Arsenal 2-1 Olympiacos
Whaddya mean, why can’t Arsenal do things the easy way? When did we ever do things the easy way? No no no, we can’t possibly put the game to bed at the earliest opportunity. Much better to give us all real value for our sky-high ticket prices by keeping the outcome of the game up in the air until the very last minute. It’s the Arsenal way! You know you love it really.
Certainly, we conspired to turn a commanding position into a breathless rearguard action, but we got the three points (leading the way in England on that front) and made it three whole wins in a row. Are we finding our form again? Do you mind if I think about that one and get back to you later?
Joking aside, the result was what mattered and we got it. Special mentions go to Alex Song, Per Mertesacker & Co for keeping the Greeks at bay once we had presented their goal to them on a silver salver with a congratulatory letter from the Queen.
I have no idea whether this Olympiacos side are the best Greek side I’ve seen or whether this Arsenal side have the current altruistic knack of making anyone look good, but the two goal cushion certainly was much needed given what came later.
Who’d have thought, after Santos rifled the second goal in, that by the end of the evening Olympiacos would have had 16 shots on goal to our 13? Our gifted goal gave them the momentum that had threatened to come and it rendered the match wide open and (in hindsight, and certainly for the neutral) hugely enjoyable.
I know everyone else will have mentioned these exact words, only in a different order, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had a superb debut. Not only did he take his goal well, but his speed and strength really stood out. Walcott has many strengths but strength is not one of them, and it’s that pace allied with real power makes The Ox in the Box an enticing prospect indeed. It’s safe to say that his contribution this season this season will be anything but a bit-part. Wenger has eased him into the fray thus far but you can’t keep a big talent down and we’re bound to see a lot more of him. Well played that (young) man. He’ll certainly keep Theo on his toes.
Otherwise, the game at my end (so the second half) went in a blur of missed passes and lost possession, with a few missed chances for Arsenal to seal it thrown into the bag. That was the thing that struck me most last night – our inability to hold onto the ball for more than a few passes at a time. It really is a good job we held firm at the back.
Astonishingly, Szczesny has now had eight different back-fours in front of him this season, which might go some way to explaining our general defensive ailments. We have six central defenders – Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Djourou, Squillaci, Koscielny and Miquel, but only one was fit. Song stood in admirably but yet again, we are being skittled by a long injury list. You get the feeling we could have ten centre backs and still have a few games in the season when we’re forced to patch things up by calling upon the services of a midfielder. It’s mind boggling.
Props to Arteta for his extraordinary goal-line clearance too – I had to rub my eyes to check that ball hadn’t gone in.
So a win, a decent position in the group, a bit of a rest for Ramsey & van Persie and onwards we go to Sunday.
Tin hats on…