9 Dec ’15: A New Star is Born, Ollie’s First Hattrick, Mesut silences Athens! Match Review

Sweet Sixteen for the Sweet Sixteenth Time in succession!

Last night’s performance was not one of the best ones ever, but it certainly was close to it. Olympiakos are not strong enough an opponent to qualify last night’s victory as truly ‘great’. Nevertheless, it was a very fine, passionate and professional performance by Wenger’s men, and we have every right to be proud of them. Yesterday the Gunners completed the trilogy of our great escape: two splendid, hard-fought-for wins against Bayern and Dynamo Zagreb was followed by the demolition of the Greek champions in their own bastion; and it us not them who still have a chance to make it all the way to the final in Milan.

Wenger in zevende hemel na onvergetelijke avond

In previous encounters against the Greeks, we had already qualified for the next round of the CL, and we more than once treated the final CL group game against them as an opportunity to blood some youngsters and rehabilitate some of our (many) injured. This, combined with Olympiakos’ hostile environment and no necessity to win, often led to bad performances in which we left all three points in Athens.

This time round, we needed to score at least two goals but ideally three to make it through to the next round. We also had to make sure that they did not score, as we then really needed three or more goals to go through. Our tactics and focus for last night’s game were great and that made all the difference. You could clearly tell we were the team that qualified for the last sixteen in the CL fifteen times, and that our opponents had no experience in getting there. Olympiakos really struggled with how to approach the game as a win, draw, or even ‘a small loss’ would have been enough for them: too many options can easily lead to a lack of focus and team cohesion… and it clearly did last night for them.

We started a bit nervous, though. Olympiakos had come out to attack and get that all important goal that would force us to score at least three in order to go through. We were vulnerable in defence initially, especially on our RB side. Bellerin was often left exposed by his colleagues and Olympiakos forced through a few effective attacks from their left wing.

We did well enough not to concede a goal and especially Koz was superb in our defence from the start. After twenty minutes or so, we started to turn the game around. It started with a classic Arsenal attack, involving Giroud as our holding pivot in attack, Campbell as our winger who made an aggressive run and produced a perfect pull-back, and Flamini as our box to box midfielder arriving just in time to slot the ball into the net… a deflection and the bar prevented us from getting our first goal.

This fluent attack gave us confidence, and after it we never looked back. Soon Ozil found Rambo with a beautiful defence splitting pass on our left wing. Rambo had indicated were he wanted the ball with a quick hand wave and Ozil reacted super fast with a superbly measured ball. Aaron picked out his mate Giroud – a friendship that has needed no time to be rekindled – and Ollie made the best of not an easy header. The goalie should probably have done better but well done Ollie for being positive and make the goal keeper work. It paid off handsomely – the luck of the good-looking?

We held on to that score till half time without pressing too hard for the second. This was very impressive of the team; it showed their maturity and confidence that it would all come good. If the first goal did not have the purists purring, the second one surely would do it. Ozil played a quick high ball towards the box where Campbell was anticipating his pass. Joel had plenty to do with that Mesut ball, but he killed the ball in one go with his upper-leg superbly. He then meandered with the ball through the Olympiakos defence to spot, and then find with a precisely measured ball, the onrushing Giroud. Ollie could not miss this one and was rewarded for his involvement at the start of the attack and his great run into the box. But surely, the big plaudits should go to Joel for one of the finest non-Ozil assists we will see all season.

Two nil and almost there. What should we do: barricade ourselves in front of Cech or go all out for the third goal? The team handled this very well: we did not expose ourselves much in defence and yet we kept attacking, although at a lower tempo. Another fine attack saw Nacho shooting the ball diagonally from the box that was stopped by an Olympiakos arm: penalty, and a great chance to put the game to bed. Up stepped man of the brace, Giroud, and he scored the pen with great calm and control to complete his first ever Arsenal hat-trick. 3-0 and game over: job done with 23 minutes to go. The defence held out without too much trouble and our fine attackers helped out nicely. At the same time, they were able to unwind and relax their muscles for our clash with the desperate-for-points Villains on Sunday.

This game was a great show of maturity and professionalism, and the much used cliché, teamwork. If you had written the dream-script for this game, you would have wanted a goal within the first thirty minutes and then two more in the next forty minutes, and a clean sheet of course. You would have wanted our stars to deliver and the rest to work hard; the whole team to play as one and to play with passion for the shirt; and you would also have really wanted a new star to be born: and last night, 9 December 2015, Joel Nathaniel Campbell Samuels, born 23 years ago in San Jose, Costa Rica, was reborn a Gunner in divine Athens. And Arsene and his men totally delivered the dream-script last night!

Here we come again Europe: in the last sixteen in the Champions League for the sixteenth time in succession!  Start booking your flights to Milan, fine fellow Gooners, cause I have a funny feeling we might make it all the way to the final this time round.

Ooh to, Ooh to be, Ooh to be a GOONER! 🙂

By TotalArsenal

For completeness, here are the player ratings again I published yesterday:

Cech: 8 | Not much to do for large parts of the game, but always in control and he just oozes calm and control. Had a couple of routine saves to make which he did faultless.

Nacho: 8.5 | Great going forward and mostly solid at the back. He collaborates so easily with fellow defenders, midfielders and attackers. The complete full back, with a great engine and passion.

Koz: 9 | Total Warrior, whose drive, reading of the game and interceptions are an inspiration to the entire team. Great partnership with BFG tonight.

BFG: 8.5 | Left us sometimes a bit exposed with his positioning, but very strong second half. Master in the air and some very good interceptions.

Bellerin: 7.5 | Struggling a bit to get his game going, both defensively and offensively, but improved a lot in second half. Hector Vector is missing Ramsey as his steady right wing partner.

Flamini: 8 | Solid shift with more defensive discipline than at the weekend. Unlucky not to score after a fine run into the box in the first half.

Rambo: 8.5 | Great all-round midfield play, linking up midfield with attack and defence brilliantly. Just kept on motoring, and great run and cross for the first goal.

Campbell: 8.5 | Needs to toughen up to win more defensive one to ones, but great attacking game with a sublime assist for Ollie’s second: what a calm in the storm he has, and what great vision and technical ability to pick out Ollie amongst all those defenders. Continued to have a great attacking drive and helped out in defence too.

Ozil: 9 | Superb pre-assist for the first goal, launching Ramsey with the perfect through ball: how did he see that one? Led the team in all areas, always making himself available and winning vital seconds for the team on the ball.

Theo: 7 | Very rusty with his passing and ball touches, but a constant menace with his runs, creating space for others and putting pressure on the Greek defence constantly.

Ollie: 10 | A master class of total CF play: harassed the opposition constantly, brilliant hold up play to allow the team to breath and link up with him, fine defensive cover during set pieces, great runs into the box, and a hat trick. He also had the cool head to slot the penalty in, after which the game was over.



18 thoughts on “9 Dec ’15: A New Star is Born, Ollie’s First Hattrick, Mesut silences Athens! Match Review

  • Very proud of the performance last night. It took a great deal of focus and a high level of concentration to go on and achieve that, believe me. Great teamwork and fully agree with your ratings; as for Campbell, I did insist to some folks, when I saw his first game after the injuries (not the Sheffield one), that if he gets a run of say 5 games, Ox would have a hard time getting game time ahead of him. I was shouted down of course, but was adamant. Just see how matured his performance was. He would be a good squad player, when all are fit.

  • Nice match report, TA…

    For me, I found the match just about the most satisfying I can remember…Maybe it was the nature of the situation in which we found ourselves: the mountain was there and we just kept climbing it until we got to the summit. It probably wasn’t our best match of the season–that would likely be the ManU blitz at home–or the most improbable (keeping the clean sheet and beating Bayern) but the pleasure is strong. Perhaps it’s that we did it with some deeper elements of the squad, notably Campbell…

    That said, I don’t think we’ve quite recovered from earlier attempts at rotation which backfired so badly. Trying to use Ospina as our CL keeper (much as Barca do with Ter Steegen) really didn’t pan out and things don’t seem bright for others who were on the bench. I didn’t realize it during the match, but when we got to 3-nil (with 20 mins to go) Olympiakos needed 3 goals. Surely the Ox and Chambers could have entered the game around that time rather than after 90 had been played. It makes me think we might be getting a mid-fielder in when the window opens in January…

    The core group has to be very, very pleased, however, and things look promising for Alexis and Jack to join up shortly. Just gotta keep going one at a time and keep getting stronger and stronger. Thank dennis we’ve avoided the Spursday night football and–no matter who we draw, though I’d prefer to avoid Barca–the eliminations will be fun…

  • Guys,

    Just to share a joke that was on facebook yesterday.

    A child asks his father: “Dad, what is Eurpoa League?”

    The father answers “i don’t know son, we are Arsenal fan”.

    16 consecutive seasons and counting.


  • Nice one, Seventeenho 🙂

    I think Wenger waited till the last minutes to make the last changes as to not break the momentum and protect the clean sheet for the defence, who really needed it after recent games. That said, it is telling the Ox didn’t make the team with so many mids out.

    84, 🙂

  • Re our next opponent in the CL, we will have to beat a big team at some point to get to the final and all of them have their vulnerabilities. But yes Barca is to be avoided. Having said that, last year we got Monaco and we all know what happened after that.

  • TA,

    Regarding OX’s omission, Le Prof was trying to balance the team with a midfielder that is good at running at defenses and also protect his defense on one side, and have Theo playing in the other side. If Theo is not fit he would play Ox, so nothing much to worry about Ox. He just needs to better his defensive skills, and he will be a good winger.


    I believe he will get a DM rather than a attacking one. And just one person will come in.

    Good luck for tonight’s draw.


  • The Ox needs to better a lot more than his defensive skills. I don’t think he is going to make it and only a loan spell could save his Arsenal career.

  • Morning TA. Great upbeat write up; and all fair to boot. As HT says, it was not the most fluent performance, but it has to be one of the most satisfying, given the context of challenging away game, need to win by a significant margin, and our dependence on a wider squad rather than our core of stars. I hope we can squeeze out a win on Sunday to give people a rest afterwards, without losing any of the great positive momentum that Wednesday’s game will have given the whole squad.

    I am already tired of reading about TW options that the press are digging up – most of them the same ones they wrote about in the summer and last winter. Frankly, if the injury/recovery signs are reasonable, I don’t expect us to buy anyone this January, though we might take a loan if the right option were available. But which of our current first 11 needs to be replaced, and where do we really lack cover – or emerging cover at least? One for January.

    I’m more sanguine about the Ox. It will be good for him to see Campbell take his chance and replace the Ox in the squad pecking order. But he is still young and has time yet. Just as we all thought the Coq had missed his opportunity, and was heading for championship level football, there will be opportunities for the Ox, and he can play in a wide range of positions. My money is still on him making it – watching Campbell should be the spur to more effort, not a nail in his proverbial coffin.

  • ‘Morning people… We’ve got some snow so I’ve got to blow (it…and then go ski on it)…

    I’m pleased AB that you concur with my sense of great satisfaction from Wednesday night… In many ways it was a (very) long haul that really was part B of beating Bayern at home back in mid-October. That match was the key. Life would have been easier if Dinamo had stayed on the ‘roids and beaten the Greeks in their home match that same night. Instead we had to hold our nerve and do the job at the end…

    Now, of course, we have to get back to business in the league… I’ll probably try to get the preview out during tomorrow’s matches so any thoughts people have about how AW might rotate for that one would be appreciated. Is it possible he might want to rest Giroud’s ankle and give Theo a run back up top? Any chance Ox or Gibbs starts on the left or maybe Chambers in for Flamini or even Debuchy or Gabriel to refresh the right side of our D?

    Or maybe he plays the weekend match as if it’s a direct continuation of the trip to Greece…

    Anyhow, I’m just curious if anybody has any clues that might help me. Keen observers will note that I was pretty sure the Ox might play a role on Wednesday (starting ahead of Theo) and I still believe he will get his chances, very likely as a mainstay in the FA cup matches. Sunday’s match also seems a good shout… TA, while I understand the idea behind loaning him out, I just think that it would be a one way move. Instead, now is the moment and he just has to do more with whatever chances he gets. Like AB says, Campbell’s example *should* inspire him…

    Maybe I should save this thought for TA’s (proposed) article on the Ox, but just imagine if he was a transfer target sitting on the bench at a big club on the continent. The skills are incredible–first touch, last touch, pace and power… What a youtube compilation they would make–the English Shaqiri, perhaps?… You just have to edit out all the disappointments, own goals, moments of switching off and all the bad decisions (trying–and failing–to dribble out of trouble, for example). Still, it might only take a couple of goals and assists (and a lot of basic positioning and passing and some full matches without injury…) for him to get his confidence restored… As thin as we are, there are far worse players we could have just outside our first 11…

    That’s all I’ve got for the moment… Ski prep starts with a 2nd coffee…

  • 17HT,
    I never take youtube vids of players serious, but I do look at stats and try and watch players play in games. I am surprised so many still defend the Ox when he has had over 125 games for Arsenal already and clearly is not contributing much to the team. A lovely guy who needs to step down a bit in order to step up again. We have been hoping for those ‘couple of goals and assists for a few seasons now and they are just not coming. I reckon Ox CAN make it, but he needs to be loaned out for a season at a Southampton, Newcastle or Swansea or so to play week in week out and establish himself… then he can come back.

    And you wrote:
    “As thin as we are, there are far worse players we could have just outside our first 11…”

    Well yes, but is that the attitude we should take at Arsenal… don’t think so. 😉

  • 17,
    I think ox needs to simplify his game. Trying to do too much, showing off his obvious skills. Joel has kept it simple and thats why i think Arsene went with him in the vital match wednesday. Campbell is taking his time and letting the game come to him, and eventually good chances have come, as his simple goal last week.
    Patience, Ox.look for the best pass, then opportunities for yourself will come.

  • njk84, Lol. The Dad must have been born after ’99/2000.

    AB, agree with you re Campbell being an inspiration to spur the Ox into stepping things up. That will call for great mental strength which, honestly, Ox hasn’t yet convinced me he possesses. We’ve waited very long for him to reach the potential we know he has without seeing it. I like him and know he is a handful when in form, but compared to Campbell’s all-round team play and savvy, Ox falls short, for me. You can see his teammates already warming up to Campbell already; that happens when they can see he has something about him.

    17, as a contribution to your preview, I don’t think Theo would start; didn’t look 100% fit against Olympiacos, was a defensive liability and frankly only grew into the game after the 1st goal. I think we could see Debuchy on for Bellerin (still rate him as a defender/full back and wish he gets a run); maybe Gabriel for one of the CBs (Mertesacker, perhaps since he’s played a lot). Ox or Gibbs may start the game with Campbell on the other side. Those are my thoughts. Cheers.

  • Goonereris and Johnnie, I have just published a post about the Ox: please can you copy and past your comment into the comment section of the new post?

    Many thanks,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s