Arsenal 0 v Marseille 0

All talk of early Champions League progression has to be put on hold for now, after Arsenal could not breach a lively and technically proficient Marseille at the Emirates. So much was anticipated of the Gunners after their 5-3 drubbing on Chelsea on Saturday, but in the event, the exertions at Stamford Bridge came to affect the Gunners’ Champions League progression, at least for now that is . Arsene Wenger had talked of not only early qualification but also finishing top of Group F. Both targets are still very much achievable, but this is Arsenal and their habit to do things the hard way is one thing that the Emirates faithful could do without. Having won in France a fortnight ago courtesy of Aaron Ramsey’s late strike, Marseille, roared on by a vocal following were to give a better account of themselves, with there still a point separating these two sides in Group F.

Three man attack

Robin Van Persie has without a shadow of a doubt been the mainstay of this Arsenal side. Wenger appreciates what a rare species a fit Van Persie is, and is keen to rest his star striker at any given opportunity. And that was the case here. Park Ju-Young was given the nod at the apex of a three man attack with Theo Walcott and Gervinho on either flank. It was Marseille however who asked all the early questions, with their slick intricate play that only needed finishing to match from Loic Remy and Jordan Ayew.

Reminded

Arsenal’s first meaningful foray forward saw Walcott race clear and his low drive could not get beyond the fingertips save of Steve Mandanda. Chances to Gervinho and Ramsey went begging as Arsenal began to find their rhythm. Frustratingly however, the goal would not come. Andre Santos showed us again that he is an attacking defender, although the Brazil player has to be reminded he is primarily there to do more of the latter and at times possibly less of the former. Thomas Vermaelen was his excellent self and showed us again what a miss he has been. Given his current form, Laurent Koscielny could be considered to be very unlucky not to be partnering the Belgian, and especially as Per Mertersacker seems to be struggling of late.

Grasp

After his fine game and goal in the Carling Cup win over Bolton, Wenger declared Park ready for first team action, but on this evidence, one would take issue with the Arsenal manager If he wasn’t already aware of it, the South Korean captain will surely grasp the need to be firm in the tackle, to keep possession, and vital to his game to give his attacking partners options rather than stand still. Happily he will learn.

Van Persie fizz

Just past the hour mark, Wenger had seen enough and elected to replace Park with Van Persie and to much applause. Both sides went searching for the opener, but invariably ran up against a busy defence or a misplaced pass. Van Persie began to fizz, and the moment that could have changed the course of the game finally arrived. Tomas Rosicky who had come on for Ramsey, slipped in Van Persie with only Mandanda ahead of him. The Gunners’ number 10 crafted a sublime chip that had the range, but it’s height was just too comfortable for the Marseille ‘keeper to pluck out of the air .Deep into time added on, Van Persie tried again, this time delivering a prefect cross which was too good for the visitors’ defence, but unfortunately it also eluded all of his team mates, as honours finished even.