Most of us were left speechless following Tuesday’s 3-2 defeat to Olympiacos. It was another disappointing European night for The Gunners that now have a Bayern-shaped mountain to climb in order to progress to the Knockout Stages of the competition.
Here are the key points from the match.
1.It was a bad night to be an Arsenal goalkeeper.
Two Arsenal goalkeepers were in action last night as the on-loan Wojciech Szczesny struggled also for AS Roma. In case you might have thought: “Oh, if only we had Szczesny as Čech’s replacement and not Ospina!”, think again as David Ospina wasn’t the only Arsenal goalkeeper to concede three goals (via dailymail.co.uk).
The worst thing is, the best out of all our goalkeepers was sitting on the bench while his rival for his position was let down by both his team-mates and his own judgments. It was only logical for Wenger to start with Čech between the sticks for a game that he had touted as “a must-win” himself (via espnfc.com), especially given how good Čech was against against Leicester.
2.Something worse than losing points would be to lose Laurent Koscielny.
Unfortunately, when the dark clouds appear above Emirates Stadium, you can expect a full crap-storm. Last night was no exception as it seems we have lost Laurent Koscielny for some time to a hamstring injury (via arsenal.com). Going into the clash against the league leaders Manchester United without Bosscielny spells trouble as we have conceded ten goals in the last five games (Dinamo, Chelsea, Spuds, Leicester, Olympiacos).
3.What is happening to Kieran Gibbs?
Gibbs hasn’t reached the rock-bottom level of Andre Santos but he is far from playing his best football. It would be unfair to say that he was the main reason for our defeat against Olympiacos but we conceded Finnbogason’s goal after the cross coming from our left side of the defence.
4.What is wrong with our home form?
After we had a pretty successful home sequence in the Champions League between 2009-10 and 2011-12 (sixteen games without a single defeat), we have been rather generous hosts ever since. We have won just seven out of fourteen home games since 2012-13 with Schalke, Bayern (twice), Borussia Dortmund, Monaco and Olympiacos conquering London over the last three seasons. With a rampant Bayern coming to town soon, it’s very likely that we’ll have to wave the white flag once more.
It might sound a bit unfair to the home crowd but I heard Greek fans too often last night. With all due respect to our loyal away fans, we won’t hear them in the reverse fixture as the Olympiacos fans will make their stadium look and sound like a volcano.
The problem is, our home form has been rather poor in the league too. We have scored in just two out of our last seven league games at the Emirates (via squawka.com). It’s time for Arsene Wenger to turn things around ASAP.
5.We have some history to fight against.
Just nine teams have managed to progress from the group stage after they have lost their two opening games: Dynamo Kyiv in 1999-2000, Newcastle United and Bayer Leverkusen in 2002-03, Werder Bremen in 2005-06, Internazionale in 2006-07, Olympique Lyon in 2007-08, Panathinaikos in 2008-09, Olympique Marseille in 2010-11 and Galatasaray 2012-13 (via uefa.com). Newcastle’s escape was something special as they had lost their three opening games before making a spectacular come-back.
If you have a problem recalling any of those clubs’ campaigns, don’t worry – none of them managed to actually win the illustrious trophy.
6.Arsene Wenger should be careful with what he wishes for.
In March 2015, following another disappointing Champions’ League exit, Arsene Wenger said that perhaps dropping to Europa League would be better for The Gunners rather than qualifying from the Group Stage only to get knocked out in the Round of 16 (via theguardian.com).
With four matches to go, Europa League looks like a realistic prospect for The Gunners. Just imagine a Europa League Final between Arsenal and Spuds in Basel with Arsene Wenger winning his first European trophy after losing three finals!
7.Is it really the darkest before the dawn?
My dear Gooners, I remember watching a really annoying game Arsenal played at home. We conceded the first goal of the game from outside of the box. Then our No. 14 equalized. We couldn’t hold onto that result as we scored an own goal after a set-piece. We managed to score another equalizer but the opponents had the final word as they punished our poor defending once more. We lost 2:3 at home.
No, I’m not crazy and I’m not talking about the game against Olympiacos like it happened years go. No. I’m talking about the game against Leeds United in May 2003 that had put an end to our title hopes. Our defending on that day was best described with these words: “…but no club with aspirations can afford to field a back four as haphazard and passive as this” (via theguardian.com) which would be the best words to describe our back four last night.
It was also the last defeat before The Invincibles started their magnificent and unrepeatable sequence.
8.Alexis Sánchez was brilliant again.
Perhaps it’s not the best thing to praise anyone following a horrendous defeat like the one last night but Alexis deserved it. He was a constant menace for our opponents, created one goal before scoring another and, what perhaps went just under the radar of the spectators, showed a bit of wisdom Olivier Giroud hadn’t demonstrated against Dinamo. There was clearly a wrong decision from the referee to award a goal-kick to Olympiacos instead of a corner for Arsenal. Alexis didn’t protest because he had already received a yellow card for dissent in the first half.
9.Theo Walcott scores. And scores.
All of our goals in the Champions League so far have been produced by Theo Walcott and Alexis Sánchez as they have assisted each other for their goals. The Englishman has already scored four goals this season and hopefully he will continue with his goalscoring spree.
Now, I have to make a bit of a digression here. Theo’s goal was an interesting part of the story of how team-mates can bail their goalkeeper out. Walcott’s shot wasn’t the best as it was heading straight into Roberto’s path but at the end it bobbled over and through the goalkeepers hands into the net. Nobody will mention it because Olympiacos won the game.
10.Santi Cazorla could use a goal from open play.
The Spanish playmaker had two great attempts to score but both of them were denied. It’s part of the story that unfortunately states Cazorla hasn’t scored a goal other than from the penalty spot since December 2014 (Newcastle). We need goals from midfield too and Santi should provide a few.
We can still make something out of this season. We just need to focus when defending and convert chances that come our way. The next test is on Sunday against Manchester United. They sit on top of the table and haven’t lost at the Emirates since 1st May 2011 but every streak must come to an end.