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.
31 thoughts on “Magic Martin does a Messi; One Mountain of the Match; Super Mo: 8 Observations”
Two goals from distance, always welcome and it makes me wonder if that came off of the training ground especially as it was suggested that Elneny and Steve Round have been working on his shooting.
More power to the Egyptians right peg and more of the same on Sunday…
Just working my way through your excellent post Total and I’ve got to free kicks…
Whenever Southampton get a free kick only one man is taking them. Every goalkeeper knows which foot he’s shooting with and what he can do with the ball but it does them no good because Ward Prowse obviously works endlessly on his dead ball skills and is so good at what he does.
So, don’t try to be a smarty pants just be good at what you do, we don’t need fun and games at free kicks with who is and who isn’t going to take it, just give it to one bloke who can get it on target and out of reach of the goalkeeper. If you can’t do it, then don’t take them….
Partey had a few shots too, Kev, so yes I think it was a tactical choice. And boy did it pay off.
Totally agree – no pun intended 🙂 – re the freekick taking situation. Ward-P is a master of freekicks. Would love him at Arsenal in a five midfield.
Yep, I really enjoyed that TA, it was heartening to see a bit of variety from our midfielders, yes I know it’s a ‘process’ and possession is the core of our development but having a shot from outside the box shouldn’t be a crime and if the opponent backs off and gives you space then trust in your technique and take it on, loved all our three goals as we missed the easy chances and scored the worldies and that’s so so Arsenal… Enjoy that half full pint.
Ahh, I keep drinking from that pint and it just remains half full, Kev. 😁 Proost!
Another positive post – thank you Total but-
We were both dominate and nervous – just before Ode’s wonderful goal I was questioning why he was on the pitch – he made several mistakes, and many moves broke down because of his poor passing but after his incredible goal his confidence just oozed.
The common denominator in the goals we gifted in the last two games was not poor defending but inappropriate passes from Leno to defenders in poor positions to receive the ball. In this game the opposition were not strong enough to accept the gifted goal and run with it – the NLD will be a very different proposition and we cannot give them gifts goals. In my mind it’s a simple rule for the goalkeeper – if he has a player in a good position to accept the ball then pass to him – if not then boot it down the field.
It was not just the giveaway goal that created concern for me but the amount of giveaway passes in our own end which created attacking opportunities – most of their chances came from our errors – it’s becoming common place and needs to be coached out!
I really enjoyed the win especially the three away goals which make it very difficult for Olympiacos to stage a comeback – but I’m haunted by the ridiculous way in which we gift the opposition goals..
Oh talking about pints my glass of Guinness ended up empty.
Good stuff, GN5. We are experiencing some nasty growing pains.
All good points, especially on praising the wingbacks, the salute to Gabriel and the seemingly strange free-kick situation. Extra thanks for the Messi-reference, otherwise I wouldn’t have checked out the goal, and it indeed was a beauty.
Nice acknowledgement to Papa, too. To put Sokratis’ performance into perspective: he got the 2nd highest rating both from WhoScored and FootballCritic (and we know they overvalue the goalscorers), had the most tackles on the pitch (tied with Lala and Tierney), and made as many clearances as the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th ranking players (Gabriel, M’Vila, Luiz, Partey) combined. He put a strong shift, but couldn’t help with the long shots.
However let me point out some glass-half-empty phenomenon. Unlike Manchester United – who are facing AC Milan after eliminating Real Sociedad in the last round – or Young Boys (who got Ajax after defeating Bayer Leverkusen), our pairing is quite fortunate with the 4th “cheapest” team in the last 16. Yes, I know all the arguments that TransferMarkt evaluation doesn’t reflect the true capacity of a football club, plus everything can happen in the knockout stage, and I don’t enjoy seeming arrogant a single bit, but after a ridiculously week group stage and a quite lucky (yet fair) victory over Benfica we managed to get away with drawing Olympiacos. Who are not even Sheffield or WBA level opponents, but would be ranked at #5 in the Championship (valued between Watford and Blackburn). Sure, 3 away goals is indeed reassuring, but our win wasn’t that convincing, and it does not reflect the true difficulty of this competition. Nevertheless if we manage to win every remaining game in a similarly fortunate manner I won’t be complaining at all. Just saying that we didn’t play like it was a (next) final; as we could – and probably should – have won that away fixture by 4-5 goals.
Coming back to the positives, I appreciate Mikel having headaches whom to play at LCB as both Mari and Gabriel played spotlessly recently (both receiving MotM awards), and I’m not worried about the full backs either, because Bellerin and Tierney plays really well, while Cedric or Chambers are not far behind. The RCB role is a different kind of dilemma, as both Rob and David are capable to play on the highest standard, but also prone to lapses of concentration. Rob seemed to be in an upward trajectory before his concussion, while Luiz brings substantial leadership abilities to the table besides his defensive skills. So that is also a dilemma, but from a different kind.
The pundits complain about our defense – especially about the lack of clean sheets in the last 9 games -, but to be fair since the 2 late goals against Leeds we only conceded from stupid individual errors (maybe Sterling’s 2nd minute opener could be disputed). And for me it is good news. Mikel has to weed those out and the lads have to concentrate more, but when the defense clicks it is really hard to score against Arsenal – which is a positive sign before the NLD.
I’m not worried about the CM and AM positions either, as seemingly everybody is in form there. Maybe Ceballos is an exception (but he seemed over-enthusiastic to me, not poor), however I’m sure he will put in double shifts to make up for his role in the last 3 EL goals. Odegaard makes ESR’s life complicated, but the competition between those 2 are already elevating the team’s performance.
What I’m less optimistic about is the winger and striker situation. Picking the starting player is sometimes blurry to me, and I find the rotation sub-optimal. Not only for the sake of giving rest to Auba and Saka, but also because the low number of minutes limits the form and possible impact of players like Laca, Martinelli and Nketiah. Fortunately Pepe is still coping with the seemingly unfair treatment, but I seriously hope he’ll start against Tottenham.
Cheers for your thoughts and analyses, PB.
The only thing to disagree with is your assessment of Olympiacos, but you look at it from a finance and stats side and I am not going to argue with you other than to say that this does not cover all. PSV Eindhoven are a good team and got beaten by Olympiacos. Man City only managed a single goal against them. Those are ‘stats’ that I am more interested in! 🙂
The concern is that individual errors and missed passes seems to be too much during teh game with ultimately one of them leading to the goal. If hou see the complete match Oly’s attempts on goal all came through our mistake in our own half. Surely there is a lesson to be learnt but we don’t seem to.
We seem to hardly create any from the center of the pitch and mostly from flanks. This made Oly to allow us space in the center but our shooting from long range especially Partey needs much to be desired. Iam happy we got 3 goals from the unlikeliest source set piece and shooting from outside the box. As Arteta mentioned we should show more ambition in teh final third in the center of tbe pitch but we show ambition in our defense which is leading to opposition goals.
Let’s give a shout to Mo. It’s a fashion to redicule him but he does his job. If iam not mistaken he hasn’t made an individual error which has cost us a goal. He is safe as a house in possession. His passing may be more backward and sideward but that’s his role to keep posession and move it along. His role is not to make daring forward passes. He knows his limitations and plays well within it. It’s time we recognise that.
Having played a team game myself all my life a team needs various types of players. Remember a team is always greater than the sum of parts. I feel Arsenal are a te that are yet to demonstrate this. Great that Mo got a goal which might well be crucial and get us over the line.
Madhu, that’s a good shout out for Elneny he deserves credit for his safe and sure performances – nothing too fancy he just does his job. He seems to be getting better and is totally reliable.
Madhu, I am (known as) a big fan of Elneny.
Re the middle of the pitch… that is were two goals came from, no?
My glass is half full too and I agree with all the positive remarks made so far. I thought that we sold the wrong keeper in the summer and the last two games have confirmed that in my mind. Leno was at fault for the Burnley and Olympiacos goals. He doesn’t appear confident with the ball at his feet and his decision making is poor. Leno is arguably a slightly better shot stopper than Emi but Emi has the better all round game. Towards the end of last season you could see that he was in control in his own box giving his defenders confidence and communicating well, I don’t see the same from Leno. Emi was also making better decisions when playing out with his feet and wasn’t afraid to boot the ball upfield when the occasion demanded it. That may be the reason for his sale but, I suspect it may have been more to do with profit and that we had bids for him and not Leno. Mat Ryan should be given a chance to show us what he can do and I would start him next week in the return leg against Olympiacos.
Luiz has at least one brain fart in every game he starts and last night he nearly cost us again. Hector’s block was brilliant! I wonder if MA has tried Mari and Big Gab together in training?
Anyway we thoroughly deserved the scorelin and I was very pleased to see that we have other players who can chip in with goals when our forwards aren’t firing on all cylinders.
I reckon Arteta instructs the keeper to play the ball centrally so the defender or midfielder can play a side pass and we can start an attack with plenty of players in midfield and attack already. It is risky football and needs a lot of training; it is a bit like learning to walk on a tide rope: initially there is a lot of falling off but at some point it all becomes automatic. I am happy with Leno but do miss Martinez a lot. Yet, I think he would also have been instructed to play through the middle rather than the safe side-way option… and similar mistakes could have been made. The big picture is that we are much tighter in defence than last season so we are actually making progress. More is needed of course..
Yes, Arie Haan. A fine recall, Total. That Dutch team of the 70’s were the best International side not to win a World Cup. The Hungarian team of the 50’s would come into that equation. And New Zealand in ’82 and 2010 😉. The only undefeated team in the 2010 finals.
Hhaha Stuart. 🙂
Yes TA, the goals came from center and both long range efforts. My point was we dont seem to create much from middle and teams are allowing us space in the center and crowding the flanks to stop our triangles. As you mentioned in your points we should create more from the middle and shoot more from middle which will give us space for triangles down the flanks.
Okay Madhu, I get what you mean. I guess it would have been different IF Ode or Auba would have taken their great chances in the centre of the box early on. All together I am actually happy with the way we attacked: tons of variety and loads of chances in an away game against a team that has only conceded 12 goals in 25 games in their home competition. At times we played them off the pitch. But you know I am a glass half full person and happily swap the glass to get a full one!! 😀
TA I look at glass empty and challange the players to use thier intelligence tk make it glass full 😜
Interesting, Madhu. I rather keep control over my own happiness 😊
An, incredible, heart warming story
That was a heart warming article Total, thanks for that mate…
When I was in hospital back in 2007 on the Sunday some volunteers would bring their dogs to visit the wards, it was a nod towards some normality and very welcome.
Cheers Kev, just imagine the horse has a sense for human sorrow and is able to select who it wants to meet.. Magic
And yes dogs are brilliant at this too. Oh how I miss our Henry still.
What breed was he Total?
He is in the picture of my avatar, a choco Lab..
new post 🙂
Of course, I had a golden lab, daft as a brush, not a bad bone in his body.