I slipped into the ground nice and early last night. My phone worked for precisely 17 seconds, then I was in. As part of the Arsenalisation of the stadium, it’d be nice if you could get wifi or a signal. Replays on your phone would be pretty exciting as would the ability to catch up on the scores through the game… and tweet on the hashtag Arsenal set up pre-game.
Anyway, no sooner had the game started, the heaven opened! I sit just far enough away from the front row to avoid the wet. I feel for the people who get drenched.
The game was a whole heap of nothingness for most of the first half. We weren’t playing badly, but we were definitely jammed in second gear for most of it. The Greeks didn’t really offer too much in the way of anything really. There were no stand out players for them. Our first shot came from Cazorla freekick that was acrobatically tipped over. I have to say, I was shocked he hit the target!
Gervinho was lively in the opening moments, getting in behind there defence a few times with no luck on goal.
Koscielny was lucky not to see red after diving into a challenge wildly on the halfway line. When it’s wet and you fly in, it usually doesn’t end in a yellow.
The first warning signs about our suspect centre backs came when Olympiacos fired a cross into the middle of the box. Koscielny had lost his man and left Jenkinson to deal with two players, luckily the man who nipped in front of him some how managed to fire it over from 6 years. Laurent, where were you?
Down other end Gervinho breached the Greek defence but failed to turn his shot round the keeper, his movement and general hustle had their back four concerned.
Our opener came when Gervinho took the ball off a dithering off balance Arteta and fired a accurate shot back across goal into the bottom corner. A superb finish from the on fire Ivorian.
Their goal came just before the half finished. another ball was flown into the box from the left, it managed to slip between both Koscielny and Vermalen, leaving the striker an easy finish. Neither attacked the ball, with Vermaelen footing most of the blame. Poor defending, just reinforcing my concerns about their ability to play with each other. It was just too easy.
Half time stats didn’t read well. We had two chances versus their 7, we hadn’t found our groove despite 66% possession. We needed to liven things up in midfield and improve the accuracy of our shoddy passing.
Arsenal announced what sounded like a sub at half time for a competition… not very smart.
The second half started with a bit more fight. Gervinho showed great composure on the byline to cut the ball back to Cazorla who turned his shot wide with a terrible 8 yard shot. He really is garbage in front of goal. Hopefully he’ll snap out of it. He’d be good for 15 a year if he found his aim.
Gervinho showed what he was capable of once again out wide when he played a deft one two with Cazorla, he waltzed into the box on the left, bodged his first pass, landed a second chance, cut it back to Lukas who turned and powered it through a quagmire of players legs, including the keepers. A solid finish from the German.
Some crazy UEFA rule meant you the minutes weren’t shown on the score board, this resulted in people leaving way before the end to beat the rush. They also didn’t have the players names up, which was a bit irritating for match reports.
Back to the game, things went from bad to worse for Laurent. He conspired to head over from 6 yards. It looked easier to keep the ball under the bar if truth be told!
The referee was useless it has to be said. He was floating around the pitch like some sort of reality TV ballet dancer getting decisions wrong left, right and centre.
Giroud came on for what might have been ten minutes, or twenty. He looked sharp after his initial 3 minutes where he fell over quite a lot. He managed to get on the end of a Theo cross and nearly put the ball in from a corner. I feel for him, I think there’s something there, things just aren’t dropping for him.
However, he did manage to make himself our top assister late on with a knock on to Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman tore into the box and jinked it quite beautifully into the empty net. It’s moments like that which make staying till the end more than worth it… even though the train crush after was pretty horrendous.
Ramsey and Gervinho showing composure? Pinch me… Mila Kunis, I said f*cking pinch me now.
The game closed out 3-1 to the good guys but bar the result I didn’t feel there was a was a whole lot to celebrate. It was quite a disjointed performance that almost felt like justified complacency. They were poor, we knew that, so we sat in second gear most of the game.
Our centre backs were frightening this evening. If we give Carroll that much freedom on Saturday (assuming he’s fit) we’ll struggle to keep a clean sheet. I can’t work out what the issue is. Is it a lack of height, is it that they both like to play the recovery defender, is it a lack of communication?
Stand out performance of the evening went to Gervinho. He was the touch paper that set our second half alight. He was efficient on the ball, he was composed and he was a danger wherever he ran. The full backs deserve another mention this week. They once again resisted the temptation to bomb forward, instead helping to steady the ship at the back.
Podolski grew with the game after a very quiet start. He’s definitely a player who feeds off the energy of others. When Cazorla woke up, so did he.
One player who is disappointing me at the moment is Chamberlain. Has he been bitten by the ‘I landed a new deal before I’d achieved anything’ bug… Or does he just need a shot in the arm? Or an injection of whatever fuels Frimpong? It’s all a bit reserved, a bit too handbrake on for me… I’m almost preferring Theo, which is a admission and a half. He needs to watch Sterling play. No fear, total enthusiasm.
Final mentions go to Arteta, who had a superb game in midfield despite a few dodgy passes early on. If there’s anyone we need to keep fit over the next few weeks, it’s that man. A top, top player who embodies what it is to be a professional footballer. Also, Giroud… it’ll come good for him. He cares about scoring and he cares he’s not doing it at the moment. Gervinho is justifying his selection at the moment, but I’m sure Olivier’s time will come.
West Ham on Saturday, one of my favourite London derbies… my local London Derby if you will. I can’t wait… Hammer baiting is an event I’ve missed. I’ll have a guest preview coming your way as well.
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Right, that’s it, see you int the comments!