In a week when we hear half the dressing room wanted to leave at the end of last season, it was gratifying to see nearly everyone pulling the weight away at Marseilles. Talking of half, the Stade Velodrome was just over half full due to stadium renovation. Nevertheless it was rocking and in football-speak: ‘a daunting place to come to’.
James Boylan of the Metro called Arsenal’s subsequent display ‘unusually defensively solid’ and despite Carl Jenkinson’s handball that wasn’t penalised and Loic Remy’s nutmeg of Per Mertesacke, it’s true to say Arsenal were largely untroubled at the back.
However, Andre Santos still looked woefully short of match-fitness despite his fine array of party tricks and was somewhat fortunate not to get his marching orders after a blatant second yellow card offence. The already-booked Brazilian got away with what looked like a half-hearted deliberate handball, so can count himself lucky to have completed the match.
My favourite lettuce, meanwhile, Laurent ‘Kos’ Koscielny held the back four together almost single-handedly. Okay, it wasn’t Premier League opposition but Kos was man-of-the-match by a country mile.
Further up the pitch, Arsenal disappointed. Andrey Arshavin will be picked on for a poor display, although I’d argue he made the most incisive forward pass in the match. Nothing came of it so it will be forgotten but his contribution was not significant enough for the captain of Russia.
His replacement, the Wales skipper, Aaron Ramsey won the game, of course, with a superb strike from a Johan Djourou cross. Yes, even the out of form JD performed well on the night, as a replacement for the crocked Jenkinson, who had his best game in an Arsenal shirt.
It goes to show that Wenger is not mad after all as JD can play right back, as can Jenkinson. The only caveat for now being they can play there against European opposition. Let’s hope they can do the same against Stoke. That will be the real proof of the pudding!