Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Marseille are the visitors to Emirates Stadium on Tuesday, to find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and Julien Laurens.
Marseille might be languishing at the bottom of Group F, already unable to qualify for the knockout stage, but their tally of ‘nil points’ demonstrates the strength elsewhere in the group, rather than Marseille’s lack of quality.
Elie Baup has assembled a well-organised, cohesive side that can be extremely difficult to break down.
Marseille’s star man is Mathieu Valbuena, a highly intelligent No 10 who belongs in the same category as Ozil and Santi CazorlaMichael Cox
Although generally considered to field a 4-2-3-1 formation, Marseille spend the majority of their time with two solid banks of four behind the ball, and away from the Stade Velodrome their usual approach is to be extremely cautious, before playing on the break.
They’re capable of sitting deep because they possess centre backs that are very strong in the air, and will relish a physical confrontation with Olivier Giroud.
Nicolas N’Koulou is a very strong player, but is calm and patient in his defending, rarely diving into tackles. His partner has varied this season - Brazilian Lucas Mendes and Senegalese international Souleymane Diawara are both strong, though Mendes is better at bringing the ball forward with his left foot.
Left-back Jeremy Morel has been a great attacking threat in this season's Champions League, constantly swinging in crosses, and creating six chances in his three matches. With his compatriot Bacary Sagna also in good crossing form, this match might follow the pattern from the first game between the sides, when the majority of the play went down that flank.
In midfield, Jacques Alaixys Romao is a fixture in the side and is the primary ball-winner, rarely straying from his defensive-minded position. Expect him to watch Mesut Ozil carefully.
Marseille’s star man is Mathieu Valbuena, a highly intelligent No 10 who belongs in the same category as Ozil and Santi Cazorla. He varies his position intelligently and roams the pitch looking for possession. Capable of threading excellent through-balls into attack but also extremely measured and consistent with his distribution, Arsenal must deny Valbuena space between the lines.
Marseille will be without one of their best attackers, the powerful left-winger Andre Ayew. Baup has the perfect replacement, however: the younger Ayew brother Jordan, who is also a Ghanaian international and plays a similar role, although he isn’t as prolific in front of goal.
On the opposite flank, Dmitri Payet drifts inside to create, with youngster Florian Thauvin another option - he cuts into goalscoring positions and can shoot dangerously with his left foot.
First and foremost, Arsenal must be prepared to stop Marseille’s counter-attacks. The most interesting statistic is the fact Baup’s side have attempted 17.8 dribbles per game in the Champions League this season - considerably more than any other side, with Barcelona next best on 13.5.
JULIEN LAURENS, LE PARISIEN
Marseille come into this game in relatively good form having won their last two games in the French league, although they were against so-called lesser opposition.
Before that they went through a really bad patch where they really struggled to keep a clean sheet and they weren't scoring many goals.
I think the fact that Marseille will field a very mixed team tonight means it will be a big surprise if Arsenal don't winJulien Laurens
Florian Thauvin has hit some form in the last few games and he will be a player Arsenal have to watch out for. He's been carrying the team in the last three or four weeks.
It will be a strange game for Marseille because they are already out of the Champions League. I think Elie Baup will experiment with some younger players at the Emirates and against Borussia Dortmund in a fortnight's time. He will also change his formation slightly, usually he adopts a 4-2-3-1 formation but against the Gunners I think he will play 4-3-3 which may prove to be a more solid solution for the French side.
I think the fact that Marseille will field a very mixed team tonight means it will be a big surprise if Arsenal don't win.
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