Arsenal 2 – 0 Montpellier: Quiet than Quality then Qualified

Arsenal 2 – 0 Montpellier (Wilshere 49, Podolski 63)
Match Report | Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

Jack had earned that moment…
The relief and the joy in his celebration had very little to do with the fact Arsenal had broken the deadlock against Montpellier, and everything to do with 17 months on the sidelines.  It was a touching moment as he went over to hug the fitness coach who had overseen his rehab.  The goal will do wonders for his confidence, and it’s worth noting that this was his first ninety minutes since returning.  Both are major landmarks along his road to recovery.  I’ve been impressed with Wilshere’s strength in the challenge and his ability to burst past players.  At the moment it is just his passing radar that is a little off, but that will surely soon return to the pinpoint accuracy we recall.

Wilshere typified Arsenal’s performance…
He was far sharper in the second half than the first.   Arsenal initially looked a bit hungover from Saturday’s derby day victory, but eventually their class told.  Montpellier have some handy players but we should expect to beat a side currently 14th in Ligue 1.

Giroud’s substitution underlined his value to the team…
The Frenchman was probably disappointed to leave the field without scoring against his former team, but the standing ovation he received will have been some consolation.  The truth is that we’re suddenly very dependent on the Frenchman, and the fact Arsene took him off suggests that he knows it.   He made both goals – the first with a typically dominating downward header, and the second with a beautiful clipped pass that was as good as anything Alex Song produced last season.  Before the game, Arsene said Giroud’s improvement is down to the fact he’s understanding his team-mates better.  I disagree: the difference is that they’re beginning to understand him.  The side have realised what a threat he can be in the air, and the increased number of crosses we’re putting in suggests we’re finally playing to the big man’s strengths.

We won’t see many better goals than Podolski’s this season…
Dare I say it, but the German’s thumping volley was Van Persie-esque.   He’s one of the most clinical players I’ve ever seen in an Arsenal shirt – indeed, I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when the net didn’t bulge when he was put through on goal in the first half. Still, he more than made up for it in the second half with that superb strike.

Per Mertesacker was imperious…
Podolski’s compatriot even capped his performance with a dainty dribble through the Montpellier defence.  It’s great to see him playing so well – his name must be one of the first on the team-sheet at the moment.

Wenger is a master at negotiating the Champions League group stage…
Whatever you think of Arsene, you can’t knock his record in the early stages of European competition.  Arsenal have now qualified for the knockout phase for the 13th time in his reign – I believe it’s now twelve years on the trot.  With Chelsea and City both set to go out, it shows you just what a feat that is.  Personally, I don’t mind whether we come first or second in the group.  In a competition where winning the group could see you facing Real Madrid, it’s pretty much pot luck.

Gunnerblog is the brainchild of childbrained football writer James McNicholas. Aside from Gunnerblog, James currently contributes to Bleacher Report, The Mirror and ESPN.