Arsenal vs. Marseille preview

"Is the training dummy fit to play? I don't know. He has a late test, but Squillaci has the quality to cover for him"
Arsenal vs. Marseille
Kickoff: Tuesday November 1, 3:45 PM ET
Emirates Stadium, London, Earth, Systems Alliance
TV: FSPlus
Form: Arsenal WWWWW (IS IT HIS SHOES?) Marseille DLWWL


A rejuvenated Arsenal side look to keep their momentum going into the month of November as they welcome Group F's second-place team to North London on the heels of their Chelsea comeback(s). After the weekend's tough battle it's likely that the team will see changes, but with strong opposition Arsene Wenger must guard against weakening his side too much.

While the Chelsea derby was the big test of the week, this match has its own weight. Currently Arsenal lead the group by only one point over Marseille, and a win would go a long way towards cementing the top spot (and hopefully avoiding yet another upsetting match-up with Barcelona). The Champions League is really odd this year, so it's really tough to honestly say whether finishing first or second in the group would be more beneficial. That doesn't really matter though - qualification is the more pressing matter, as well as extending Arsenal's current run of form. Just win, baby.

We're only two short days off of that clash at Stamford Bridge, so team fitness is a concern. Wenger says both Carl Jenkinson and Thomas Vermaelen are available and in the squad, but he does not know yet whether they will be fit enough to start. Since neither saw much time last week, I think if they're fit and ready to go, both will start. Marouane Chamakh has a knee injury and will not play, while Abou Diaby is still trapped in the Springfield Mystery Spot. Wenger also gave this oddly declarative statement to the dotcom:

Yossi Benayoun is back in the squad.

So there's that. (That sentence alone was an answer to a question in the team news interview. I found it odd.) Anyway, my lineup prediction/half-baked reasoning for said prediction:

Szczesny

Jenkinson - Koscielny - Mertesacker - Vermaelen

Coquelin - Rosicky

OX - Arshavin - Benayoun

Park

The most interesting thing to see will be Wenger's decision-making when it comes to the defense. There are a lot of moving parts there, and some guys who could use a rest. One of them is Laurent Koscielny - however, I'm not sure I trust this defense without him in it. With no cover, Andre Santos needs the rest most, and while I think it would be good to get Johan Djourou some time in the center of the defense, since he's the only cover for Carl Jenkinson he also gets the day off. It's honestly very hard to read the situation at the moment, so don't be surprised if I haven't gotten a single spot here right. If I guessed it totally right, you guys all owe me a Coke.

The midfield is what I would like to see, but maybe not what will actually feature. I trust Francis Coquelin more than Emmanuel Frimpong presently, and I really would like to see Andrey Arshavin get the middle rather than a wing. There's an outside chance that Ryo Miyaichi could play, but it's doubtful. Yossi Benayoun is back in the squad.

If Marseille tried to park the bus against us in France, I would figure they'll do it in London as well. I expect a fully-loaded defense, with an eye toward the counterattack to try to swipe a goal. It's quite likely that considering their poor form of late and the fact that their position in the group is slightly more precarious than ours, they'll start a strong side, very similar to the one we saw at Stade Vélodrome. Jordan Ayew will return from European suspension, while his brother Andre and Loic Remy will be the biggest dangers to whatever defense Arsenal run out.

PREDICTION TIME: Arsenal are a one-man team, so you would think that the fact that Robin van Persie probably won't start should mean CRISIS for the Gunners, right? WRONG. The captain is in such good form that he scores two goals from the bench, one while somehow invisible. Remy scores on a penalty after Szczesny inexplicably throws his water bottle at him. Arsenal 2-1 Marseille.

EDIT: This is a cool thing that I just found, via @TheRSD on Twitter. There's a bunch of other cool information in there about the teams, and rather than lifting it for this report, I figured I would just link to it.

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