Our Big Fat Greek Redemption? By AM
About an hour after Giroud missed the last chance to save us from our first defeat of the season, I went to the gas station. When I went to pay, I recognized the cashier as the former central defender (let’s call him Jay) of my local club.
He used to be the no-nonsense defender in the best team my local club had, one of those that made forwards crap their pants before every set-piece. I was watching him in his red uniform and I was thinking: “Dear God, why didn’t Jay play instead of Koscielny today? He would made Torres wish to be among Liverpool supporters rather than in the Arsenal box.” Jay is closer to his fifties than his forties but I have no doubt he wouldn’t make the mistake Koscielny did when Torres scored.
I don’t like go back to the Saturday match against Chelsea but it was obvious why I suggested in my previous article that the pair of center-backs should be Vermaelen-Mertesacker. Vermaelen is, no matter what some pundits and fans write, our best defender, while Mertesacker is protecting us from aerial attacks. Mertesacker may not be Usain Bolt but his presence in defending set-pieces gave results last season and in previous matches.
Wenger’s choice of center-backs is not the only thing he is to blame for – there is a certain lack of consistency in his logic. If he realized that matches against City and Chelsea requires different approaches and sacrificed Mertesacker’s height for Koscielny’s pace, why did he insist on Ramsey in the starting 11? There is something else that caught my attention – we had no central midfielders on the bench!
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Goalkeeper, two center-backs, one left-back, one winger, central forward and one winger that wants to be a central forward. Coquelin could be there when Diaby got injured and Arshavin could be there since he gave an excellent performance in Capital One Cup. Let’s end this paragraph with more optimistic note: this defeat might be something like that defeat in 2001-02 against Leeds at Highbury when the left-footed Ian Harte scored from a free-kick and center-forward Mark Viduka scored a winner. This time we conceded goals from center-forward Torres while left-footed Juan Mata from a free-kick. Goal for Arsenal in Leeds match was scored by Wiltord, attacker-winger signed from Ligue 1 while goal against Chelsea was scored by Gervinho, attacker-winger signed from Ligue 1 as well. We all know what happened in 2001-02 – that side didn’t lose another single away match in Premiership and won Wenger’s double.
Now, we will have two very demanding matches this week. First, we are playing in the Champions’ League against well-known opponents from last season and season 2009-10. Olympiacos lost against Schalke at home in Round One and will do anything to compensate for that at the Emirates. Last seasons match against Olympiacos we escaped at the Emirates with a narrow victory thanks to goals from Oxlade-Chamberlain (his first ever goal for Arsenal) and Andre Santos.
The Greek side looked more dangerous than we did and had a lot of chances saved by Sczeszny or, like that great shot from Vasilis Torosidis, arguably the biggest threat for us, being held by the crossbar. They lost some of their players like Mirallas (signed for Everton despite interest from Wenger) and Mellberg (Villarreal) while there will be a familiar face between the Greek sticks – Roy Carroll, former Manchester United goalkeeper that most of us used to laugh at. We have to get a grip and play like the Chelsea defeat didn’t happen.
I expect some changes in team since Wenger did the same thing last season when we faced the Greeks – Song was in central defense with Mertesacker while our attack was lead (or sort of) by Chamakh – and it almost backfired on him. Giroud should be given a start so he can rise his self-confidence with Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain being Giroud’s wing-men.
Mannone had some tough times in the reverse fixture against Greeks last season in the match that didn’t matter to us since we already secured first spot while Olympiacos battled Marseille and Dortmund for second. We lost 3:1 with Mannone conceding one of the worst goals I ever saw Arsenal concede. With victory against Olympiacos our European campaign can be more relaxed and our team can focus more on the Premiership.
And, it won’t be easy in the League this weekend. We are facing West Ham United lead by Sam Allardyce. They have a physically strong team that puts most of their hopes in set-pieces and that’s not the best news for us considering the fact we conceded three goals from set-pieces in our last two matches.
West Ham won against QPR on Monday night and Andy Carroll is back. This Carroll made a lot of opponents smile as well as aforementioned Roy but he might be used more properly by Allardyce than he was in Liverpool. Victory against West Ham would keep us in the race for top positions. Another draw or defeat would raise questions over the ability of our team and damage our self-confidence.
Let’s hope October will give us more joy than September did.