Jack Wilshere scored in either half as Arsenal outclassed average opposition from the France in Marseille, taking them a step closer to yet another progression from the Champions League group stage.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger made three changes to the XI that started the 2-0 Premier League win over Southampton at the weekend. Nacho Monreal came in at left back to cover for the unwell Kieran Gibbs.
Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla meanwhile dropped to bench with Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky starting. Theo Walcott continued his comeback from injury among the subs.
Marseille meanwhile kept regular attacking talent Mathieu Valbuena in reserve, and did the same with defenders Rod Fanni and Souleymane Diawara. Winger Andre Ayew missed out injured, so brother Jordan deputised.
Arsenal raced into the lead inside 30 seconds with Marseille caught cold to the earliest of early counters. Bacary Sagna broke and set Wilshere away down the right. The England midfielder came inside, sold Lucas Mendes, and curled beyond Steve Mandanda into the top corner.
That blistering start continued as slick midfield passing with Wilshere again involved set up Aaron Ramsey. France international understudy Mandanda somehow kept the Gunners’ Welshman out, however. Goalmouth action then ebbed for a long while until the hosts were awarded a contentious penalty.
Cameroon defender Nicolas N’Koulou was adjudged to have felled Ramsey on the line demarking the penalty area. The referee pointed to the spot, but replays confirmed the incident was outside the box. Arsenal did not profit, however.
Mandanda read Mesut Ozil’s tame spot kick easily and kept it out. Mediocre Marseille, fielding fringe players, often gave the ball away cheaply with talented youngster Gianelli Imbula among the guiltiest.
Olivier Giroud saw an effort deflected off Kassim Abdallah after the break and Mandanda denied Ozil again when Wilshere sprayed the ball out to him. Marseille looked to their bench with Valbuena and another talented youngster Florian Thauvin coming on.
They made little impact though as wave after wave of marauding Gunners came at the beleaguered visiting defence. Wilshere helped himself to a second goal with 25 minutes remaining by finishing a move crafted by midfield movement from Ramsey and Ozil.
Wenger introduced Cazorla and Walcott as Marseille had three chances through Thauvin. First he headed wide before a combination of Wojciech Szczesny and Monreal kept a second effort, and then the Gunners goalie plunged low to keep another strike out.
Arsenal sub Walcott fired wide in stoppage time, but the match was won by then. If they can avoid a heavy defeat in the final group game against Napoli then they advance.
- Arsenal: 1 Wojciech Szczesny, 3 Bacary Sagna, 4 Per Mertesacker, 6 Laurent Koscielny, 17 Nacho Monreal, 16 Aaron Ramsey, 20 Mathieu Flamini, 10 Jack Wilshere (14 Theo Walcott 75’), 11 Mesut Ozil (8 Mikel Arteta 82’), 7 Tomas Rosicky (19 Santi Cazorla 75’), 12 Olivier Giroud 4-2-3-1
- Goals: Jack Wilshere 1’, 65’
- Marseille: 30 Steve Mandanda (c), 2 Kassim Abdallah, 3 Nicolas N’Koulou, 4 Lucas Mendes, 15 Jeremy Morel, 13 Mario Lemina (7 Benoit Cheyrou 81’), 20 Alaixys Romao, 25 Gianelli Imbula (14 Florian Thauin 57’), 11 Jordan Ayew (28 Mathieu Valbuena 57’), 9 Andre-Pierre Gignac, 29 Saber Khalifa 4-3-3