Can Arsenal win at Montpellier’s Carrelet?

September 18, 2012

I love the late summer CL fixtures. Warm nights and the opportunity for fans to watch decent football midweek.

Our first game is challenging – playing the French champions even sans OG will be difficult. A compact ground filled with 33,000 fervent fans awaiting  (what I believe will be) their first CL game.

Montpellier: I have to admit to knowing almost nothing about Montpellier HSC. I have been to the town and didn’t even know they had a club! We all know about their fairy tale La Ligue win last season but beyond that? Mbiwa, the captain is much admired and it is unlikely he will be at the club next summer.  Another player known to English fans is John Utaka who was signed by Portsmouth in 2007 for £7m and given a wage of £80k a week …. yes, you read that correctly! More than Theo is being offered in 2012!! You will not be surprised to read that Utaka was signed by a man who has a Rosie account. Montpellier’s most famous ex -player is Eric Cantona – shame he couldn’t make it in the English game.

The night’s talking point will obviously be the return to Stade de la Mosson of Oliver Giroud. It will be a special night for him and I expect OG to mark it with at least one goal.

Montpellier’s form is poor. They have won just one of five games in La Ligue, the latest resulting in a 3-1 loss away to Reims.

Stade de la Masson. Home of the French Chapions

Arsenal: There are so many possible permutations of the team tonight but I will start at the back and with our ‘keeper. Mannone will play due to an ankle injury to TPIG. It would have been interesting to see which GK would start had TPIG been fit.

The Corporal has been outstanding, an astonishing improvement in one so young and inexperienced. He isn’t the finished article yet but he deserves to keep his place. Centre back is not so simple;  Mertsacker is quality but Koscielny is too good to leave on the bench. I would play Kos tonight and Per on Sunday when it is likely Djeko will start.  Despite Gibbs improvement, I would prefer to see Santos start tonight. He is a better crosser (Gibbs must keep practicing) and OG needs something to feed on.

Midfield is also difficult to predict. My choice would be Coquelin, Cazorla and Arteta..  Diaby’s height will be important on Sunday – no risks should be taken with our fragile Bambi – and Coquelin is an able deputy who performed very well on Saturday. However, Ramsey ‘s vibrant substitute cameos are evidence of a player in good form.

Upfront we finally have options. The Ox is likely to be rested having played 2 Internationals and on Saturday. Assuming Giroud starts, The Gerv will not play centrally, so I expect the team to line up like this:

My Team:

And what a  bench….. O-C, The Gerv, Merts, Gibbs, Shea, Diaby, Ramsey.

Mr Wenger usually likes to get the 2nd round qualification achieved as soon as possible and as such I expect him to play our strongest team despite the difficult fixture on Sunday. For once, playing Tuesday will help us.

I was going to write a “where are they now?” feature for this season, it is on the back-burner at the moment but here is a taster. This gentleman is currently living in sunny Malta and owns a pub….

Fashion can make a fool of Heroes

It is hard to know what to expect of Montpellier, they could be excellent and win the group or be whipping boys. A poor start to the season does not mean that Montpellier are a poor team (AFC 2011) and tonight will be one of the biggest nights in the clubs history, they will be playing in front of a full, expectant stadium and be desperate to start their CL campaign well.  Should be a good game.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


Let’s get down to the important business ……….

August 31, 2012

So the Champions’ League 2012-13 is upon us. Here’s a bit of info and ill-informed thought on our oppo this time around.

Schalke 04

Stadium: Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen (61,000 capacity). Has a retractable roof.

Manager: Huub Stevens (Dutch, appointed in September 2011)

2011-12 performance: 3rd, but 17 points behind champions Dortmund. Lost 10 games and conceded 44 goals.

The players: Their most significant players are probably Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (“the best box player in the world at the moment” said his manager in April), Jefferson Farfan (good quality right winger) and Christoph Metzelder (experienced though slow defender). The loss of Raúl to Qatari football will be a big loss – he had two excellent years at Schalke, and worked very well with Huntelaar. But the dangerman remains Huntelaar, as confirmed by 48 goals scored in 47 games last season. Control him and we’ll be a long way to dealing with Schalke.

The fans: Club has 100,000 members. Recently departed Raúl said “In each game, how they [the Schalke fans] live for the club, it’s almost like a religion if you want to put it that way. This is really wonderful.” And having gone there in 2001 when we lost 3-1, I can confirm it is a great place to watch football, there is a real passion for football and for their club.

Olympiacos

Stadium: Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus (32,000 capacity).

Manager: Leonardo Jardim (Portuguese)

2011-12 performance: Olympiacos are the reigning champions and are Greece’s most successful club; they have won 14 of the last 16 league titles. (Being a fan of their bitter rivals, Panathinaikos, must be even more annoying than being a Spurs fan.) Last season, they conceded only 17 goals, so they may be pretty effective at the back.

The players: This is a team of veterans. There will be at least one familiar face, in the form of Roy Carroll. The loss of the Greek Super League’s leading scorer, Kevin Mirallas, to Everton will hit Olympiacos hard. But they will look to Rafik Djebbor and experienced Marko Pantelic to make up the difference. Ariel Ibagaza, David Fuster, and Djamel Abdoun will be the principal creative forces.

The fans: They will be intense, as we know all fans from south-eastern Europe are. Their rivalry with Panathinaikos is called the “derby of the eternal enemies”. The derby in February was abandoned due to rioting, which included throwing firebombs and resulted in multiple injuries being suffered by police officers.

Montpellier Hérault SC

Stadium: Stade de la Mosson (capacity 33,000)

Manager: René Girard (French)

2011-12 performance: For the first time, Montpellier were crowned French champions.

Given that they started the season simply wanting to avoid relegation and they were competing with PSG’s money and the experience of Lyon, Bordeaux, Marseille and Lille, that is deeply impressive. They had only finished in the top three once before, more than 20 years ago. They’ve had some great players in the past, like Laurent Blanc, Eric Cantona and Carlos Valderrama, but winning the French title was a genuine shock. Their win was based on excellent home form (they won 16 out of 19 home games). Here’s what Girard said on seeing his players become champions: “It just goes to show that everyone can beat everyone and that money isn’t the be-all and end-all. We’re a club of mates, a club that brings young players through and gives them a chance. At the end of the day, it’s worked out well for us. We played some great football, with a well-balanced team and I’m overwhelmed.” Donchya love it?!

The players: The squad is based on youth, nurtured in-house and recruited from elsewhere – sound familiar? Losing Olivier Giroud to us will hurt, he was joint top scorer in Ligue 1 last year. But they have a bright young creative talent in the form of Younès Belhanda, and will be looking to him to weigh in with goals and assists. His manager has likened Belhanda to Robert Pirès. High praise indeed. They also have former Pompey striker, John Utaka. In defence, Henri Bedimo and (if we, Milan or someone else haven’t signed him) Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa will provide a tough shield to get past.

The fans: After last season, they’ll be euphoric. Beyond that, I can’t say much, but coming from a university town in a pretty part of France, I’m sure they’ll be charming.

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So overall, we’d have to say the draw has been pretty kind to us this year. It won’t be completely straightforward (Olympiacos did beat us last year, for example). But this is a group we should feel we can cope with, and enjoy.

Written by 26may1989