Jack Wilshere grabbed the first two-goal haul of his career as Arsenal inched towards qualification from Champions League Group F on Tuesday night.
The Englishman curled in his first after 30 seconds and prodded home another midway through the second half as Arsène Wenger’s men easily saw off a Marseille side who have struggled to find their feet in this competition this season.
The brace took Wilshere to four goals this season, twice his best tally in any previous campaign.
In truth, Arsenal never got out of third gear this evening - but they never had to.
The Englishman’s early goal set the tone. Mesut Ozil even missed a penalty late in the first half but Marseille could not muster a response.
The win puts Arsenal on 12 points, normally enough to win the group let alone secure qualification. However they travel to Napoli (nine points) next time while Dortmund (nine points) entertain Marseille (zero points).
The position of the French club is assured; everything else is up for grabs.
Arsenal will qualify if they avoid a three-goal defeat in Italy on matchday six.
However they will have to get a draw if they want to be certain of securing top spot.
SETTING THE SCENE
Wenger made three changes from the side that had extended their lead in the Premier League table against Southampton on Saturday.
Kieran Gibbs was a late omission after feeling unwell. Nacho Monreal came in at left-back. Elsewhere it was like for like in midfield - Tomas Rosicky for Santi Cazorla and Mathieu Flamini for Mikel Arteta.
Arsenal had the lead within half a minute. Wilshere escaped down the right and fooled his marker before curling a wonderful left-footed effort into the top corner.
The home side came into this game top of the Premier League and Champions League Group F. Marseille had yet to register a point and had been patchy in Ligue 1.
Therefore the goal was the perfect foundation for the home side to kick on.
They should have doubled their advantage almost immediately when Olivier Giroud found Wilshere down the right. He tapped a perfect ball across the face of goal for the onrushing Ramsey. Keeper Steve Mandanda managed to save with his legs.
Although Wojciech Szczesny raced out well to snatch the ball from the feet of Andre-Pierre Gignac, Marseille were offering little more than honest endeavour.
Arsenal had the game under control. Ozil and Rosicky both had half-chances for a second, and Giroud seemed to be hauled down in the area as he went for a free-kick.
Eight minutes from the whistle Arsenal did get a penalty when Nicolas N’Koulou tripped Ramsey on the edge of the area. Ozil opted for a shortened run-up but Mandanda read it and saved low to his right.
The statistics showed Arsenal had enjoyed 70 per cent of the possession in the first half. But the scoreline did not reflect that.
They were unnecessarily vulnerable and immediately sought to rectify the situation.
Giroud blazed over and, in the 55th minute, Ozil sprinted through only to see his cross-shot saved by Mandanda.
Marseille were on the ropes now and offered little in terms of offence.
Arsenal needed a knockout blow and the second goal, in the 65th minute, seemed to land it.
The passing on the goal was exquisite. Ramsey released Ozil down the right-hand channel and he found Wilshere in the middle.
The Englishman coverted and suddenly (and uniquely) found himself on a hat-trick.
It seemed a long way back for Marseille and Wenger looked to make changes. Substitutes Cazorla and Theo Walcott were standing on the sidelines when Florian Thauvin’s half-saved shot was booted off the line by Monreal.
Two minutes later the same player tested Szczesny with a low shot just inside the near post.
But it was only a brief revival.
Arsenal ended in the ascendency. Walcott set up Cazorla to blaze over. The Englishman then fired wide.
When the whistle went it felt like 'job done'.
However there is still something to do in Naples next time out.
- Rosicky 74
- Ozil 81
- Wilshere 74 Goal! Goal!
- Cazorla 74
- Arteta 81
- Walcott 74
- Morel Yellow Card
- N'Koulou Yellow Card
- Romao Yellow Card
- Ayew 57
- Lemina 81
- Imbula 57
- Cheyrou 81
- Valbuena 57
- Thauvin 57