Arsenal’s Night In Greece Ruined
UEFA Champions League, Group Phase
Olympiakos 1 – 0 Arsenal
The Champions League group stage fizzled out last night as the youthful exuberance succumbed to a sucker punch, Olympiakos playing the footballing equivalent of rope-a-dope, undeservedly winning to ensure their progress to the next phase.
Those on display last night showed that there is a promising future; some are more ready than others, Cruise and Bartley for example would benefit hugely from a Carling Cup campaign or two. Others such as Ramsey and Merida put forward strong arguments that they are capable of handling the step up to a regular first team berth. Fitting them in is another matter but a decision that will please Arsene to have to make.
Chances were created and spurned, Walcott stung Nikopolidis’ hands with an early strike as Arsenal enjoyed much of the possession. An air of familiarity abounded though as the net failed to bulge, the prospect of a goal for the hosts increased briefly, Galletti and Dudu perhaps the most culpable as the balance of the match swang back into parity rather than Arsenal dominating possession.
The evening’s decisive goal came barely two minutes into the second half. Bartley put in a strong tackle in the midfield, Leonardo picked the ball up and ran through empty space, chased forlornly by Song, finishing calmly past Fabianski. The goal was a poor one to concede, Gilbert had pushed too far forward on the right and there was an absence of cover whilst Bartley challenged in midfield.
Even so, Arsenal can feel aggrieved that poor finishing deprived them of a creditable point. Vela had two opportunities to boost his confidence, deprived by Nikopolidis after a square pass by Ramsey, the Welshman surging forwards on the left, evading two defenders before finding the Mexican. Fran Merida then freed Vela who scooped the ball over the bar. A harsh lesson in finishing for Vela but in Europe, missing those sorts of chances is costly.
Just before the final whistle, Aaron Ramsey had an effort cleared off the line which would have given his performance the reward it richly deserved. His passing was excellent all night, suggesting that he could be the fulcrum around which the first team is built in future years. It has been in keeping with recent outings for club and country, a run of form that became noticeable when he led the Scottish midfield a merry dance for an hour recently. Particularly impressive was his choice and range of passing. Often promising youngsters will constantly seek to find a defence-splitting pass; Arsenal has instilled in Ramsey and Merida that choosing your moment is as important as delivering.
Theo Walcott left the pitch with a minor knock but will apparently be fine for the weekend. The suggestion has to be that his hamstring injury was minor indeed for his fitness levels seemed fine, judged on the standards of someone who has been missing for a short while.
Defensively, the performances of Bartley and Cruise were heartening. The latter continued the production line of left backs whilst Bartley showed good promise in the centre. It is too soon for them to tackle the Premier League but should they continue their development, there is no reason why that cannot begin to happen within the next two seasons. Wilshire was slightly disappointing yet that is because much is expected of him.
Progress made already into the next round and looking at the qualifiers whom we could face, there is no-one outstanding to be afraid of. Pretty much the groups went as expected with one or two exceptions – Fiorentina and Bordeaux might not have expected to win their groups – but I guess Wenger will be looking to avoid the necessity of a winter trip to Moscow given the choice.
Posted on December 10, 2009, in Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer and tagged Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Olympiakos, Premier League, Soccer. Bookmark the permalink. 271 Comments.