Arsenal went into the final group game in a rare situation, qualified and top of the group. With this being the case Le Boss rightly rotated the squad and the team selected was close what we’d call a Carling Cup team. It was never going to be an easy game as Olympiacos needed a win to keep up their hopes of qualification.
Fabianski, Santos, Vermaelen , Squillaci, Djourou, AOC, Coquelin, Frimpong, Benayoun, Chamakh.
I was quite shocked to see Vermaelen starting given he has only been back for a few weeks and his current form is up there with RVP.
The first Arsenal chance came from Chamakh running onto a wide through ball and cutting back for Arshavin who was thwarted by the keepers legs. Soon after Frimpong curled an effort just wide but the worry was always the shakey defenders sticking us in it. And what we all feared when we saw the defensive line up happened. The Olympiacos goal was classic Arsenal at their sloppy best. Arshavin lost the ball in typical Arshavin fashion and under pressure Squillaci managed to nutmeg Djourou who’s leg it deflected off to fall into the path of the striker who rounded Fabianski in no mans land. Poor stuff.
Fabianski was then injured in a collision with Veraemlen and the keepers back luck continued as he was forced off injured. Unfortunately Vito Mannone, his replacement, had a nightmare introduction. Vito came out to head a long ball out side his area, the ball fell to an Olympiacos player who composed himself , shot and Mannone who was rushing back lost his bearings and chose to air volley the ball instead of catching it. A goal you’ll see again and again on football blooper DVD’s. Truly awful stuff.
The second half started in the same way the first half did, Olympiacos pressed our defenders, ready and waiting for a mistake. The tactic was working as we lacked any sort of compsure from the 5 at the back. To compound the misery, Santos pulled up injured and was stretched off to be replaced by Miquel.
Arsenal got themselves back into it through the substitute Miquel who sent a cross into Chamakh who teed it up for Yossi to hit beautifully on the volley.
The game started to open up as Arsenal fancied their chances to nick a draw. The running was coming from Yossi, AOC and Rosicky. If Arshavin and Chamakh has shown the same intent as the former 3, we would have scored at least one more goal. However they didn’t and a goal always seemed unlikely.
Olympiacos pressed for the 3rd and in keeping with the rest of the goals, Arsenal were happy to present them with this. A free kick was floated in and the header hit the base of the post leaving their player best placed to tuck it in. We appealed in vein for the offside flag but the blame lay directly with the 4 defenders who rushed out carelessly.
As the Greek’s wildly celebrated their 3rd goal and probable qualification, their party was cut short as news was filtering through that Marseille has scored 2 goals in 5mins, sending Marseille through at the expense of the Olympiacos. The stadium was filled with silence and shocked players as the waited for the final whistle. In the end their victory was in vein.
I never for one second thought we would win today and frustratingly, I can’t say I was shocked to watch Fabianski (then Mannone) Squillaci, Arshavin and Chamakh do little to improve their battered reputations. I see little point in sitting here and player bashing when the game was built up as a ‘nothing’ game. I am frustrated, along with the majority of you, in many of the performances but what the City and Olympiacos games have shown us who is ready to support step up when required in the first team and who should be no where near the first team. Playing away in the Champions League is never easy (ask City and Chelsea). There is little point in over reacting to the result or performance. I hope Santos and Fabianski are not seriously injured and will look forward to seeing all the rested players looking fresh on Saturday.
Bring on Everton!
Comments welcome @Tottz82