OMFG A RESULT.
Sure, sure, winning in the Europa League last 16 isn’t busting out the red panties and champagne, but a win, is a win, is a win.
The game followed a very familiar pattern.
Total control + massive unforced errors. The main difference this time is we took our chances going forward.
The first half was painfully dominant. We controlled the play, had lots of different answers in attack, and we hit the target with TWO freekicks. It was quite the scene.
… but lurking in the dark, like a sweaty pervert at a work party, was an unforced error. The biggest one came from Martin Odegaard, he played a hospital pass across midfield, the ball was intercepted and we were lucky to escape the counter with a nothing moment. David Luiz also had one of his standard brain farts that has cost us so often in his short career with us.
The Norwegian loanee did make amends down the other end though. He took control of the ball on the edge of the box, looked up for the pass and decided instead to fire off a fizzing shot at the Olympiacos keeper who totally made a hash of the save. SCORCHIO was all I could say. What a way to open your goal-scoring account.
The second half should have been more comfortable than it was. The mistake was a Leno/Ceballos class in clowning. Bernd Leno received a fairly standard pass back him on the edge of his box, he had three options open, he chose to go back to a tightly marked Ceballos, the Spaniard didn’t have the skill to protect the ball, and we were punished to the max as usual.
I think we were all a little worried Arsenal would shut down like we normally do after a mistake. It didn’t happen this time. Willian came to the rescue with his immense creativity again. He dropped a deep cross from a short corner, Gabriel barged in front of Auba who was tracking, putting a sublime header back across goal. Inch perfect stuff from the Brazilian.
7 assists for Willian this season. The new Ozil? No. The new Arsenal GOD. He’s not my fave, but if he’s contributing, it’s a good thing for everyone.
The final goal was all about Mo Elneny. He picked the ball up in midfield, drove at goal, and unleashed fury. Stunning stuff from the best Egyptian in world football. He loves a goal in the Europa.
Arsenal left Greece for the 2nd time this month, but far happier. We beat a solid Champions League side with ease and left with a whopping 3 away goals. That means Olympiacos have to score 3 without a response to win. A tough ask against a team that doesn’t ship goals like they used to. Also a risky game to attack if we spring load our forward line with pace merchants like Pepe and Martinelli.
Thomas Partey came off on 55 minutes, he didn’t have his best game, but I am sure he’ll be available for the NLD at the weekend. Even when he’s having an off night, he contributes. His assist set the ball rolling. I think we have to be fair with him, his fitness is precious and he’s still adapting to the club. I can’t wait to see him develop the way we know he will.
The main talking point was Bernd Leno again. Martinez fans were running around aroused after the game, keen to whine that we sold the wrong keeper. It’s certainly not that simple to my mind, but the more this new system evolves, the clearer it is that Bernd needs to sharpen his game with the ball at his feet. Leno made the error today, but let’s be clear, it wasn’t his at the weekend.
Some moan that it’s a system issue. I disagree. Playing out the back is part of the way Arteta wants to play. It has more benefits to our play than it does negatives, so to bin it would be a weakness (Emery caved, and he’s meek management 101). It’s about the players making better decisions. Everything else in the German’s game is electric. He just needs to double down and concentrate a bit more.
7 of the 14 goals we’ve conceded this year have been from unforced errors. Arteta knows this is a problem.
“We have to be very clear and honest with ourselves. We gave three chances to the opponent, they took one and at that level they are going to punish you,”
“If we want to go to the next level we have to stop that and be more ruthless and when we are that dominant, kill the games off.”
It’s annoying, but it’s also a gift. It means it’s absolutely clear the job that needs to be done this summer. Some of this can be eradicated over time. I do not expect Martin O to make those mistakes next season. Some of it can be addressed with coaching. Some will come with the natural churn in the squad as we upgrade.
Overall though, what we’re seeing on the pitch is exciting. As I’ve been saying for a while, there’s something brewing at Arsenal. The football has a clear identity, the players all know what they’re doing, and we’re producing high-quality chances over and over again. 18 shots, 8 on target… that’s a good outlay considering where we were a few months ago.
We have a really solid group of players at the moment. Look at the squad reaction when Martin O scored that goal. The players are together. Look at how they reacted to BIG Mo scoring his goal. There’s a culture building. It’s exciting.
The fundamentals are there. We defend well, our off-the-ball movement is great, we have style, and we create excellent chances. Arsenal are on the right path. Now we have to prove our mettle by beating Spurs on Sunday. A huge ask, but a do-able one. That game is our Premier League Cup Final. Win, and it’s all smiles, anything else, it’ll be a problem.
See you in the comments. x