukas Podolski