EILLE vs ARSENAL
ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger admits his side’s latest Champions League campaign is offering him a pleasant distraction from what has been a turbulent start to the domestic season.
The Gunners are well placed in Group F after following up a creditable draw in Dortmund with a narrow win over Olympiacos a fortnight ago. Victory in Marseille tonight would in all likelihood put them within three points of the knockout stages.
By stark contrast, Sunday’s jittery
2-1 win over Sunderland, achieved on the back of a Robin van Persie brace, moved Arsenal into the top-half of the Premier League table for the first time this season.
“We play with a bit more freedom away from home in Europe and there is a bit less pressure,” admitted Wenger, who expects midfielder Aaron Ramsey to have recovered from a slight hamstring strain.
“But in [the qualifier] Udinese we also played with massive pressure because that was the game of the season for us. Not to win that game would have been a disaster.
“You can see since then that it was a good game (to win) because Udinese are top of the league in Italy and at the time I could feel they were a very good side.”
Left-back Kieran Gibbs misses out with a stomach injury against the French club, who like Arsenal are struggling at home but thriving in the Champions League.
Thomas Vermaelen is a fortnight away from full fitness but Arsenal have been boosted by the news that the former Ajax centre-half has committed his future to the club by signing a new long-term contract.
Wenger said: “We are delighted that Thomas has signed a new long-term contract. Our plan is always to sign top-quality players and with Thomas extending his contract, we have done just that. Thomas is a special player, who has always made a huge contribution on the pitch.”