Arsenal 0-1 Olympiakos Report
It turned out to be something of a non-event in Athens as a very young Arsenal side lost 1-0 to Olympiakos in the final match of the Champions League group stage.
Arsene Wenger fielded youngsters Kyle Bartley, Thomas Cruise and Kerrea Gilbert along with Mikael Silvestre and Lukasz Fabianski in an unfamiliar defensive five. Alex Song provided the experience in the middle alongside Aaron Ramsey and Fran Merida while the line-up completed with a nippy front three of Theo Walcott, Carlos Vela and Jack Wilshere.
While the young side did well against the Greek champions and had quite a lot of the ball, the final score was fairly predictable. Leonardo punished a lapse in the Arsenal defence to score the only goal of the game just two minutes after half-time. We created a number of clear opportunities to get back into the game after going behind – Vela in particular butchering two one-on-ones – but didn’t quite do enough in the final third to demand a result.
In truth it was a fairly boring game, only lit up by the dazzling performance by midfield man Ramsey. The Welshman had gone off the ball recently but produced some excellent passing from the centre of the park, best illustrated by a sensational through ball with the outside of his boot to set Carlos Vela away. Ramsey was well-supported by Song in the middle of the park as well as the Cameroon man lead by example while debutant Kyle Bartley also had a strong game and was desperately unlucky with the goal.
There’s really no point reading too much into the negatives from today although supporters will be understandably disappointed with the performance of Vela. Like Eduardo he is a player that is very much judged on his finishing and ability to put the ball in the back of the net and like Eduardo, he’s struggling to do that at the moment. You just get the feeling it could rain goals if he could just get one and the Mexican is certainly creating the opportunities, so let’s hope it happens sooner rather than later.
The big picture is that we’ve qualified on top of the group and can look forward another year of knockout Champions League football. Looking around the other groups our opponent for the Round of 16 will be one of Stuttgart, Porto, Milan, Bayern Munich, Inter, CSKA Moscow or Lyon, so we’ll have to be at the top of game come January if we’re to make further progress. You’d have to think that Stuttgart or Porto are the best option, although I’d back us to knock just about any of those teams out as long as Nicklas Bendtner is back!
With the midweek game out of the way attention will now to turn to the big match at Anfield on Saturday. Liverpool finished off their campaign with another loss, this time to Fiorentina, and with our big names back in the side it’s a great opportunity to make a statement of our quality to the rest of the competition.
That’s it from me apart from a very small reminder that if you love reading the Arsenal FC Blog you can subscribe via Email or RSS for free by clicking here. Enjoy the rest of your week if you can!
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