Arsenal vs Olympiacos Piraeus, 2-1: Full time analysis and player ratings
Written by Chris on September 29, 2011 0:15
Arsenal battled their way past Olympiacos of Greece as Arsene Wenger’s decision to rest key players ahead of Sunday turned out to be spot on.
Knowing that on Sunday we have a crucial game against Tottenham Hotspur away from home, I agreed with Arsene’s line-up as sooner or later the players on the bench have to feature in order to first of all show how good they are and then, indeed, to give key players like Robin van Persie a well-deserved rest.
Having said that, we again witnessed some shocking defending from the lads, especially in the first half. The ease with which the opposition penetrates our defensive department from set-pieces and the ease with which they quickly counter when we have a corner and they win the ball is, to say the least, embarrassing.
This happened on Saturday as well, remember the counter attack started from a Jussi Jaaskelainen throw in the 24th minute? Well the same happened today and we should consider ourselves lucky that we survived in both occasions.
Ultimately, as I have been saying for the last month or so, our defensive problems have absolutely nothing to do with individuals as it’s a collective problem that we will see over and over again regardless who is playing at the back. After all, both Alex Song and Per Mertesacker played a very good game but they were also victims of the foolish system we adopt when we have to defend set-pieces.
In all fairness, it is also true, however, that we improved as a unit in the second half and it’s funny that we looked better when under heavy pressure as a demonstration that maybe the first-half panic was more down to complacency after taking an early two-goal cushion. We switched off, in another words.
As for the offensive department, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was phenomenal in the first part of the game as he took full advantage of his first regular Champions League start to give us an early lead that helped us to settle down and go on to score another.
But one thing, on Alex, if I may. Over the last few seasons, Andrey Arshavin was heavily criticised for not helping the defensive department enough and one of the weaknesses in AOC’s game, today, was that he was reluctant to help defensively.
For instance in the 13th minute he lost the ball and then showed no urgency whatsoever to track back as he completely lost his man who went on to cross and win a corner from which the Greeks went close with Rafik Djebbour. And, he was partly to blame for allowing Olympiacos to quickly take the corner from which they scored, jogging in a way that you would think it was Denilson wearing the 15.
Make no mistake, he’s young, he’s playing to learn but it is important that he learns these(shall we call them small details?) from day one although I repeat, offensively he did what many others usually fail to do, scoring with his first chance of the game and since he is ultimately an offensive player I want to archive his game as a fantastic debut with minor tweaks needed ahead of the future.
All in all, and to conclude, I’m very happy with today’s result. I didn’t expect an easy game considering this was an “experimental” side and that it was the first time that Alex, Per and Andre played together in the defensive department. What we ultimately needed today was to win, to take all three points and to rest Robin ahead of Sunday. And we did just that.
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Szczesny: 6,5 – An overall solid performance as he bravely denied Rafik Djebbour in the 27th minute of the game and was again ready in the 38th minute, this time to deny Kevin Mirallas. But, caught out when Vassilis Torosidis hit the bar as it’s not the first time he was disappointing with his positioning this season.
Song and Mertesacker: 7,5 – Let’s face it. As I said in the introduction the panic in the defensive department is not down to the individuals, in fact, I believe that these two were superb considering it was their first game together. Minor communication problem in the 3rd minute of the game but it was to be expected as Alex produced a fantastic pass for AOC when we took the lead.
Sagna: 6 – Struggled on the right and foolish was the way he was dispossessed in the 38th minute but as I said above he wasn’t supported properly by young Alex as Bacary improved, massively, in the second half.
Santos: 7,5 – Brilliant. That he knew how to score is something we were told, today, he confirmed that he indeed knows how to keep his cool in front of goal. The move was brilliant, one-two with Tomas Rosicky, cross, determination to win the ball and great low effort to double our lead.
Frimpong: 5 – Very, very disappointing. I’m afraid – and this is something we all noticed in pre-season – that he is too poor with the ball in his feet, as if he has no idea what to do next. In all fairness he was at his usual best in respect to fighting spirit but fighting spirit alone, I’m afraid, is not enough.
Arteta: 6 – I think that Mikel was also very slow when on the ball as in more than one occasion he failed to produce the “killer pass” even if he had the space to do it. Fantastic, however, the way he cleared it off the line in the 13th minute of the game.
Rosicky: 5 – Captain-for-the-day Tomas was very disappointing in midfield. He was involved in the move that led to the second goal but his decision making in the final third was very, very poor, as he also missed the most elementary passes like the one in the 60th minute of the game.
Oxlade-Chamberlain: 7,5 – Needed only seven minutes to show that he’s not shy to make an impact in important games as he scored a brilliant goal and delivered a fantastic cross, on minute 39, showing that he can turn provider when required. But, as said, he seemed reluctant to help defensively and this is a no-no in my book.
Arshavin: 5,5 – Hot and cold from Andrey but not as poor as many want us to believe. Involved, like Tomas, in the move from which we scored the second, produced a top pass for Marouane in the 23rd with the Moroccan wasteful in front of goal and did well, in the 68th minute, to force a save from Franco Costanzo. Fair enough, not enough, but I doubt we can expect more from the 2011-version of Andrey.
Chamakh: 5,5 – Poor, the way he missed the aforementioned 23rd minute chance but improved in the second half as he produced a top-class through pass for AOC on minute 48 and fought very hard as he was taken off just when he was starting to improve. Shame.
Ramsey, van Persie, Gibbs: 5.5/No Vote/No Vote – Not much from these three. Aaron started like a train but as the game progressed he made silly mistakes. As for the other two they didn’t have enough time on the pitch to make an impact.