Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger places trust in Steve Bould on his return to familiar territory

Arsenal manager must watch from the stands as new campaign starts with French champions

Montpellier

Arsenal's manager, Arsène Wenger, is back on familiar ground, in his home country and leading the club's 15th successive Champions League campaign, although in an unfamiliar position. He will watch tonight's opening group match against the French champions Montpellier from the stand, serving the first part of a three-match touchline ban after his fierce criticism of the referee following Arsenal's brave attempt to overcome a 4-0 deficit from the first leg against Milan last March.

"I'd prefer to be on the touchline, it's where I feel most comfortable," he said at the Stade de la Mosson last night. "But we'll talk before the game and from there I'll leave it to Steve Bould, who's very experienced. I'm frustrated but I don't think it would be an excuse for a bad result."

Nor would picking the wrong team, although there are tricky decisions to be made; above all whether Olivier Giroud, the striker signed from Montpellier for £9.7m in the summer and desperate for a chance to play tonight, is given the opportunity. Wenger may yet deny him. Sitting at the stadium last night alongside Gervinho, who scored twice in the central striker's role on Saturday against Southampton, the manager said: "For forwards it's a matter of cycle. Olivier Giroud is going through a rough patch but maybe he just needs a goal to get out of this drought. It's different in England for two positions, forwards and for goalkeepers. It's a real shock for them because there's a lot more contact."

The French champions' story is an astonishing one of a club from a provincial rugby town who had never won anything more than two French Cups but suddenly flourished last season and, on the back of 20 goals from Giroud, rose from 14th place the previous year to pip the infinitely wealthier Paris St-Germain to the title.

A comparison might be with Wigan Athletic winning the Premier League, if the notion of such an achievement did not seem so ludicrous in modern English football. Yet the miracle of Montpellier may prove to be anything but a lasting one. Already this season they are back in more familiar territory, 16th in the league with a single victory from the opening five games. Emanuel Herrera, the Argentine bought for £2m to replace Giroud, is unsure of his place tonight and John Utaka, the only name familiar to English fans from his FA Cup-winning time at Portsmouth, will be absent with an injury suffered in Friday night's 3-1 defeat by Reims.

The coach, René Girard, once in charge of France's Under-21s and the architect of last season's triumph, has options; it is just that they are not as enticing as those of Wenger, who believes the consolation of losing Robin van Persie – apart, of course, from the fee £24m fee – is that Arsenal's play is more "diversified" instead of invariably being channelled towards one Roy of the Rovers figure.

Defenders Laurent Koscielny and Andre Santos have been waiting in vain to start a game, while the Welsh captain Aaron Ramsey is now behind Mikel Arteta, Abou Diaby and the impressive Santi Cazorla in the central midfield pecking order. There are four or five contenders for the two wide positions while Van Persie's central striking role has become a revolving door that Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Gervinho have all passed through.

Gervinho's confidence is high after his two goals against Southampton ended a long drought of his own since returning from the African Nations Cup in January. He believes that second-season syndrome, more beneficial to foreign players than newly promoted clubs, may work in his favour: "I'm hoping that will be the case. I learnt a lot in my first season. And it's easier for me when the coach has confidence in me."

Vito Mannone will be back in goal, not because Wenger was horrified by Wojciech Szczesny's error that gave Southampton their goal on Saturday but because both the Pole and his compatriot Lukasz Fabianski are injured. It was the only time in four games that a defence now drilled by Bould has been pierced and, for all the fervour of a crowd likely to be close to a capacity 32,000 tonight, Arsenal will not expect to lose.

 

Get Adobe Flash player

 



Kick-off Tonight, 7.45pm, Stade de la Mosson.

TV Sky Sports 2.

Referee C V Carballo (Sp).

Odds Montpellier 13-5; draw 9-4; Arsenal 5-4.

Terry ready to face Juventus

John Terry looks set to be fit for the first game of Chelsea's Champions League defence after coming through a training session yesterday.

Terry needed treatment on a knee injury in the dying moments of a fiery west London derby against QPR on Saturday. That raised fears the England defender would not be able to take to the field for tomorrow's home match against Juventus, but he participated in a training session at Chelsea HQ in Cobham yesterday and is expected to be fit to face the Italian champions.

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?