Olympiacos 0-3 Arsenal
I have vacillated about Arsenalâ€™s chances in this must-win ding-dong for several weeks now. Curiously positivity after the Zagreb game was followed by gloomy no-hope once Alexis and Cazorla keeled over injured.
What we got – out of the blue, youâ€™d have to say – was the kind of performance where weâ€™re left scratching our head, muttering â€œwhy donâ€™t we do this more often?â€
Disciplined, focused, ruthless, solid: it was a performance in which everyone played a part, and no more so than two of our oft-maligned players.
Giroud was simply glorious – ballsy and powerful and determined – and his performance helped write the story of Arsenalâ€™s â€˜great escapeâ€™. Yes, heâ€™s a curious beast but maybe we just have to learn to accept that footballers are all different. When heâ€™s not in a game, heâ€™s not in it at all. When heâ€™s tired, heâ€™s a shadow of his normal self. But when heâ€™s like this, heâ€™s a superb footballer and Olympiacos – on the threshold of qualification, letâ€™s not forget – simply had no answer.
And for a blows-hot-and-cold player, Giroudâ€™s goalscoring record continues to stand up to scrutiny. Last season, despite the worldâ€™s most curious leg break ruling him out for months, he notched a very decent 19 goals. This year, despite mixed form, heâ€™s already scored 13 goals. Thereâ€™s nothing to say he canâ€™t score over 20 goals this season, which is a decent return by any accounts.
Then thereâ€™s Joel Campbell, once about seventh in the pecking order and so close to the exit door he could feel the cold whooshes of air each time it opened.
Not now, you have to say, after his best performance for the club by a distance. He worked hard, was a dangerous outlet at all times and the way he set up Giroudâ€™s second goal was just brilliant. Iâ€™m liking what I see, and while he might never be a world-beater, (or even at Arsenal beyond this season), who doesnâ€™t enjoy it when a player takes his chance and makes the most of it? That he has leapt ahead of Oxlade-Chamberlain in the pecking order seems clear. Itâ€™s something to ponder for the Ox, whose form has, somewhat worryingly, evaporated.
A really heartening performance then, and one that we really should give us a good platform as the Christmas rush hits. It *ought* to be a huge boost, though by adding a couple of stars in there I am of course caveating the hell out of it safe in the knowledge that this is, after all, Arsenal we are talking about.
Into the last 16 of the Champions League again, and letâ€™s save the cynicism of what could befall us in the next round for another time.
This is one to savour.