The decision to rest key players ahead of the all important North London derby at the weekend against Tottenham was a good one, as Arsenal won all three points in their second game of the Champions League group stages against Greek side Olympiakos. The game was touted to be comfotable victory for the gunners and it looked to be so after twenty minutes as Arsenal went up 2 – 0. But alas, our defence frailties were on show again allowing Olympiakos to score just before the half hour, making Arsenal work hard for the remainder of the tie and for their victory.
A lot of hype was centred around young Englishman Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, as the dangerous attacking midfielder got his first competitive start in the Champions League. The young prospect did not disappoint and given his first chance on the 8 minute mark from a beautiful diagonal ball from Alex Song, who played centre-back, he managed to control racing through towards goal and striking the ball towards the upright, which ended up in the back of the goal after hitting the inside of the post. He becomes the youngest ever English player to score in the Champions League.
While the offensive performance by the young Englishman was all class, sometimes his defence could be considered suspect. There was no questioning his work ethic on attack, but at times his tracking back was eerily similar to Arshavin. But amidst these small errors, you can’t be too tough on Chamberlain for an excellent performance. I am sure the more experienced lads will help him out in the defensive department to help improve his all-around game in the future.
While offence was largely good, defence at times was too shaky but improved over the course of the match. As Ranveer said in our competition results, the ability of our defenders individually is very good but perhaps at times as a unit they sometimes lack. The Olympiakos goal was a good example of this as a quick corner caught our whole defence off guard allowing the Greek team to easily charge into the box on the right and pick out a simple cross with a free-head on the end. We also were caught on a few occasions on the break far too easily in the first half.
But as the second half wore on, the defence tightened up as a whole and besides a long shot that rattled off the bar, the Arsenal back-line hardly looked stretched and Olympiakos didn’t look like scoring. It was a great performance from both Song and Mertesacker who seemed to have a good understanding with each other considering they were a make-shift pair. Mertesacker would regularly push on attackers that threatened the back-line, while Song would drop behind to cover any scraps that got through. All in all a good performance for the gunners and a well earned three points.
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on the performance…
“I think in the first 20-25 minutes we were really in it well. After that for about 15-20 minutes we maybe lost our way and they came back into it. Second half we had to knuckle down, fight and get our shape right which I thought we did better in the second half.”
on Arsenal’s goals…
“It is unfortunate we didn’t get the third but we also had opportunities on breakaways in the second half. They came, they waited for us, they broke us up in the middle of the park and in fairness they did well. You can’t turn around and say we had all of the game because that would be unfair.”
“Needless to say I think we will be very, very happy with the three points.”
on defensive performance…
“I thought that in general they battled very hard. I think that as we went into the second half we were tighter in the second half than we were in the last 20 minutes of the first half. People can have the ball right and left but it wasn’t really causing us too many problems. They have actually got a lot of the ball but in actual terms of what Szczesny has had to save I don’t think there was all that many chances.”
on the goal conceded…
“It was soft, yes. From a defender’s point of view it was really poor.”
on Olympiacos’ performance…
“I thought Olympiacos played very, very well and whenever we go over there to play, one would like to think we would have qualified.”
Sagna Mertesacker Song Santos
Arteta Rosicky (c)
Chamberlain Chamakh Arshavin
Wojciech Szczesny | 7.0: Made a couple of crucial saves in the first half and produced an overall solid performance. Will be disappointed with his positioning with the long-range shot which rattled the bar but did well to just get his fingertips to it.
Bacary Sagna | 6.5: Had a nervy first-half, especially when he was dispossessed late in the half creating a very dangerous situation. Improved the second half. I felt he would have had a better performance provided Chamberlain gave him more defensive assistance.
PerMertesacker | 7.0: Seems to be growing into his role of defensive leader. Had a great performance making vital interceptions and his positioning was largely good to snuff out attacking threats.
Alex Song | 7.0: Had a great performance with the big German at the back. Seemed to work well together with Song willing to drop-off if Mertesacker decided to stand-up any attacking players. Great ball for Chamberlain for the first ball
Andre Santos | 7.0: The Brazilian has bounced back excellently from his poor debut in the Premier League. Sheer determination earned him the right to score the second goal and looked much more solid defensively, although at times his positioning was suspect.
Emmanuel Frimpong | 6.0: I only give Frimpong a semi-solid mark as he did his main job on defence very well by breaking up play and being strong. But was simply to slow on the ball to warrant anything higher. He lost the ball numerous times because of his indecision and had a few poor touches. Coquelin will soon be breathing down his back one feels.
Mikel Arteta | 7.0: The Spaniard had a very solid game, putting in great effort to help out defensively and nearly always retaining possession through his ability to pick a pass or win a free kick. Great block off the line in the first half
Tomas Rosicky | 6.0: A tidy range of passing but lacked the killer ball to unleash the front three. Seemed to fade from the match after Chamberlain was substituted and was moved out to the wide right position.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain | 7.5: His offence was electric as shown by his well-taken goal on the 8 minute mark. Also seems to have a great final ball, providing an excellent cross late in the first half. Although one feels he needs to put more effort in defence to become a better all-around player. Only a small damper on a great performance.
Andrey Arshavin | 6.0: The little Russian reverted to his usual self after producing a very hot and cold performance. When he was hot though he was very good, producing a killer ball for Chamakh to put him through on goal, involved in the second goal and and forced an excellent save from Costanzo after driving into the box and getting a strong toe-poke on goal.
Marouane Chamakh | 6.5: I thought the performance from Chamakh was much improved from recent performances. The Moroccan held the ball up well and distributed well besides some predictable passes. Linked up well with Chamberlain to give the youngster a one-on-one and had a high work-ethic, although was a little wasteful with his chance from Arshavin brilliant scoop through ball.
- Notable Substitutions