Van Persie Can’t Rescue Arsenal From Marseille Champions League Stalemate
Arsenal found that Robin Van Persie can’t always propel the Gunners to victory.
The striker, who scored a hat trick four days ago to lead the Gunners to a 5-3 win at Chelsea, came on after 62 minutes in last night’s 0-0 draw with Marseille in London. Although he had chances, the Dutchman couldn’t get the goal that would’ve helped his team advance to the Champions League round of 16.
“You have to accept that one player can’t always make a difference,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told reporters at the Emirates Stadium. “We weren’t the sharpest tonight.”
Van Persie replaced Park Ju-Young after the South Korean failed to make an impact. The Gunners captain, who scored twice in a 3-1 win over Stoke the last time he appeared as a substitute at the Emirates, managed one attempt on target in the 77th minute as Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda caught his attempted chip.
Arsenal, which defeated Udinese in a playoff to reach the group stage of European soccer’s elite club competition, could have advanced to the last 16 with a second straight win over the French team, which it beat 1-0 on Oct. 19
The Gunners have recovered from their worst start in more than half a century to move into seventh place in England’s Premier League, and entered last night’s match having won eight of their last nine games.
Transfer deadline-day acquisition Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen, who returned from an ankle injury last week, combined in the center of the defense against Marseille as Arsenal prevented the opposition from scoring for the sixth time in 18 games this season.
“We were solid at the back,” striker Theo Walcott said. “We managed to keep a clean sheet. It’s just our strikers didn’t manage to get it in the net this time.”
Marseille, which lost at home to Arsenal on an injury time goal from midfielder Aaron Ramsey, pushed forward in the second half, forcing the Gunners defense into frantic clearances.
“It was a good point away,” Marseille coach Didier Deschamps told reporters. “I regret that we could not finish the job.”
Arsenal tops Group F with eight points from four games, with Marseille a point behind. Borussia Dortmund, which beat Olympiacos 1-0 in Germany last night, is in third place with four points, one more than the Greek side.
Arsenal hosts Dortmund on Nov. 23, when Olympiacos visits Marseille. The final group games are scheduled Dec. 6, when the Gunners travel to Olympiacos and Dortmund hosts Marseille.
“Overall we are in a good position,” Wenger said.
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