Match Reaction: Arsenal 2-0 Olympiakos
By Karl M. Tinsley
MY 3 STARS
#1. ANDREY ARSHAVIN: Nice to see “The Russian Schemer” back in full flight again after some lukewarm performance in the league. Felt he was running hard all match and attacking the Olympiakos defenders with pace and purpose.
In the first half, I just loved that curl and drag move he did as he shifted the ball from his right foot to the left foot in order to create enough space and an angle for his shot from 8 yards out and in heavy traffic. Andriy got off some excellent strikes on net but with Nikopolidis standing on his head all night…it was going to take a special piece of magic or some quick one-touch passing to find the back of the net.
Andrey’s constant probing runs, shots and dribbles allowed The Gunners to use both flanks very effectively in attack and his growing chemistry with Robin and Cesc is a beautiful thing to witness. While he was offside on his goal, the cheek of the finish (back heel tap) and hard work he had put in up to the point meant he deserved nothing less then to find the score sheet.
#2. ROBIN VAN PERSIE: The first half saw him show off some lovely inter-play with Arshavin to set-up Cesc in and around the 18 yard box on a few occasions. Robin also did a great job dropping deep at times to pick up the ball and then spread the ball out wide to the flanks to reward the overlapping runs of Clichy, Eboue, Rosicky and Arshavin.
His teasing/taunting dribbles inside the 18 yard box when he toyed with, abused and absolutely blew up Raul Bravo twice in the same sequence was a display of supreme skill and confidence…pity his shot/cross failed to pick out the hard charging Cesc and the back door arrival of Arshavin. His goal was a clinical finish and a nice reward at the end of a determined and deep run to the net. Like to see him do more with the corner kicks but I am sure he will get that sorted quickly. Great to see Robin get off the snide and back up his talk from early last week. Our Dutchman looks to be on a goal scoring roll now…PROPS TO ROBIN!!.
#3. CESC FABREGAS: He was everywhere at once in the first half…a one-man offensive juggernaut…and horribly unlucky not to have found the back of the net. There was the crushed drive off the crossbar from a lovely passing movement that ended with a lovely feed by Arshavin to pick out Cesc in time and space at the top of the 18 yard box…Nikopolidis was left flailing at thin air. I counted at least another 2 decent strikes by Cesc on the Olympiakos net but unfortunately they placement of the shots were left wanting as the tended to be hit at or near the keeper.
I felt he disappeared for about the first 25-30 minutes of the second half…with sloppy first touches and a shanked effort after being set up inside the 18 yard box (to the right) by Arshavin. But like a true champion he didn’t hang his head and recovered well with a brilliantly slotted through ball to pick out Eduardo in stride at the left edge of the 18 yard box who proceeded to square to the hard charging Robin for the breakthrough goal and seal the 3 points for the Gunners!.
EMMANUEL EBOUE: Served up a complete 90 minute performance filling in for Bacary Sagna at the Right Back position. He had nice crisp passing, and was working lovely 1-2’s with Cesc and Tomas for the entire first half. Unlike Sagna, Eboue is able to offer good supporting pressure with the Gunner attacks. His defensive work was solid and composed when he was called upon to thwart any Olympiakos attacks or pressure on our back line. He had a great run in the second half when his deep overlapping run was rewarded with a ball out to him on the right flank.
He drove at 2 Olympiakos defenders inside their 18 yard box and finished the movement with a delicious cut back ball to Arshavin who was unlucky to be harried from behind at the last moment. Great vision and awareness from Eboue. Shouldn’t forget that it was Eboue’s outlet ball to Robin that started the movement that led to our first goal. You gotta love how Eboue always celebrates his teammates goals with maximum enthusiasm as evidenced by his delight in piggy backing Arshavin around after the second goal. Team guy all the way!!. Jah Bless 🙂
TOMAS ROSICKY: While he didn’t score or assist on any goals…I have to admit that “Helmet Hair’s” play has really exceeded my expectations for him. His passing has been incisive, his link play with Robin, Cesc, Arshavin and Eboue belied the fact this is a player who has been out for 19-20 months. He even showed some real defensive hustle and commitment with his willingness to track back and get stuck in.
In the second half he dropped a sweet spin move on his defender and then showed a great burst of speed that completely dropped his marker and put him into acres of space. Looks like he just needs to build up his stamina and get some more high tempo/in-game touches to shake off the rust. Like I said before…I was probably his harshest critic during his injury saga…but he has really showed his value already in his short comeback. RESPECTS.
GAEL CLICHY: He looked super dangerous coming down the left flank (especially in the first half). He was driving hard into the 18 yard box…drawing defenders and either beating them off the dribble, delivering inch perfect squared and cut back balls or getting his crosses over into dangerous areas. A really impressive performance in attack from Gael…lets hope he can build on this performance. Didn’t have a lot to do on defense but when called upon i felt his defense was stout as well.
ABOU DIABY: As usual “Kermit” (his face seriously looks like Kermit The Frog from Sesame Street) was a passenger in this match. Served up his usual trash passing and turnovers to thwart our attacks and build-ups. Basically he’s just making up numbers on the pitch…a complete waste of space. His presence even makes me long for presence of Denilson on the pitch…which says a lot about where “Kermit’s” game is at these days. Dude has no business being a starter on The Arsenal…but alas the refusal to spend on a CDM and injuries means this clown continues to see pitch time. Astonishing.
ZICO: Much respect to the man as a player and playmaker for the Selecao of the late 1970’s and early to mid 1980’s. But his rant about the refs being biased towards Wenger and The Gunners because of their French nationality was a really low-class thing for him to say…considering how his team was played off the pitch for a full 90 minutes. Hope UEFA really come down hard on him for bringing the officiating and CL football into disrepute.
Proud of the squad for putting in a full 90 minute world class performance last night. It was a definite statement of our self-belief and ambitions in the CL tournament. Europe has definitely sat up and taken notice of this stellar performance. It was really nice to see Robin and Cesc get off the snide at Fulham and continue their good play last night against Olympiakos.
The win puts us in the catbird seat in our Group…hopefully we can wrap it up after the 4th match day and then use the last 2 matches to blood the youth (Wilshire, Merida, Ramsey, Vela, and Traore). With Liverpool squaring off against Chelsea and smarting after their 2-Nil loss to Fiorentina…maybe they can knick some points off of Chelsea and if we can maintain our focus and take care of our business at home against Blackburn…things could get nice and tight at the top of the table in the EPL. Looking forward to this weekends action. Until then…
GUNS IN GUNS OUT