Olympiacos 3 – 1 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

Arsene surprised and to an extent disappointed with the selection of Vermaelen and Santos in the starting eleven. In fairness though, the performance of the team showed it was a necessary evil because the manager’s tactical blindspots created a vulnerable mishmash of talented but inexperienced players and seasoned professionals lacking match sharpness/form.

To be honest, and I hate saying this, the first half was embarrassing. That Olympiacos came out with purpose and pressed the Gunners higher up the pitch, sometimes with as many as six players in the Arsenal half, was no surprise. The Gunners’ failure to counter that was a letdown.

As I have noted in the past, there are clear signs to observe when Arsenal are struggling. The midfield and defenders fail to beat the press. Consequently, the ball goes back to the Keeper who is forced to hoof under pressure regularly. This long ball invariably leads to a loss of possession and the ball comes back into the defensive third within moments as the Gunners struggle to control the flanks and inside channels. That was the story of the first half and some might say the two goal deficit flattered Arsenal!

The lack of a functional approach can put the side in trouble when the players don’t really have the kind of understanding or experience that a fluid, dominant style demands. In the first half, Coquelin and Frimpong struggled to get free and couldn’t really hold the ball under pressure. Benayoun didn’t drop deep often enough while Arshavin and Oxlade-Chamberlain offered little in terms of possession play. This put immense pressure on the back four and the Keeper who ended up looking like clowns time and time again.

Interestingly, both goals in the first half came when an Arsenal player lost possession under pressure just around the halfway line. Because the team was trying to play out from the back without really having a stable shape in front of the back four, it was really easy for Olympiacos to get in behind for the first goal. All the three midfielders were easily bypassed. The player attempting the through-ball was under no pressure and Djourou made the mistake of not tracking the run. This is a mistake Arsenal make far too often. Defenders attempt to play off-side when chasing the run and forcing the opponent to beat them would be the safer option. As things turned out, Squillaci and Djourou unwittingly played the ball into the path of Djebbour who rounded Fabianski to score with aplomb.

For the second goal, Frimpong was caught on the ball and the attempted tackle turned into a delightful lob over the Arsenal back four. Mannone rushed out of his line but his header was weak and towards the center when the better option would have been to go for as much power and angle as possible. The Italian also lost his bearings and tried to kick a weak attempt towards goal instead of catching it. I don’t know why Vermaelen hadn’t rushed back to the line to cover when he saw Mannone coming out.

Apart from the goals there were a number of opportunities for the hosts but they lacked individual quality in the final third.

Arsenal had very little to show at the other end. There was an occasion when a neat interchange of passes between Arshavin and Chamakh put the Russian one-v-one but the angle was tight. The only other noteworthy moment was a cross from the Ox that invited a shot but Benayoun took it off the foot of Arshavin and couldn’t direct it towards goal on the swivel.

The second half started in a similar vein but Arsenal showed some tactical flexibility. A number of balls were being played towards Chamakh and the wide players were coming narrow towards him. This approach brought the Gunners back into the game when the Moroccan did really well to control a long ball with his head and lay it back into the path of Benayoun. The Israeli captain spread it towards Miquel who swung a good cross in towards Chamakh. The striker again did well to chest it into space for Benayoun to finish it off with a classy volley. Arsenal used Chamakh’s strengths well in that move and it paid dividends. It’s a shame the manager couldn’t set his team up to use these strengths more frequently.

Just before the goal Santos had gone off injured. That could prove to be a bigger loss than the game was.

Around the hour mark Olympiacos eased off. They were always going to find it hard to sustain their intensity for the duration of the game. Rosicky came on with just over 20 minutes to go. Benayoun and Little Mozart created a couple of interesting combinations but couldn’t really find the finish. Nevertheless, the game was more even after the break.

At the other end, the hosts were always a threat on the break and scored the third with a minute of normal time remaining. The goal came from a free-kick conceded by the physical enthusiasm of Frimpong that works so well in English Cup ties. The youngster and Benayoun were also guilty of ambling up as they played Modesto onside. But one must also ask how Mellberg was able to head the ball when there were four Arsenal players around him. It seemed like a goal conceded out of tiredness.

It wasn’t a pleasurable game to watch but I am glad this happened. If nothing else, it should show the youngsters just how much they need to improve. A player like Frimpong can end up at the level of Muamba or Wilson Palacios (good players in their own right but not quite top class) or he could develop into an Essien or Song. It’s up to him to understand his weaknesses and work on them diligently. Similarly, Oxlade-Chamberlain could turn into a Shaun Wright-Phillips (who has his mercurial moments) or he could develop like Nani or other such attackers who deliver for big teams on a consistent basis. At this age one must not be harsh on the young players as they have a lot to learn. But only they can do the work day in, day out. It’s important to see the desire and willingness to improve.

Individual Performances:

Fabianski: I don’t blame him for the first goal. If he’d stayed on his line it would have given Djebbour a good angle to hit, coming off gave the attacker a chance to go around. Keepers can’t do much in such cases.

Mannone: Should have done better with the header. Could have caught the strike. Made a number of other mistakes. But again, as I have said in the past, Keepers will make mistakes when the players in front of them are so disjointed. More so if the guy in goal rarely gets to play.

Djourou: Should have tracked the run for the first goal. Ended up chasing back far too often and should have gotten into and stayed in better defensive positions but that is more of a coaching issue.

Squillaci: Made a number of mistakes but was overworked. That moment when he left the ball for Mannone (which led to a header that went wide) brought back memories of defenders not taking enough responsibility.

Vermaelen: Even he looked nervous at times as was seen with a back pass that sold Fabianski short. But his work rate was superb and even went forward whenever possible.

Santos : Very strong in individual battles. Made one very good forward run that led to a shot from Arshavin.

The defence had that old headless chicken feel to it and the goalkeepers didn’t look convincing. But the keywords there are feel and look. I thought the real problem was in front of the back five as the ball kept coming back at them. They didn’t have enough options when they tried to play it out from the back and the ball came back within seconds whenever it was hoofed forward. No defence can handle such incessant pressure unless the players in front are set up to support the back four.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: Very impressive when he got a chance to run with the ball. Very little off it. It might be harsh but I am not sure he got any worthwhile tactical education at his previous club. Doesn’t really get into good defensive positions and doesn’t know the runs he should be making. This was most evident at a moment when Rosicky had to point to the space and ask him to run which allowed the defender to come across and cover.

Coquelin: Struggled to receive and pass the ball. Movement and positioning wasn’t great either.

Frimpong: Very strong and energetic but lacked awareness of players around him. Physical abilities are very important but an understanding of space and defensive positioning is critical. A loan spell at the right team seems essential for his development.

Benayoun: Looked like he played on the left in a 4-4-1-1. This meant he didn’t always get the chance to drop deep in central positions but even on the left the Israeli wasn’t offering an outlet for receiving the ball. Looked much better in the second half when he came in more frequently and was able to combine with Rosicky.

For large parts, the midfielders struggled in attack and defence as they kept getting caught in a ‘No man’s land’. That affected the shape of the team and left the back five exposed. The right side was particularly weak defensively with Djourou getting little support from Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Arshavin: Very disappointing to say the least. Was anonymous for large parts. Lacked confidence/form when he did get into dangerous positions. Also struggled due to a lack of understanding with teammates as some very interesting passes were just not read by them.

Chamakh: Had some good moments when he held the ball up of brought others into play like the goal or the chance for Arshavin. But those were few and far between. Arsenal failed to use his abilities to get the ball out and he lacked striking instincts on half-chances.

Subs: Miquel was very impressive on the ball and played a part in the goal. Was caught up the pitch regularly but that might have been due to tactical instructions to push up. Rosicky looked classy at times but was also erratic with his passing.

Wenger: There are a number of tactical issues that one can raise. For his part the manager might say it is important for the younger players to experience the game in this way. If he set it up in a manner that the team sat back and defended the youngsters might not have discovered just how much they need to develop. But there are structural problems with the way Arsenal defend that come to the fore every time the possession game fails. These need to be addressed and I can’t see the current coaching staff doing that. His team selection is also questionable.I dread to think what the result might have been if the first-choice defensive duo had been on the bench but one could say even a right battering would have been better than having Santos injured.

It’s not necessary to dwell on this game as it was largely inconsequential but now Arsenal have 5 League games in 22 days, 4 in 14, with all four full-backs injured and the centre-backs being stretched across the back four. Given that a spot in the top four is the only realistic target for this season, this is going to be a nervy and vital period.

51 Responses to Olympiacos 3 – 1 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. Tee Song says:

    I too found the inclusion of Vermaelen and Santos baffling. At least for TV5, i can understand Arsene’s reasoning. Maybe, since he started late, Vermaelen needed games and perhaps Wenger wanted at least some experience to lead the team in an intimidating stadium. I don’t necessarily agree with him, but I can understand the thought process.

    Santos’ inclusion was quite baffling. With an injury which may leave us with no fullbacks for two to three weeks, Arsene managed to turn a meaningless game into a very costly one. I’m sure if he were candid, Wenger would probably admit he made the wrong decision on Andre. At the very least, it was a rather ill advised gamble which he lost.

    • santori says:

      I expected Santos to play but not Vermaelen.

      Think the gaffer feels that Santos is coming to grips with his position and could well do with as many games as possible at this time. Probably do his fitness some good.

      The injury was unfortunate. Count us lucky that it wasn’t TV.

      OTOH, we are really out of fullbacks now. Hope it isn’t as bad as it seems.

    • desigunner says:

      Fair point about Vermaelen and the ill-advised risk with Santos.

      It is also highly likely that Arsene expected his team to struggle against the pressing. After all if we can see it so can he. So maybe he felt a stronger, experienced defence will be needed. Who knows how tough it would have been with a couple of youngster on the flank.

      • richie says:

        I agree with large parts of your assessments except it was a game to nothing! So take “The Risk?” and play the youngsters and if they were beaten badly make them watch the game and learn where they went wrong. Also I can’t agree with your comment that AOC could grow and turn out like Nani? Heavens forbid! I don’t rate Nani at all! I can’t see why anyone would? I think he’s a Fergy flop. For Manu’er he’s a one good game in 5 man. For Nani equate Nasri we had him for 4 years and he looked good in one season.

  2. sam says:

    why is everyone calling for frimpong to go out on loan?
    with so many games coming up what if song or arteta is sidelined?
    we don’t have the squad like man city or barca to keep loaning out our best talents while we still have bad players in the team. ridiculous idea!
    if arsene wants to win something this season he should first get rid of ineffective players, i knew we were going to struggle with arshavin and chamakh upfront,embarrassing!

    • santori says:

      Granted Le Coq wasn’t on par today but usually, he plays a more mature game than Frimpong.

      Dench needs to go out on loan to play regularly and develop a sense of maturity much like the stint with Lorient did for Le Coq.

      Simple as that.;)

      • sam says:

        he can learn while still at arsenal training with the likes of benayoun,arteta and song. what is he going to learn playing long ball with a small team.
        another joke is sending miyaichi on loan when we will lose gervinho in january. if its true then arsene has no intention of getting rid of arshavin.

    • cupsui says:

      well he might be needed as song might have to drop back to CB if we get another injury at the back!! so maybe middle of jan he could go once the fullbacks start coming back

    • Jeremy says:

      Jack will be back soon so Frimpong can go and carry on with his learning at Wolves.

  3. sameep says:

    Desi, did you listen to Wenger’s post match interview with Sky? I think he has stresses some of your points about goalkeepers and point to be noted is that he understands the tactical errors. Could it mean that the players lack that tactical edge to their game when the manager has asked them to do certain things?

    • desigunner says:

      Sorry I didn’t get that here. What did he say? I didn’t see any point about the Keepers or tactical errors on the official website.

      • TT says:

        Quoting Wenger as reported by Sky http://www1.skysports.com/news/19494/7356800/

        “We must give credit to Olympiakos tonight because they played a very physical game and in the first half it was very difficult for us.

        “And I don’t think we had the right tactical approach.

        “We went too much for short balls and it was a game of contact.

        “I think we didn’t help our goalkeepers,

        “We exposed them with our lack of quality in the passes we gave them and they were quite brave.”

        Interesting you make the point that Arsenal played too many long balls, while Wenger pointed out the problem with short balls. Perhaps Arsenal on the night just weren’t capable of handling the pressure, whichever the tactics.

      • desigunner says:

        Thanks for sharing the quotes and the link. I think Arsene is saying the same thing that I said. In the first half Arsenal were trying to play the ball out and it didn’t work. Which forced the Keepers in kicking it long. That is not the same as tactically using the long ball. As I mentioned in the article, Arsenal did try that in the second half and the goal came as a result of one such ball. So the point here is that in the first half there were a number of panicky hoofs that resulted from the tactic of playing it short because it didn’t work against the pressing. In the second half, due to lesser pressing and deliberate tactical change, Arsenal were able to play out better and also played some intentional and well-directed long balls. In general though, the total number of short passes will be much more than the number of long balls in both cases.

      • sameep says:

        I think TT has summarized it very well from SkySports report. Thank you.

      • desigunner says:

        @sameep, Yes it does seem that Arsene was saying the same thing. I do believe that Wenger knows what is needed. But getting that from the players is not always easy. How much of that is down to training/communications from the coaches is hard to say.

  4. Gary says:

    The last goal was probably the worst one as it came for a simple reason of not covering the goal as it is done for every corner (and the free kick was just like a corner). If one of the players covered the right corner, there would be no goal. There were 8!!! Arsenal players in the box and only 3 opponents. I have not seen anything like that even in our Sundays games, disgusting.

  5. Odhis KenyanGunner says:

    Hi desi. I notice that you are gradually increasingly negative in your analyses, generally. Maybe you dont even realise it. I hope you are not becoming like one of those sites that always see the glass as half empty, picking all the negatives clean, and only a little mention on the positives. Cheer up, man!

    • desigunner says:

      Well, there are a number of people who accuse me of being too positive. There are some like you who say i am becoming negative. I also get compliments for being fair and balanced.

      Is it possible that the way you (or any reader for that matter) perceive this blog has more to do with how you are thinking than what I am writing?

      Personally speaking, in this piece, I believe I have mentioned as many positives as I found. Of course there is always a way to find more positives and spin any event to make it look positive. I don’t like doing that. And there are plenty of people who do a good job of it anyway. It would have been helpful if you’d actually mentioned some of the positives that I have missed.

      • siva says:

        your technical analysis is exceptional and hence was always seen as fair. i too see a bit of negativity recently, but must be attributed to this and the cup game losses, which were a blip. it is one thing what arsene wants to do, but another whether the players can perform. i wasnt expecting TV and AS to start, but i was also not expecting Olym to be this aggressive. cup final for them nevertheless.sometimes an expression of your love for the club, will show your negativity as a genuine concern for the club than being a criticism. Miquel looks good to replace santos till Gibbs returns. else more shuffling of the CBs to FBs…

      • 9jagunnerdoc says:

        Never mind DG you’re doing just fine, been so all the time. Matter of fact, i bookmarked your site and i’m always itching to read from it.

    • Jamie says:

      Bendtner clearly stated several times that wants nothing to do with us, said it again and followed it up with ‘never say never’ – Bieber style.

      For me, Bendtner is history. We should be moving forward attracting world class strikers. He’s not good enough imo.

      Good luck to him at Sunderland.

      • desigunner says:

        I’ll be surprised if Wenger takes him back, can only see that happening if there is an epidemic of injuries up front like we have at full back positions currently, God forbid. But I did find his thinking quite intriguing. And I always like first hand accounts or direct quotes/interviews because so much of what we read is made up. Shared it for that reason and not much else.

  6. a99 says:

    agree with KenyanGunner – you have become increasingly negative, presuming some insight to management without have any actual experience of it.
    I would imagine that every coaching system and indeed every style of management has its strengths and weaknesses. While it is frustrating to see what appear to be mistakes happening (and indeed being repeated, many of which you have highlighted over the past few months) one also has to appreciate that AWs style of play relies on players thinking and reacting quickly which is dependent on knowing the players around you.
    So inevitably when we put out a team with no experience of playing with each other in a competitive environment (given that the reserves seem to have disappeared) there is high likelyhood that we will be beaten, especially if the players are put under pressure and do not have the time to look up to see where their team-mates are.

    • desigunner says:

      Completely agree with you – every coaching system has its strengths and weaknesses. And it’s imperative that there is an honest discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of Wenger and his system. I have stressed on this often enough and acknowledged it’s strengths time and again. But I don’t like giving excuses to avoid a discussion of the actual problems.

      As far as inexperience goes, Wenger is responsible for the squad and he knows what they can or cannot do on the pitch. If he has inexperienced players he needs to find tactics that suit them.

      I don’t have a problem with the result. Indeed, I mentioned in the preview that even a loss can be respectable. But with all due respect this performance was not respectable.

      One thing i do see is an effort to improve. Wenger keeps making changes and adapts his approach and I compliment him whenever I notice those. Same goes for many of the players.
      But there is just a lot more to be done if Arsenal have to challenge for the top honours again. There can be no denying it. This game just brought many of those issues out in the open again.

  7. George ibude says:

    Desi,djorou is inconstitent and his refusal to track back on time cost us fulham match and the carling cup. Sell him to bolton and buy vertoghen. Arshavin,chamark,diaby and squillaci. They should leave

  8. ignatzuk says:

    I only saw the first half. Nice analysis, although I think you’re being a little kind on the back five. They had no support but were also, perhaps Santos aside, very bad indeed. Lost their nerve, focus and concentration far too often.

    Their own passing out of defence was what put them under so much pressure. Why pass to Frimpong ten yards away when he’s receiving the ball with his back to an incoming challenge? Frimpong and Coquelin didn’t have a chance from what I saw.

    Of course watching on TV it’s hard to say if Arshavin, Chamakh, Ox and Benayoun were doing enough to give the defence passing options, or getting close enough to support each other. But that’s how you relieve the pressure of the press – longer passes and balls upfield, Chamakh holds up and lays off to his wingers and midfielders and then Olympiakos are running back towards their own goal all the time.

    Santos, in hindsight, a very bad gamble. DJ-Kos-Mert-Verm backline puts us on the back foot right away and loads more pressure on the rest of the team to create.

  9. santori says:

    Missed the match. Normally I would bother with a replay of it on the main Arsenal site but this seems Academic and full of hiccups/growing pains.

    Footy is a team sport and has to do with players understanding each other. The more they play together as a team, the more they develop an intuition as to each other’s movement.

    Stating the obvious but with so many players switched around (some carrying confidence issues), not surprising that we struggled.

    OTOH, as you say, a good sobering experience for not just our younger players but the older reserve ones as well.

    Still don’t think we need a striker in January?

  10. Peter Akweywa says:

    Djourou, Frempog made costly mistakes overworking other players leading to injuries. Arshavin and Chamach below standard.Wenger think over about this and bring in quality players in January.

  11. Aussie Jack says:

    Based on what I`ve just watched I would say we are wrong in building a reserve grade squad we need to build a `rotation` squad and a `rotation` bench. I`m all for blooding youngsters on things like the Carling Cup and, as part of their development ,putting them out on loan until they are 21/22 years of age then reassessing them. Generally speaking 19 year olds don`t cut it at Premiership level.

    • desigunner says:

      If you mean Wenger should be able to rotate 2-3 players every game and rest individuals consistently then I am all for it. Having two different starting elevens doesn’t work. Arsene tried it last season, realized it, and made changes towards the end. But this year I think he has been hampered a bit by the specific injuries at full-back positions which have reduced the chances of rotating the central defenders as well. Injuries in midfield have also reduced the opportunities for rotation.

      That said, I agree having one or two more players would have helped and if it blocks the youngsters then they should go out on loan. In general over the last couple of years, I have felt Arsenal have been missing one or two versatile defensive players who can contribute in midfield as well as one position in the back four.

      • Aussie Jack says:

        That`s exactly what I mean, I small bank of rotation players constantly rotating to give others a rest . Changes in formation from time to time will also allow for more flexibilty. We reduce the chance of injury and try combinations as well as formations. Rotation players are not to be confused with bench players who`s basic job is to be available in case of injury, although a couple of rotation players could be on the bench for tactical reasons.Rotation players will be experienced flexible professionals. So, we have a nucleus of say ten players (some of which can be young) with four pro`s in orbit (we`ve disregarded goalkeepers for this excercise). Depending on the formation the likes of van Persie would be able to rest every third or fourth week and recover from minor knocks.

        OK. I`ve said enough.

  12. The next month or so will be very crucial to players like Arshavin and Chamakh. I think Wenger is will give them oppurtunities to prove that they still have something to offer the team. But Wenger’s obstinance to consistently play them out of position may stymie their efforts. Also, Diaby still being on the roster is beyond rational thought. It is true that the Frenchmen is good when he plays but when does he ? It is high time that the deadwood on the team realize that they better shape up or they will be shipped out.

    I’ve consistently noticed a few things in every Arsenal game this season:

    1. The team has been more conservative ( as compared to previous years) in its passing. This reduced pace of our game I think has been a tactical tweak in ” Wengerball ” in order be more solid in defense.

    2. The wingers have to be more effective on the ball. Gervinho, AOC often dribble their way into a cul-de-sac and/or are caught in possession. The defenders push them down the flank into the corner flag from which they are forced to cross with only RVP in the box. If it wasn’t for the superb movement of RVP to get into a position to attack the goal with his foot instead of his head, the goals would have been hard to come by ( which is why Chamakh is so ineffective in the same role).

    3. Another criticism I have is with the movement and decision making of some of our players especially Gervinho and Ramsey on the counter-attack . Given that we line-up with 2 CM players ahead off Song, once we win the ball off the opposition the wingers should be playing an easy 1-2 with either Arteta or Ramsey and getting behind the defenders. ie. a typical passing sequence could be Song-Winger-Arteta/Ramsey-Winger (runs behind the wingback) and squares to RVP to shoot. We are too ponderous in our counter and if we expect to take points off Man City and the likes, this must be rectified.

    4. The team has to realize that RVP will now be marked heavily. Whenver the full-backs attack and are in a position to cross it, the oppsition is bound to have two men on RVP. Given that the wingers/CMs lack the physicality to pose an aerial threat, one of them should hang back just on the edge of the penalty box to cut in and take a shot. Arteta and Ramsey are both known to have a good shot on them.

    5. We waste too many of our set-pieces. It is apparent that Arteta is the designated free-kick taker in most cases. He has to work on his delivery and the team should work on their movement. We seem to have worked out one routine from the left-hand corner ( Arteta’s in-swinger) of attacking the near-post for a goal attempt/ flick on, with Vermaelen on the near-post and RVP/Mertesacker on the far post. More such routines for free-kicks have to be implemented in lieu of just kicking the ball into the area and hoping for the best.

    I could on but hey!, its a comment not a blog-post. With fixtures coming thick and fast, I hope Djourou and Miquel step-up for the LB/RB positions. On the whole, the team is defining its own playing style and I hope this rich vein of form continues.

    • Jeremy says:

      Please… Chamakh is not going to with us. So please omit him from your view at least till end of January.

      And i think he have been given ample chances but he just didn’t take them. At least, Eduardo did find the back of the net in his low period.

  13. Odhis KenyanGunner says:

    Don’t get me wrong Desi, i absolutely LOVE this site (my other favourite one is ‘Untold Arsenal’), its just that being your avid reader for a long time, i am noticing that there is a subtle general inclination towards a critical tone than was previously. The core objectivity is intact, thank God, its just that you sound more and more… whats the word… disatisfied, and am starting to worry that my adorable site is in danger of mutating into a ‘Le Grove-sque’ entity (how i hate that site!). Basically, in a nutshell, i am saying that, yes, by all means objectively point things out, but dont let the inherent Gooner feel of this site fade away. Dont slaughter it at the alter of analytical critique. Because after all is said and done, ideal football or not, we are Gooners first, then everything else a bonus. With all the whipping we receive from the incredulously biased English media, i want to know that i can STILL run to desigunner and find a purely arsenal breath of fresh air, warts and all, whether our midfield is supporting the defence or not, whether Arshavin is anonymous or not. Said with much love from Kenya, Desi.

    • desigunner says:

      Thank you for the clarification. I try to be as positive as I can be, that’s just in my nature. But if I am honest this season we are in a precarious situation. As I mentioned in the season predictions, I don’t expect better than fourth – which is a dicey place to be in because it can become fifth if we make many mistakes. So it could be that there is more concern in my tone. Apologies if it’s coming across as increasingly negative.

      Funnily enough, there is a comment above by ignatzuk that says “you are being a little kind on the back five”. Now I am not saying you are wrong or he is wrong or anything like that. It just highlights the difference in opinion that people have and how different people view this blog. I find being in the middle is the hardest. It would be much easier for me to write if I chose to be completely negative or unabashedly positive because that way the blog would only attract readers that find the particular narrative appealing. Birds of a feather and all that. But that approach doesn’t work for me personally. At least that way though, you can be sure this blog will never be completely negative 🙂

      • Odhis KenyanGunner says:

        Thanks Desi, for that reassurance. Maybe am just a very sentimental Gooner (how i wish i lived in London…!). Anyway, here is my two-pence take on our season so far; after a not-so-rosy start (what the repugnant anti-arsenal media called ‘crisis’. Egg all over their faces now!), we have stabilised. INFACT, i think generally we are defending better than at any other point in recent times. Okay, granted, there is the occasional lapse in concentration, which is not unique to us, just ask John Terry, he will write you a novel. We are not recklessly offensive anymore (bar the first-half of the Chelsea win). What has excited me most is not RvP’s prolificacy ( and thats an understatement), but our relative solidity in comparison to our legendary ‘capitulation’, to borrow jargon from the mainstream media. Tactically, we are more… measured in our approach. Slower, for the benefit of equilibrium. (Evidence? These days we can be 1-0 or 2-1 up in the closing stages of a match and i dont fidget as much in my seat! Ha ha). There is something cooking. A firm, balanced, sober Arsenal. And from where am sitting in the belly of Africa, it does smell good. Delicious. Or maybe its just my sentimental self playing tricks on me, you tell me. I will not judge the team on yesterday’s loss, because in any case we had nothing to lose (pun unintended). I’d rather atleast use the Money-City loss, if it comes to that! There is definately a considerable, tangible positive shift. If only the referees do their job fairly on us, like give us a penalty when we deserve it (the Fulham handball, and the Wigan assault on Ramsey. Stonewall penalties!). Go Arsenal Go!

  14. Jamie says:

    Our defending is still shocking as a collective, all over the place. There are players that are simply passengers, should not be at the club tbh.

    Arshavin, Squillaci, Djourou, Mannone…not good enough. The other youngsters have potential.

  15. Jeremy says:

    Djourou and Squillaci should never play in our shirt again. Djourou didn’t even bother to even track back after his unfortunate clearance for the first goal, very poor attitude.

    These 2 clowns have probably got TV nervous, i never seen TV looked so panicky.

    AW is too stubborn, his selection reflected his dilemma about whether we should go for a win or not. And i cannot believe that we had lost another defender in Santos because of such meaningless match.

    And i am very sure everyone can see that we will be fooling ourselves if we think we have reliable back-up in Djourou and Squillaci. They clearly belongs to a lower division than ours.

    It looks like we need more defenders as well as potential partner for RVP else we will be in deep trouble come January if there is anyone team that wants to go try injure our players.

  16. Tim says:

    The result itself was disappointing, but the lackadaisical attitude of some senior players who should have been desperate to show the boss why they should play more was very very poor. Sure, there was a degree of rustiness in some cases, but much though I love Arshavin his attitude stank, and Djourou’s head simply wasn’t in it.

    With the exception of Oxlade-Chamberlain (and only then in patches) the kids had a tough game, but that’s OK. It was a valuable learning experience for them, which will stand them in good stead. I don;t think anyone could have reasonably expected them to run the game.

    Anyway, we have now confirmed that several of our senior backups simply aren’t up to the job, but congratulations to Olympiacos, who played very well and did what they had to do. Tough luck on them with events in Dortmund, tough.


  17. Borntobeagunner(btbag) says:

    Am i the only one noticing how the olympiako’s players are spilling blood out of their system to make sure they come second should marseille sleep up?Playing all cinical fouling tactice on our players and rotationally escaping it?The motives of the two teams behind the match is quite different,we cant afford to have the same thinking when playing b’cos they are in different situation here.Again,we cant do the madrid v sporting gidjon playing field being turned into war field when we have already qualified and have 9 changes in the match.Dont forge,dortmund and marseille lost there if am not mistaken.The top four in england or elsewhere facing olympiakos in the same situation with 9 changes will face the same or similar thing.Nobody is happy but it could be considered in the long run.@jeremy,check all the top team in the world and give me their 4th and 5th choice defender who are far better than Djourou and Squillaci,then,i will take up your carrier killing campaign on them from where you stopped.Once again,Weldone to Desi,my only dissappointment about Wenger is starting Santos,miquel suits me better.We will learn from defeat says wenger and that i beleive.

  18. boyo says:

    I thought Chamack was one of our better players on the night. He was our only real outlet and more and more I found myself thinking just hoof it to him. He played some very good passes and moved well into space- He is no RVP but heck there are not many strikers of that calibre in the world let alone 2nd choice ones.

    Rosicky was also very good when he came on and his vision was there to see.

    Coquelin was the biggest disappointment for me- he seemed to offer nothing and was never on the ball or making tackles.

    The ox has a lot to learn still as his movement and passing show he is still 18(he will be great under the prof though)

  19. Timi Moody says:

    Lovely article dessi and i so enjoy and look forward to reading your write ups and previews on our games. Back to game, yesterdays game shows us that the first eleven of Arsenal are great and o their day can beat anyone, unfortunately though the reserves or other squad members are just not good enough. I do understand Wengers decision to play tv5 & santos as they both needed games, unfortunately it did back fire, pleased tv5 came through unscratched though, i do havea gut feeling tho that Santos will be back soon, he is a strong lad , nice job des, and great day ahead.

  20. JJ Pittman says:

    We did not need this game! No matter how poor of an exhibition, it was, in fact, an Exhibition! Olimpiacos are not a bad team, and it meant everything to them. Thankfully, for our integrity, Marseille won their match, so no one has a complaint about the way we tanked.
    Have to disagree that we have only the EPL to play for. We draw against a second place finisher in the Champions round of 16, and only AC Milan would present a real threat to our First team. Our first team can go deep into the CL competition. Short memories and negative thinking never helps.
    Victoria Concordia Crescit!

  21. brian says:

    From virtally the first minute when Fabianski shanked a kick to put us under pressure,our defending was Sunday morning like.Why we persisted in playing out from the back with hospital passes was beyond belief.Surely our experienced defenders on the pitch should have realised that the Greeks were playing a massive pressing game and should have altered our approach or maybe Wenger should have altered things from the touchline.I was crying out for us to just send it long to Chamakh and then get organised at the back.The one example of Djourou dithering and dithering until playing a suicidal pass which was immediately intercepted summed up our night of absolue embarrassment.

  22. gary says:

    I love the way some arsenal (arsene) fans describe people as being too negative when they criticise the side after a poor performance and usually say something like ‘you weren’t moaning last week when we won.’

    That is exactly the point, our team is inconsistent with the same issues again and again popping up.

    I think that in some areas we have taken huge steps forward (in goal for example) but we still have the issue of not having a second competent right back. we still lack a striker who can score goals (no RVP is not a striker who can score goals he is an all round genius!) and we do need a reliable second choice goal keeper. Fabianski creates panic in the defence at Arsenal. Maybe if he left and began afresh with a new set of defenders he would be fine but I can’t see him making it at Aresenal

    We also still show that if a team presses us and doesn’t allow us to play our style of possession football we disintegrate, and we still make basic defensive mistakes.

    Hopefully we can finally deal with these underlying issues before they undermine the positives of this season.

    • cupsui says:

      negative alright…we just topped one of the two hardest groups in the champs league and you once again bash the team because the kids lost in a really tough away environment…get real man…Olympiacos qualified ahead of the german champs and beat their full strength team with the same score. One tough result by the 2nd string and people like you turn on the team again…pathetic

  23. cupsui says:

    I think everyone could do with a warm glas of chill the F$@k out…
    it was a second string team of young guns, in a very hostile atmosphere against a very well drilled and pressing team. Sure mistakes were made but the youngsters need this sort of pressure cooker atmosphere to learn so like wenger said there was a lot to be gained from this match for them. We qualifed top!! where are the filthy manchester teams…oh thats right Europa league….hhahaha.
    Come on gooners…back to the full squad against everton and lets show them what for!! c’mon!! keep the momentum building!

  24. Siva says:

    Change in EU accord announced – the new capital of European football is now Manchester.

  25. MK says:

    Another who thinks you are becoming more negative lately.. (probably due to having read too many AAA brigade articles over the past few months.. they pollute the mind!)

    Wenger picked a reserve mis-matched squad for a game that meant nothing and funnily enough they struggled in an away game against a good side that still had a chance to get through.

    Anyway we are now in 5th place and on the rise and still in the champions league unlike the teams from Manchester.

    We’ve almost caught a shaky looking Chelsea and it’s not like the totts are going to be able keep up their form for much longer… cheer up, our first team looks strong and is getting better each game!

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