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
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
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.

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker