Arsenal’s impressive start continues into Europe
Goals from Walcott and Ramsey earn victory in Marseille
Arsenal’s Theo Walcott celebrates his goal during the Champions League match against Marseille at Stade Velodrome. Photograph: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Marseille 1 Arsenal 2: The Arsenal machine rolls on. This was not a vintage performance and there were plenty of moments when Marseille threatened to make life uncomfortable for their opponents, but all that matters to Arsène Wenger and his players is that they departed the south of France with a sixth successive victory and a remarkable 10th on the spin away from home.
Theo Walcott’s first goal of the season followed by a second, six minutes from time, from the in-form Aaron Ramsey means that Arsenal have got off to the best possible start, picking up three valuable points ahead of back-to-back home games against Napoli and Borussia Dortmund.
Marseille will reflect on how different the outcome might have been had they showed the same clinical edge as Arsenal and whether the match would have stayed within their grasp but for Jérémy Model making a dreadful error in the second half. The left back stooped to head a Kieran Gibbs cross that bounced awkwardly in front of him when it would have been easier to put his foot through the ball. Walcott, volleying into the top corner, finished with aplomb.
Ramsey, with his sixth goal in seven matches, doubled Arsenal’s advantage before being penalised harshly for bringing down André Ayew when he clearly got the ball, in injury time. Jordan Ayew converted from the spot with almost the last kick of the game.
Wenger’s occasional appearances on the touchline in the first half hinted at the manager’s frustration. After dominating possession in the early exchanges, when Walcott had a reasonable chance to put Arsenal ahead, the visitors lost their way a little. Their passing was careless, with Walcott guilty of giving the ball away cheaply on several occasions in the opening 45 minutes and, at times, Mesut Özil and Jack Wilshere, who started on the left but often drifted infield, seemed to be competing for the same space.
Marseille are something of a work in progress on and off the pitch. Unable to compete with the financial muscle of Paris St-Germain and Monaco, the club have taken the view that snapping up the best young talent in France is the way forward. They will have a wonderful home when Stade Vélodrome is finished but for the moment the arena resembles a building site, with one side of the ground out of use and cranes dominating the skyline.
Their fans in the vertiginous stands behind both goals were making no shortage of noise, however, and could easily have had something to celebrate come the interval.