Should Theo start against Marseille?

By Avenell Dave

It's hard to know how to approach a game against the whipping boys of our Champions League group.

If you'd asked before we began this competition who was the weakest side, I'm sure most of us would have said Marseille, but the fact that they don;t have a point even is something of a surprise.

Win tonight and we are almost in the next round, but of course the crazy, avoidable home defeat to Borussia Dortmund did complicate things slightly even if we made up for it in the away game.

Arsene Wenger and Aaron Ramsey were quick to point out how dangerous the French side could be because they have nothing to lose and if they had Joey Barton in their side as they did last season, I may be worried that some recklessness may ensue.

But we've shown already this season that we're focused and less gung-ho than we have been in previous seasons, and that provides reassurance in a competition where we can't really take anything for granted.

We're a fine side and apart from a flu epidemic and that Dortmund game where we WERE too adventurous, we've proved to be far more professional than in recent seasons.

While it would be a fool who took Marseille lightly, there is an opportunity tonight not just to cement our place in the knockout stages, but also to give some players a run-out that need match time.

If Theo Walcott is as rusty as Wenger made out in recent press conferences, then he has to start.

We have missed his pace which can be vital to get behind sides and he also gives us another striker option if we want to give Olivier Giroud a rest.

Theo inspires and frustrates in equal measure, of course. He has pace and when he is in the mood and when he doesn’t have to think too much, he is a real asset.

The problems arise when he has to track back or when he has time to think, and that’s inevitably what has stopped him from becoming a world class player.

He could learn a thing or two from Serge Gnabry, who may not be quite so fast but has a superb footballing brain and works hard for the team when we’re not in possession.

I’d play him on the right, allowing Jack Wilshere to drop back into midfield alongside the undroppable Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini, who will be itching to start after his suspension and the prospect of facing his former club, who incidentally he has spoken about returning to in future.

That would give Mikel Arteta a rest as well, which may be useful given he suffered a small knock on the weekend.

The rest of the side picks itself although I’d be tempted to play Nacho Monreal in place of Gibs, again to give the England defender a rest.

Mesut Ozil has to start if only to give him more opportunity to get into the groove to live up to the star billing he had when he arrived. We all know he is a super class player as Wenger would say, but the more he plays, the more he will adjust and show us what he can do.

If Napoli get a draw at Dortmund, we are through and while Wenger talks about the importance of finishing top of the table even though there will be no easy games, we can at least go into our match away at the Italians without the pressure of having to get a result.

The recent atmosphere at the Emirates has been superb and no doubt with vocal away support this evening, that will be the case again.

We have Cardiff away and Hull at home coming up – two winnable but potentially tricky games and the opportunity to rotate without weakening the side must be a consideration ahead of an intense run of domestic games.



Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Monreal

Flamini Wilshere Ramsey

Walcott Giroud Ozil