Arsene Wenger has insisted that his side must ignore the reports of a potential ‘easy game’ with French Champions Montpellier in tonight’s Champions League fixture. It is clear that there is fair reason to the favourites tag bestowed on Arsenal. Montpellier have had a poor campaign so far this term with just 14 points in the League and sitting bottom in their Champions League group.
While Montpellier coach Rene Girard concedes that a place in the next round of Europe’s elite competition is beyond his stooges he still holds out hope of a Europa League place:
“It’s a great match for us, a very important game, but as I have said to the lads, in terms of the Champions League, qualification is over but we still have a slight hope for the Europa League. Beyond that we need to prepare well for the continuation of our league campaign, need to be very solid, get back to our usual form and get higher up the table.”
Arsenal discovered in the first tie between the two that for all their defensive frailties the Southern French side are still dangerous in attack so Wenger is right to be wary ahead of the fixture; even if he will still expect his men to reign supreme.
While much of the attention has focused on Olivier Giroud and his potential performance against his former club, indeed Girard has claimed his team know how to play against the in-form French international, his appearance for Arsenal this season may give the North London side cause for concern tonight.
From the team that conquered France last season Giroud was the only major departure as they felt capable of mounting another serious title charge this term. Clearly that has not happened and from a financial point of view the club have several high priced commodities whose values will only deteriorate the more the clubs performance does.
As it becomes clear the club are not in contention for Europe next season, and potentially not this year, several of their big name players are going to try and put themselves in the shop window. What better shop window is there then The Emirates for a potential move to a haven of Ligue 1 talent the Premier League?
Arsenal may have to deal with a slightly more motivated set of Montpellier stars in Younes Belhanda, Mapou Yanga M’Biwa and Henri Bedimo in particular. Indeed the two former payers may be trying to impress boss Wenger. M’Biwa is a reported target for Arsenal despite strong interest from AC Milan while Wenger himself has admitted his admiration for Belhanda:
"Younes Belhanda, I know him well, he plays without any complexities, his real talent is dribbling, passing and he has good technique which can influence any game."
With several players raising their game to impress potential suitors Arsenal may have a very different Montpellier on their hands to the ones who have struggled in Ligue 1 this season.
As they say ‘fear the beast backed into a corner’.
Should Arsenal be wary of the Montpellier players looking for a move?
image: © ronnie macdonald