Greeks Bear Gifts But Arsenal Give Better Presents

We really missed you. Didn’t quite realise how much, either

Olympiakos 2 – 1 Arsenal

0 – 1 Rosicky (38)
1 – 1 Maniatis (65)
2 – 1 Mitroglou (72)

Michel Platini was adamant that the officials behind the goal negated the need for technological aids to referees. As time passes, they are proving the case for technology, last night another witness for the prosecution. How a man three to six feet away from the incident can get a decision so utterly wrong is baffling. It isn’t that the Assistant failed to tell the referee it was a goal-kick rather than a corner, it’s the fact that if he is getting a decision such as that wrong from that close, how can any decisions he gives be relied on? The referee had the excuse of distance and potentially obscured view but not the Assistant. And that’s not to excuse the defending from the corner either.

As it was, Arsenal can go into next week’s League Cup tie at Bradford in relatively good heart. The team worked hard and for spells, even Squillaci and Chamakh dropped hints that they might be able to pull off a performance. In fairness to them both, not having much of a look-in for the first team is not conducive to playing well at the first opportunity and overall, they weren’t bad, they just offered nothing to change your mind about them. Which is quite good really, to have not reinforced opinions, isn’t it? It is, isn’t it?

But the real positives came in form of Jernade Meade who was utterly unruffled by the occasion and the appalling passes that were made to him by his own players; overhit, underhit, the youngster showed no fear in the tackle and a lot of commonsense in dealing with defensive pressure. A young man very much for the future, a genuine presence to put pressure on Kieran Gibbs over time, if he continues to develop along these lines. Preferrably not such high defensive lines as well. Noticeably, Arsenal played a little deeper last night, no doubt to compensate for Squillaci’s ageing legs and only when the back four moved higher up the pitch did he really struggle with the forwards.

Arsenal started brightly enough, the Ivorian running into one of the numerous blind alleys he found during the course of the match, blazing over when the opportunity glinted. It also set the tone for the evening; a lot of purposeful running on his point with little end product, successfully isolating himself with his meanderings. When it went right, the offerings were there, Coquelin spurning the chance to open the scoring.

Defensively, Arsenal were put under pressure but not with any real intent as Squillaci dealt with any high balls into the area, Vermaelen the same with low crosses. A mismatched pair were against the odds, pulling the back four into shape. And when they failed, Szczesny was there, a formidable barrier to the hosts as they sought to repeat the victory they achieved in the corresponding fixture last season.

All the while Rosicky purred in midfield, giving an object lesson in midfield play, in leading the side. The Czech international was influential over the whole of match, clearing off the line from a set-piece as well as prodding and probing. The kind of influence that has been sorely missing in recent months, the provoking play which makes a key difference to the team. At half-time, Arsenal were top of the group and certeris paribus, avoiding the likes of Barcelona and Dortmund. His substitution was not in the same league as Sir Alf withdrawing Bobby Charlton at Mexico ’70 but no less influential on the outcome. With Rosicky missing, Olympiakos seemed emboldened or was it that Arsenal were less composed?

It was the Czech who broke the deadlock. Gervinho followed a route not dissimilar to that of an Athenian taxi driver on his way from the airport, all around the Greek statues, reached the goal-line and for once, crucially, raised his head, picked Rosicky out and the Czech calmly stroked the ball home. It was no less than Arsenal deserved.

Of course, Arsenal being Arsenal, we were left rueing chances missed. Aaron Ramsey’s efficient midfield display is lost amid recriminations about his air-kick with a very presentable opportunity in the Greek penalty area and misfortune in being unable to control a ricochet off his chest in his own area, costly in that Maniatis bundled the ball home for the equaliser. To focus on those points only is to seek to justify a perspective; it ignores the Welshman thriving in his central midfield position alongside Rosicky. Playing his natural role, he was a willing and capable worker, supporting Meade on the left defensively as well providing the Czech with a ready supply line of possession. Lest anyone thinks that’s a joke, you try working with the unpredictable Gervinho.

The second half started well enough, it was just ticking over nicely until the misadventures which led to Maniatis’ equaliser. After that, there did not seem to be any inkling of where a winner would come from. The arrival of Arshavin heralded promise and might have delivered on that too, were it not for the firm fist applied to his shot by Carroll. Olympiakos took hope from the goal, Djebbour missed what appeared to be a simple chance, heading wide from close range. Mitroglou punished the space he was afforded on the edge of the area with a spinning, curling effort beyond the unsighted Szczesny in the Arsenal goal and the all too familiar feeling of defeat finally surfaced.

Another defeat is poor for morale, allowing a mindset to take hold. The failure to hold onto a lead is problematic for all Arsenal sides it seems. There were times when the performance looked ponderous, there were others when it looked very much a comfortable away victory. That has so far been the story of this season’s Champions League campaign. At the end of the evening, the charms of Barcelona, Paris, Dortmund and Malaga beckon, in all likelihood joined by potential trips to Donetsk or Munich. No-one said it would be easy but are some of those any harder than Madrid, Milan, Oporto, Valencia, Lisbon or Turin? Not really, there are preferential ties in either case and at some point, you have to play a good team to progress.

’til Tomorrow.

245 thoughts on “Greeks Bear Gifts But Arsenal Give Better Presents

  1. good call anicoll

    but playing like we are we wont beat anyone in the last 16.

    we need a few of our own genius to start playing before we have dreams of beating barca..with or without messi..

  2. George @9:56

    Good grief this is a football blog and anyone who wants can choose to be involved or not. Everything we say is just our opinions and everyone knows that. Are we supposed to avoid stating our opinions just to keep from upsetting steww and Andrew. That’s silly and you know it. No one was ever disrespectful of steww or Andrew or their opinions.

  3. Yes JJ.
    But when their top speed is twice yours their mistakes have to be big and frequent .And all three teams have to have them.
    I suppose they could all crash into each other and leave the track clear for you? But then again ,its football ,not car racing.

  4. Have to say I don’t think our Euro form has been too shabby

    Bloody awful game against Schalke at home – other than that its been good

    Now I appreciate there are those who consider that as a bare minimum we should be knocking 5-8 in against Johnny Foreigner but I dunno

    Some of them I suspect have played this game before

  5. george you cant drive top speed around corners..
    or you will crash..

    there are corners and hair pins and chicanes and rain..

    and stoke.

    everyones got a chance..depends on how you approach the race..

  6. Bill .
    I have rarely agreed with you about football .Yet never abused you or felt the need to stop reading your ,somewhat repetitive and tedious ,posts.
    But people are not posting because of the tone that has overtaken the blog.
    That is not my opinion .Its what I am told by those people.Its a fact ,if you will.
    That someone can come on this site and call Arsene a “greedy french cunt” is something that could not have happened previously.And its not a good thing.

  7. our european game hasnt been that shabby but look who was in our group..

    its not like we were in with real and dortmund and ajax..

    lucky really..

  8. @ mattgoonerknight (December 5, 2012 at 9:38 pm)

    I didn’t intend to move the goalposts – starts was more of a proxy to get at the question of who is “first team”, a nebulous concept at best in these days of rotation. What’s Barca’s first choice team? or Bayern’s? or Dortmund’s?

    I readily concede that as a result of his injuries he has not proven to be pivotal or key for the team in general during his time here, though for several periods when health permitted (the 2nd half of last season,the first half of 07-08, and all of 06-07) he’s been an undisputed starter and one of the bright spots on the team. I was indignant on his behalf because of the “benchwarmer” claim, and what I was trying to show is that he’s never been some guy who, when healthy, sits on the bench a la Arshavin or Chamakh right now. You’re right that I can’t *prove* he would have started if not injured, but I think the information we do have suggests he would’ve. If you find that implausible, that’s your prerogative.

  9. JJ .if everyone got a chance .why has no one overcome the big money .Not even once .
    So what is your justification for saying that? Blind faith?
    And you question my belief?

  10. I think Citeh used that excuse last season

    Mind you so did Manyoo

    I expect we will hear it from Chels tomorrow

    The opponents were ” too hard”

    Laughable innit ?

  11. @JJ
    But in fairness, there were many easy groups. The group City ended up with is the extreme. I am confident we would’ve done just fine in the other groups and qualified. But we should’ve topped this group.

  12. george
    for everyones differences on here the people who call wenger a cunt get a slap by everyone..

    look at the reaction it got..

    ppl on here are not as different as what is often made out..they just like to think they are..

    theres enough decent posters on here to contribute to 10 conversations at once sometimes..

    its personal choice isnt it..if people want to stay away thats upto them but the tone will naturally go the opposite direction to what they believe when those people are not around..

    mental strength and charcter i feel..

    stand your ground, take no prisoners or run away..

  13. @ pedantic george aka Blackburngeorge December 5, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    You’re darn right.

    @ Pistol Fish December 5, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    I laughed at the Bendtner bit, but name me a better right back than Bacary Sagna, because I can’t think of one. Maicon’s old, Alves’s out of form, Van Der Wiel hasn’t developed… maybe Gebre-Selassie or the Dortmund/Poland RB? His biggest competitor is probably Debuchy.

  14. Funny team Dortmund

    Utter rubbish last season in the CL – never even got near the Europa

    This year they beat Citeh they are the dogs

    Too hard

  15. pedantic george aka Blackburngeorge
    December 5, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    lol “Don’t belittle him”

    What are you like?

    I’ve said he is quality, a class player, but everything in your post supports what I said: he has not been as KEY as a player as some suggest, regardless of whether this is due to Cesc or Hleb or Nasri playing in his preferred position or injuries, either directly or due to delayed recovery, both have prevented him from being a key player.

    Also, when part of a four, wasn’t he on the wing, which in all honesty didn’t really suit him, as his preferred position was in the centre?

    I seem to remember being a little disappointed that he wasn’t the new Pires and people counter arguing that he wasn’t actually a winger and thus couldn’t be expected to perform the role at the same standard. Maybe I’m getting confused with the times he has been deployed as part of a front three.

    If we are to do anything this month it looks as if we are going to need a fit and firing Rosicky, because “when” fit he is top class.
    The point made earlier by JJ was when did it get to the point that Rosicky would become The Arsenal’s go to man to set things right?

    Anyway, I don’t really feel strongly about this one so I’ll happily accept if I’m talking nonsense.

  16. i dont question your belief george
    i make fun of your belief, theres a difference 🙂

    you have a point, ive told you this before but i also think that we can do more to compete..

    we know the problems that happen, weve witnessed them for years so from my point of veiw why the fuck are we doing the same thing over and over again? are we just hoping it will go away??

    why arent there procedures in place now to stop this cycle? have we not learned?

  17. @ George
    > But people are not posting because of the tone that has overtaken > the blog. That is not my opinion .Its what I am told by those
    > people.Its a fact ,if you will.

    I remember being called the c… of the c…s by someone here after a mildly critical post of mine. I think it will be difficult for me to ever achieve that high recognition again. But I’ll try. You’ll have to enrich your vocabulary though.

  18. George

    I don’t think anyone should be called a greedy c**t but that term gets thrown around everyday. Every bit as disrespectful and gross to use that term to describe anyone but it happens all the time. I think anyone who repeatedly uses that sort of foul slang should be moderated no matter who they are describing but that’s not going to happen so we deal with it.

  19. If the reason Citeh were humiliated cos they were in such a hard group how come they were turfed out of the Europa in March so easily ?

    And didn’t the mighty Poznan do em
    previous season ?

    Now far be it for to raise an unfortunate point but Citeh are actually rubbish in Europe – no matter who they play

  20. I agree about Celtic, Limestone, good to see them go through.

    I can’t forget the treatment that they gave Eduardo though. Disgraceful and, now, hypocritical. If you can be hypocritical in hindsight by your actions.

    I’m not even sure that makes sense.

  21. I’ve been called a c**t on here when ! was a ‘good guy’ by another of the ‘good guys’.

    I’ve also been unfollowed on Twitter by a couple of ‘good guys’ since my last guest post.

    Tough, isn’t it?

  22. City haven’t been great in the Premier League either it’s just that no one has been good enough to find them out yet. When you look at our performance at the Etihad it’s clear we’re good enough on our day to compete. We just don’t have enough of those performances in the locker. That’s the frustration.

  23. im following the feeling on city
    city are more feared because of their financial power than what they are ability wise..or team wise to be precise..
    they get found out in europe they would get found out in the pl if more teams i.e us, werent so fucking scared of them..

    if we can take points on the day against them we can take trophies off them over a season as well..

  24. muellar caught my eye a few year ago anicoll but ive been doing some research on that kid at palace you mentioned the other night and for a start hes a gooner and second hes shit hot..

    abit young, so we still need a muellar type but im thinking if this kid zaha wants to come we should spend some pennies..

  25. A bit perplexed by all this talk of a draw for the last 16 of the CL.

    Just assumed we automatically played Barca.

    Anyway, ManU v Celtic should be a cloae call.

  26. Rosicky knows!

    “Sometimes we don’t keep the ball as we used to,” Rosicky said. “It is definitely a matter of confidence. You can see there are more back passes than we used to do. You have to gain confidence by winning the next game.

  27. Ha, Merlot–so true–you just know ManU will draw Celtic!

    Rosicky has been watching, clearly. He can go forward quite well, so I am glad he is coming into match fitness for the second half of the season again. If we could get that much from Diaby, we’d be rolling!

  28. The move to the Emirates was supposedly so we could compete for the best players. The oil rich and oligarch clubs have clearly thrown a wrench into Arsene’s plan here. What I don’t understand is why the system wasn’t tweaked in response. Imagine if we still had Cesc and Nasri and VP and Clichy and Song. Wages were surely part of the reason they left but VP could have gotten better wages at City, so for him the chance to win was also a factor. The top teams don’t lose their key players until they want to get rid of them and they can be replaced or are useless to the cause. This is not happening at Arsenal. We invested time and money into these players and then they leave in their prime. In this sense our system is failing, if the goal is for Arsenal to be a top team. We can no longer keep our best players, and until that changes we are going to struggle. There is clearly a major disconnect somewhere between the philosophy of the club and the goals of the best players. We have no problem giving Djourou a raise (a waste of money basically) and paying unproven kids high wages (a risky strategy) but the club seems totally unwilling to pay high transfer fees or the wages that top players demand (and feel they deserve). I got fed up with the club’s conservative inflexibility in 2008, when a couple squad players would have probably got us the title. It’s been going on for so long now that even if they altered the pay structure/philosophy I wonder if it would even have much effect. It may take years to get us to play like the 2008 team again.

  29. “We really missed you. Didn’t quite realise how much, either”

    Tomas does not warrant any criticism. Find another scapegoat, like those that lose possession, play poor passes, slow of thought, and are afraid to make the risky pass.

    Yes, he’s had his share of injuries. Lets spend another few days translating what that means to why Arsenal can’t keep its good players and results are disappointing.

    What draws me to Arsenal is the beauty of their play…..and I’d pay to see Tomas play…..though not many of the others.

    So I find it comical for those rightly cricising our unattractive play……and yet when this player returns and adds something that has been missing……some avoid the obvious, the play before their eyes.

    Tomas is not the problem!

    Some want to forget his performance last spring. Fickle play, no……the entire spring he provided a spark, speed of play, desire, and consistency to contribute to our finishing 3rd….almost as important as RvP.

    Yes Arsene is guilty of making poor choices, but I believe he is a victim of the board, IG, and Stan. The management of the club seems different than when he joined the club. A team player, Arsene is likely to be following a tighter allowance than what’s reported in the media; maybe it’s IG who is setting the low wage structure. Exobitant wages are not the answer.

    None know the off-pitch facts.

    Maybe in seasons to come, Aaron and Jack will meet fan and manager expectations. At the MOMENT, they aren’t ready.

  30. Just been reading back through the comments. Loads of tripe interspersed with the occasional plea for something a bit more positive.

    JJ described our CL group as the “shitest” (to repeat the exact word), but IMO it was ManU that had the easiest ride – Cluj, Galataseray and Braga. You’d have also thought Milan should have done better against Malaga, Zenit and Anderlecht, but, like us, they’re rebuilding, so they came second.

  31. After waking up from a great night’s sleep and reading the “newer comments”, I must say I really do love this blog. The sheer variety titilateth.

    It feels good to know 7 of the first 11 have been resting since saturday the 1st.
    Based on this, I wager the Baggies are in for a beating come saturday the 8th…
    especially for you, Bill.


  32. Oh dear’s cringe worthy listening to what our board politicians come out with…..I’m trying to resist their brainwashing tactics but I feel as though I might get sucked in…….remember its not about winning the game against west brim this weekend, remember its not about winning the game this weekend…….think the brand….money money…were rich….

  33. Don’t be dejected dukey. Ultimately the board have to care, because if the team doesn’t do well their revenues will cease to flow. In the meantime it’s what the team wants to do that matters.

  34. Indeed it shows how far our mighty club has fallen – what we need is a decisive board – the steady hand of Sheikh Mansour on our club’s tiller perhaps ?

    Oh yes defeat in the Manchester derby and Bobby Mac will be toast

    It is that kind of clear management approach that Arsenal, and many, many clubs (though Chelsea may be an exception) have failed to adopt

    We must sack, sack and if required sack again

    Failure will not be tolerated at any level

  35. Adrian Lopez
    Sime Vrsaljko
    Wilfried Zaha
    Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa
    Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
    Thierry Henry….

    ACLFers, which player(s) excites you the most?

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