Arsenal Spotlight: Arsenal tops Marseille in CCL

Caleb Alexander played collegiate soccer at UNC-Asheville before joining the Rapids front office, first as a tickets sales executive and recently a Service Specialist. He’s also a life-long Arsenal fan and will be keeping Rapids fans updated on the Gunners throughout the 2013-2014 season.

Jack Wilshere scored two goals on Tuesday afternoon to lead Arsenal to a 2-0 win over visiting Marseille in the UEFA Champion’s League group stage. The win kept the Gunners on top of their group and virtually guaranteed Arsenal of advancing to the Round of 16, although it is possible they could still miss out. As long as they avoid a loss by three or more goals in Italy when they face Napoli on December 11th they will advance, while a win or a tie would also guarantee they finish top of the group.

The Gunners got off to the best start possible with Jack Wilshere scoring after only 28 seconds. Bacary Sagna played Wilshere into space down the right wing, where he cut by his defender, and with his favored left foot, expertly curled a shot into the top corner of the goal. Arsenal nearly scored a second soon after when on-form Aaron Ramsey was denied by Marseille’s goalkeeper from close range. Ramsey then presented Arsenal with another chance to score their second when he was brought down after a clever flick over his defender’s head. The ref blew for a penalty even though it looked as if the contact happened just outside of the box. Mesut Özil stepped up to take the kick but his short run up and weak attempt was easily saved by Marseille’s keeper.

Arsenal finally did get their second goal after some intricate play between the attacking trio of Ramsey, Özil, and Wilshere in the 65th minute. Olivier Giroud did well to hold the ball up on the right side of the penalty area before laying a pass back to Ramsey. Ramsey found Özil in space inside the box and his first time cross with the outside of his left foot was once again finished off by Jack Wilshere. Apart from one excellent save by Szczesny, the rest of the game played out without Arsenal ever looking in danger of giving up their lead, and that has been one of the notable improvements in the team this season.

In recent years Arsenal has been guilty of giving up soft goals that made wins much more uncomfortable, and often times caused them to lose valuable points. This season there seems to be a maturity and concentration throughout the entire team that has cut out many of those mistakes, and as a result, has allowed the team to close out wins and grind out important results. This solidity and the fact that there are goal threats all over the field has really set this Arsenal team up to do something special this season.

Arsenal are back to Premier League action this Saturday when they travel to Wales to face Cardiff City in the first of five games in only 15 days. Cardiff have been very difficult at home this season, with a shock win over Manchester City and a last minute, come from behind tie against Manchester United last weekend. Arsene Wenger will most likely look to rotate his squad for this game, with upcoming fixtures against Everton and Manchester City just around the corner, but he has to make sure his team does not become complacent. Chelsea and Liverpool are waiting to take advantage of any slip up, but I have a good feeling this team won’t let that happen.

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