Marvellous in Marseille
Anyone who has been on one of our European away trips knows how entertaining they can be. The result however, doesn't necessarily contribute. Our latest adventure delivered both on and of the pitch. The perfect start.
My planning could have been better on this occasion, getting back from Sunderland on Sunday before taking in the England cricket team's one-day international at the Rose Bowl on Monday. Although my good fortune of being in a position to be able to undertake such activities will never see me moaning, lights out just after midnight knowing I was getting up some time between 4am and 5am to head to Gatwick was a little bit painful, especially after our excesses up in the North East at the weekend!
The weather forecast suggested a sun-drenched Marseille awaited our arrival so given how much we enjoyed our last visit to the city we were all very much looking forward to it. A smooth on-time flight and a relatively efficient transfer into the city meant we all thoroughly enjoyed our Tuesday lunch on the sunny south coast.
Tuesday night's events followed the highly entertaining but expected course with a few cold ones enjoyed in the company of the usual suspects... in fact actually getting to bed is causing me one or two issues in the recollection stakes!
Sitting outside a pavement café with a coffee in the sunshine come matchday did much to clear the head and set us up for pre-match activities and the first instalment of this season's group stage.
The travelling army of Gooners were in fine spirits as always and with our recent form we were quietly confident that we could go on and get a positive result.
As a biased Gooner I try and look at our performances as impartially as my allegiances allow me and often I do this by establishing my thoughts if it was another English team I was watching. Nobody in particular, just any English team.
Based on this I genuinely believe if I'd watched another team put in our performance I would describe it as thoroughly professional on the night.
The first half lacked a little bit of incident and we created little going forward but we kept our shape extremely well and thoroughly deserved to be level at the break.
The second period, of course, was much more open, our hosts joining us on going close on a couple of occasions. The longer the game went on however, we looked more and more like being the team to grab an opening goal.
That came with Theo's fine volley and a little area of southern France celebrated with gusto! I was delighted for Theo too after receiving a little bit of 'stick' on Saturday when some excellent chances didn't go his way. In my opinion if he keeps making the runs the goals and assists will come, a number of the players in our squad being well capable of finding him.
Rambo continued his awesome form with the second, our song for him echoing into the night sky as a result. A goal that was to prove crucial in the end, our hosts scoring late with a hugely debatable penalty where TV replays suggest it was a clean tackle.
In such a tough group we couldn't have hoped for a better start and celebrations continued late into the night before our journey home and thoughts turning to Stoke at home on Sunday lunchtime.
Since our opening day things have pretty much been perfect on all fronts, especially results-wise. Whatever angle we look at football, that is the most important area to get right.
That continues on Sunday, three points are up for grabs and we need to put in a performance to earn them as always.
Come on you mighty reds!