Montpellier have had a terrible start to their defence of the first French title in the club’s history, losing three of the first five. This has caused mass optimism in the Arsenal ranks but we should be wary of the French champions on their home soil tonight.
Many in the football press are attributing Montpellier’s poor league form to the fact that they are concentrating on tonight’s game. Not only is it their first ever match in the champion’s league, but Arsenal are the biggest name they have ever faced. Along with the history of the Gunners is the French connection with Arsene Wenger and a host of players such as Thierry Henry, Pires, Viera, Petit et al.
The manager Rene Girard is going to have his players fired up and will want to use this game to kick start the season. He has called on the fans to “turn the stadium into hell.” Wenger has said that he expects a fierce “mediterranean” atmosphere, in other words, mental. Girard rested two of his best players at the weekend even though they were desperate for a win.
The Arsenal target and Montpellier captain Mapou Yanga-M’Biwa and the young creative midfielder Remy Cabella will return to the team tonight. I expect the French team to start with all guns blazing, but if Arsenal can whether the early storm and start controlling the game, we will quieten the crowd and our quality should tell in the end.