Olympiacos Piraeus 1 – 3 Arsenal
A commanding win at the end of a roller-coaster game. This is a season full of challenge for us supporters: do we want to focus on the weaknesses or on the strength; is the glass half empty or half full? We clearly are a work in progress as yesterday’s game of creation of great chances AND bad mistakes made clear once again.
- First of all the most obvious observation: Arsenal were much better than Olympiacos, created a large number of good chances AND took three of them. The boys are flying back home with three away goals in the bag and the Greeks will have to score at least three at the home of football to go through, next week. Last season, we managed just the one goal and it cost us in the end, so this is progress and reason for optimism.
- Arsenal used the wings really well, mainly through their wing-backs, Hector and Kieran. Willian, Auba, Odegaard and Partey played some good triangles on the wings and as a result we got the ball into the box a good number of times. By playing so much on the wings and tiring out our opponents in the process, gradually, space opened up through the centre; and with two goals from the middle and outside the opponent’s box, the boys made great use of this. The first 30 minutes or so, Arsenal played some great attacking football, possibly the best football of all season.
- But there is a but, and that is of course the lack of goal-return by those whose job descriptions start and finish with getting the ball over the line. Auba, Saka, Willian all left their shooting boots at Ashburton Grove, it seemed. They did work hard though, and created space for others by occupying the Greek defenders – and it was nice to see Big Sok giving his all once again – but with such good balls into the box I expected more, especially from Auba. Luckily, Magic Martin – possibly inspired the night before by Messi’s wonder strike v PSG – wore the right shoes and saved our blushes with an unstoppable howitzer of a goal at just the right time. We needed that goal so badly then.
- A winning team cannot rely too much on its main attackers, so it was good to see that Big Gab and Tidy Mo came to the fore and made all the difference. It looked like Gabriel shouted at Auba “leave that one to me and I show you how it is done, my fine yet delicate friend”. What a powerful, slam dunk sort of header! And then there was Mo’s shot, greatly captured by the cameras. It was the sort of goal that should win a final in a major tournament. it was beautifully struck by Elneny as during its flight the ball started seeking out the right corner of the goal and the keeper got more and more into trouble and could do nothing about it. It reminded me of Arie Haan’s long distance goals against Italy and Germany in the 1978 World Cup (for those who are young enough to remember!). Many of us have been saying that we need to shoot more from distance….
- Now what is going on with our free-kicks from dangerous positions? Every time a number of players compete with each other to take them and then the taker messes it up big style. In my view, for free-kicks that are not suitable to be crosses there should just be two regular takers: a right footed player for left-sided ones and a left footed player for right sided ones. This would provide clarity and a missed opportunity will serve as practice for an improved second or third attempt by the same player. Luiz your time of great free-kicks is well behind you… Leave it to others!!
- We have to talk about the dirty elephant on the pitch: our ability to give the opposition a chance/chances(!) purely through our own making. Arteta wants to play the ball out from the back, which I understand. Opponents study us before they play us and are forcing mistakes when we play out from the defence. The players, including goal keeper, are getting nervous and mistakes are becoming more common…. Next up are the Spuds under management by the toxic, Machiavellian narcissist. Please let’s avoid giving him any opportunity to publicly celebrate himself at the expense of our beloved team! Looking at Arteta’s post-game press conference, I reckon he is on the case…
- We had some mixed performances on the night but it was a joy to watch Gabriel being so commanding and strong in our box and beyond. Last year in the same fixture we had the likes of Mustafi and Big Sok defending our box and they did okay enough, but with Big Gab we have a mountain (with fast running streams) in our defence all-right. With a goal and an assist (for Elneny’s screamer) he was by far the Man (or should that be Mountain?!) of the Match.
- My final shout goes to Granit who had a very tidy and organised game and made no mistakes. His partnership with Partey has a lot of potential but the latter is still finding his form and fitness. Still, Thomas made a difference and can claim an assist for Ode’s opener. When Arteta subbed him for Ceballos (it really should have been Mo instead) you could really sense that we lost one of our main warriors and were weakened. Luckily, Arteta brought on Mo soon after and our dominance was reestablished. Just as well.