Robin van Persie’s electric form and Arsenal’s return to winning ways have given the English side the belief they can beat any team in Europe before hosting Olympique Marseille for a Group F Champions League match on Tuesday.
Despite some lapses at the back, Arsenal played some outstanding football in their 5-3 win at Chelsea on Saturday with Van Persie sparking the victory with a hat-trick to take his goals tally to 28 in his last 27 Premier League games.
After a stuttering start to the season, confidence has improved thanks to a run of five successive wins in all competitions, which they are confident of extending at the Emirates Stadium against their French visitors.
“The way we’re playing at this moment in time we believe we can beat anyone,” winger Theo Walcott told local media.
“We’re enjoying our football, our run is great now and we’re just going to keep on continuing that. Everyone is buzzing at the moment.
“Robin’s form is fantastic. It makes our job much easier when he plays like that.”
Since losing to arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 on Oct. 2, Arsenal have managed Premier League wins over Sunderland, Stoke City and Chelsea as well as beating Bolton Wanderers in the League Cup and Marseille in the Champions League.
Marseille come to England after beating Dijon 3-2 in Ligue 1 on Saturday, but although they, like Arsenal, have begun to improve domestically, it will be a major shock if they get the better of the Londoners who won 1-0 in Marseille two weeks ago when Aaron Ramsey scored a stoppage-time winner.
Arsenal also have a great record at home in the group stage of the competition, having won 20 of their last 24 group games and drawn the other four since losing to Inter Milan at their old Highbury ground in September 2003.
It now seems hard to believe that Arsenal won only one of their opening four league matches and suffered an 8-2 defeat by Manchester United and a 4-3 loss at Blackburn Rovers in successive away league matches at the start of the season.
“What has changed is that we got half of the team on August 31,” manager Arsene Wenger said after the win over Chelsea. “We had to rebuild complete unity in the way we wanted to play football. Every win makes you stronger.”
Arsenal are top of the group with seven points from three games, followed by Marseille, who are a point behind. Olympiakos (three points) and Borussia Dortmund (one) meet in the other game, so a victory for the Gunners would put them on the verge of a place in the last 16.
Marseille have endured a rocky few weeks but Saturday’s battling win at Dijon in Ligue 1 looks to have given coach Didier Deschamps some breathing pace as he plots a way of winning at the Emirates.
The 1993 European champions started their campaign well with wins at Olympiakos and at home to Dortmund before the last-gasp 1-0 Stade Velodrome defeat by Arsenal.
Fans also staged a silent protest at the club’s mediocre display during the 2-0 win over Ajaccio on Oct. 22.
Two French top flight wins on the bounce and a League Cup last-16 victory have boosted OM’s confidence, however.
Deschamps has switched to 4-4-2 from 4-3-3 to good effect and has left previously key midfielders Alou Diarra and Lucho Gonzalez on the bench of late, although France’s Diarra came on to score the 82nd minute winner at Dijon.
Whether France’s 1998 World Cup-winning captain will stick to his guns in London remains to be seen.
“We could play 4-4-2,” the former Chelsea midfielder told reporters.
“But is it a system that can pose them problems without putting us in difficulty? I saw their match at Stamford Bridge, they conceded three but the three in midfield and three up front have quality.
“I still have time to ponder 4-4-2. I am going to rotate a bit anyway because of tiredness.”
Forward Jordan Ayew and defender Rod Fanni are back from European bans for the Group F clash but Stephane Mbia is still out with a metatarsal injury.
Arsenal: 13-Wojciech Szczesny; 25-Carl Jenkinson, 4-Per Mertesacker, 6-Laurent Koscielny, 11-Andre Santos; 8-Mikel Arteta, 17-Alex Song, 16-Aaron Ramsey, 14-Theo Walcott; 27-Gervinho, 10-Robin van Persie
Olympique Marseille: 30-Steve Mandanda; 24-Rod Fanni, 21-Souleymane Diawara, 3-Nicolas N’Koulou, 15-Jeremy Morel; 28-Mathieu Valbuena, 8-Lucho Gonzalez, 4-Alou Diarra, 20-Andre Ayew; 11-Loic Remy, 10-Andre Pierre Gignac
Referee: Paolo Tagliavento (Italy)
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