Olympiakos 2-1 Arsenal: what did you expect?

With the loss to Olympiakos, Arsenal have now qualified for 13 consecutive seasons in the knockout phases of the Champions League. And yet despite that laudable achievement, for the first time since I’ve been watching football, Arsenal are almost certainly the team that the other clubs want to get in the draw.

Arsenal don’t really tackle, they don’t really press (offensively or defensively), and they haven’t had a player who has been able to put this team on his back and carry them through a tough game. In short, Arsenal don’t have a lot of flair. Apart from maybe one or two moments yesterday, Arsenal are a fairly boring team to watch. I fact, this Arsenal team are a copy of a memory of a once great team: as if a talented painter once saw Seurat’s Bathers and attempted to copy it point for point purely from memory.

This ghost of a team had arguably the easiest qualifying group this season. Ok, maybe not the absolute easiest (Man U) but surely Schalke, Olympiakos, and Montpellier were three of the easiest teams any top club could hope to draw. Imagine what Henry, Vieira, Campbell, and Bergkamp would have done to those teams in 2003. And yet this Arsenal limped through the group, backing in to the next round via a loss.

Arsenal were so limp in so many of the games this Champions League season that in the six games Arsenal averaged just 7.8 shots per game. As long as I have been watching them, Arsenal have never averaged such a paltry offensive output. Juventus was in a group with Chelsea and Waxtap and they have managed 22 shots per game (aren’t they a defense first team?).

I will now be accused of reactionaryism but truth is that yesterday’s loss didn’t even hurt. I felt nothing, because it was inevitable, like the club’s exit from the FA Cup or a loss to Man U. This team has been in decline for a long time and we all know it.

And don’t give me this guff about the lineup yesterday. Sure, Arsenal fielded a team of misfit toys and rejects who will likely be sold in January but like I said, the decline in this team is not about just one game. Go back to the home loss to Schalke or the two-goal lead squandered against Schalke, those are what cost Arsenal the top of the group honors. Go back to last year, or the year before, or the year before, how many shocking results do you need before the shocking becomes the norm? Arsenal are a team which stutters and sputters, sometimes they play well (5-2 Spurs), sometimes they play poorly (Aston Villa), and most of the time they play mediocre. They happen to be playing more mediocre than ever before.

Yet, given that nearly all 15 teams above us are probably better teams anyway, and the fact that the team had already qualified, Olympiakos was a match that didn’t really matter. Do we care if Arsenal get Juventus or Real Madrid in the next round? Barcelona or AC Milan? No. So yesterday’s loss to Olympiakos was a chance to get some rest for an Arsenal midfield that is almost certainly in the red zone, a chance to shop some players Arsenal are trying to offload (Squillaci, Arshavin, and Chamakh), get some playing time for a guy coming back from an injury (Rosicky), and see what a couple of youngsters are made of (Ox and Meade).

A chance to rest some players ahead of the really important matches like West Brom this weekend. Arsenal could climb out of mid table with a win over West Brom and start making a charge for the 4th place cup. And ultimately that’s more important than some dead rubber match in Greece.


43 thoughts on “Olympiakos 2-1 Arsenal: what did you expect?

  1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Northbanksy

    “….truth is that yesterday’s loss didn’t even hurt. I felt nothing, because it was inevitable, like the club’s exit from the FA Cup or a loss to Man U.”

    This is what is so true & equally, depressing. While AFC has “moved forward” financially most other teams around us have “moved forward” on the pitch. Excepting finance, in all areas that we once had “an edge”, we have now been caught up or overtaken. The pace is slow, the play predicatable & the tactics non existant. For any well organised team that are prepared to work hard, Arsenal are there for the taking.

  2. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Song

    I’m not sure I really know what to expect from the remainder of this season other than a relegation dog fight (relegation from the Champions League). I do know that I never in a million years expected that a game against a yoyo team like WBA, two years removed from the Championship, would be a relegation six pointer with us as the underdogs.

  3. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Lexington Gooner

    Sadly, AFC has regressed toward the mean. We have a few excellent players (Cazorla, Wilshere, Diaby when healthy), some more very good players (Szczesny, the starting defenders, Arteta, Podolski, Giroud, Walcott, Ox), and a disappointing number of undependable, average, or below-average players (the rest). What we don’t have at all is a player who is world-class, consistently outstanding and game-changing. We used to have several of these but RVP was the last. They’ve all retired or left for bigger salaries elsewhere.

    The future looks bleak unless we develop or buy some real talent–Goetze, Cavani, or another of this rare ilk. A Huntelaar would help but not solve this problem.

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Something for the players to consider. They do their value in the market no justice at the moment.

      And something for the board to consider, we will start losing the more ‘fickle bums’ on seats at this rate and it will hurt them in the pocket.

      The fans IMO have been very patient and this is very testing.

  4. +3 Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    It is sad but probably true that many Gooners out there shared the empty feeling especially in a dead rubber match.

    I was mildly interested when we scored first, but only to see how we’d give the lead away, which of course we did, as we played our part according to script. Had we held onto 1-0 we would have topped the group, which I assume provides some advantage for the draw.

    It was never to be, and though many of us still hope, but how many of us still believe?

    Back to the Premier League, commenters including myself have observed that we are a mid-table team, but it is interesting to note how mid-table we really are. There are exactly 15 points in either direction separating us from Man U and QPR.

    Can’t get more middle-of-the-road than that can it? Which makes it impossible to know which team will show up against West Brom on Saturday.

    The slackers playing out their mid-table script or the attackers who demolished Spurs 3 weeks ago. Hope vs. belief. I am frankly tiring of both and would trade them for something that seems novel these days: a result.

    Once again, as always, C-O-Y-G!!!

    1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      It was a throw away game from the start considering Squillaci featured.

      That said, it was an interesting match to weigh options in the squad available :

      1) Rosicky. Excellent pushing us forward and another option to Diaby and Jack in the link role OR further front as playmaker giving us the possibility of switching Santi wide if need be.

      2) Coquelin. Solid player. Workman performance and better with some experience supporting his developing play (ie next to either Rosicky or Arteta) than on his own. Noticeably, with Rosicky out second half, we dropped in midfield and were punished because. Some good long balls from the back to the frontmen. Encouraging alternative to Arteta but still not strong enough to hold on his own.

      3) Arsharvin. Came on second half when we lost the solidity of Rosicky/Coquelin and our midfield engine went into reverse. Unfortunate as he had some incisive moments which is the point of playing him over Ramsey in the wide areas in recent games that we have neglected to our detriment. That said, I still think he would have been better through the middle but it entails a stronger set up in midfield.

      4) Meade. Mouse sized but plays like a lion. Well done the young man. A solid performance if he dropped a little toward the end. An option to consider if we don’t find value in that position this coming summer but I suspect Wenger will still rather someone more experience come in to cover Gibbs. Santos definately on his way out.

      5) Midfield/Defense. I think our issue(s) defending get amplified when our midfield engine ceases to work and this has been apparent over recent games. We do not have obvious cover in the link role with Diaby’s durability issue and Jack just coming back. Hopefully Rosicky will provide the added bonus in coming games bearing in mind we are but 5 points off of 3rd despite our position. The other obvious shortfall is with Arteta’s cover. Coquelin is a promising player in development and he will need a bit of hand holding but quite obviously, we will be very short without Arteta. Again, someone like Capoue could provide us an alternate to Diaby’s physicality, cover Arteta’s position and add dynamism transitioning forward.

      The other piece in midfield I still feel is we need a genuine creative player to add to our stable of quick direct players (walcott, Chamberlain,Gervinho…kind of, Gnabry for future)

      Which is where I feel Arsharvin can fill in temporarily till we sell him. Like Walcott, if he’s going to go, may as well use him to the max. The player knows too that he will only increase his asking price with good performance from now till Jan.

      Anyway, hope the first team players have got a good rest and unstuck their heads from their arses for the West Brom game. We have a bit of climbing to do to say the least but in and around 4th by Christmas is not impossible with a good run. Rosicky may be key.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

        Statistic for you. Ramsey’s pass completion rate was 76% and he had 4 turnovers (and I don’t mean the apple kind although perhaps that may be a reason)

        Simply put, not saying his poor but he isn’t adding anything to the team either yet Wenger has persisted with him at expense of other (likely marginal but better) options.

        Poor management.

  5. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Denver Gunner

    This is to be expected given Arsenal’s ownership. Every team Silent Stan owns is a middle of the pack team. It was only a metter of time before he did the same to Arsenal. The Rams won their championship before he was majority owner, The Avalanche won while Stan owned them, he did relatively little after they moved from Quebec. Basically he did not build them just left them alone to win. Now they are a mid to lower teir team who does not sell out. In short just another team. Sound familiar?
    The Nuuggets are perpetually mismanged and a mid to lower teir team in the NBA. Who happen to be unable to hold on to their stars which leads to a trade or release of their best, highest salary players. Hmmm.

    The Rapids caught fire one season, then back to mediocre. In short none of what has happened to our Arsenal should be suprising given our majority owner. It is his model. I fear the only chance for change is in the ownership.

    I am not in faver of the russian but I fear Arsenal are currently what they are and this is what they will remain, a mid to lower table team that is extremely successful financially.

    I hope I am wrong but track record and history are clear.

    Welcome to Stan’s ownership group Gooners,

  6. Vote -1 Vote +1Rochester

    I remember reading this blog when Kroenke took over. Many of you were actually commenting like he was another Abramovich. Americans knew better, or they should have..

    You were warned. He looks at Arsenal as an investment and nothing else. Kroenke’s US teams win occasionally, finish near the bottom sometimes too. In other words, he features mediocrity. And he couldn’t care less..

    Getting rid of Wenger won’t help. If anything he should be praised for the club finishing as high as it does despite losing it’s best player(s) every year.

    Fact is, critique ever match all you like, scapegoat the manger or the players, but the real villain is Kroenke, and Arsenal will never return to glory while he remains..

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Denver Gunner

      Rochester, When Kroenke took over I did post the same thoughts I posted today.

      In short Stan is not a Real Estate Tycoon who loves sports and uses his teams as personal validation, He is a Real Estate Tycoon who sees sports as a way to make LOTS of money with sporting teams as a backbone.

      Look up the long range plans for Dicks Sporting Goods Park in Denver, the Proposed Stadium Project in St Louis MO, They all follow the same pattern. Sports backbone , leading to real estate developement.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Denver Gunner

        Tim I beleive my original comments were made shortly after Stan prurchased his original stake in Arsenal, in May of 2007. It may not have been on your blog but I was concerned at that point.,

    2. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1GoonerNC

      I get the critique of Kroenke. I’m not really a fan of his. But comparing his American teams to Arsenal is really not fair, in my opinion, because of how dramatically different the sports are in their construction and distribution of talent. I guess you could argue that he doesn’t care that much about winning, but, in American sports, caring isn’t really what matters. It’s methodically doing everything RIGHT. In basketball and football, there are clear methods for building success and you have to do it exactly right every time. The Rams drafted what they thought was a franchise quarterback and attempted to build both the offensive and defensive lines. It looks like it hasn’t worked. They’ll likely have to start over again. That’s not Stan’s fault. The Denver Nuggets did what they were supposed to as well. They bottomed out, drafted a superstar (well… mostly), and tried to build around him. They didn’t get over the hill, had to trade him, and rebuild. They actually have a creatively good team right now. Most people really respect Denver. But no, they haven’t won.

      But those are vastly different sports. There are drafts, analytics, and clear pathways to success. Things are far more open in global football. If you spend money, basically, you will win. You can build whatever kind of team you want, but you will eventually win to one degree or another. There is no draft. There is buying young players you’ve scouted. There is no salary cap. We’re used to, as football fans, powerful owners being able to come in and turn around a club. It very rarely looks like that in American sports. Often, such autocratic owners are seen as more of a hindrance than a help (see: Jerry Jones, Dan Snyder, George Steinbrenner, etc.). I don’t know that Stan is ready to be an owner of a football club, nor prepared for the expectation of the fans to come in and be a real force in the club. Everything in American sports tells you, “DO NOT DO THIS.” Maybe he’ll get it. When he does, I’d be shocked if he wants to bother with it much at all.

      But this is not all Stan’s fault. Arsenal were sliding this way before him. We simply have an effigy to burn now. That’s all. The hard truth is that Arsenal operate under a system of football that no longer exists. Cash is absolutely king and it has nothing to do with the shrewdness of your plan. The margin for error for clubs with sugar daddies is massive, and that margin was stolen from clubs like Arsenal. Our margin for error is miniscule now. I daresay that mistakes have been made from top to bottom at the club, to one degree or another.

      Now we’ll see if Arsenal is sick, sick unto death, or in fact a member of the living dead, football zombies condemned to a life of aimless wandering around mid-table or a bit higher.

      1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

        Agree. I am looking for scapegoats to vent and rail against, but cannot quite understand what Kroenke has “done” or “not done” (other than insist the club spend more on players).

        We went from years of being either 1st or 2nd to 3rd or 4th in the domestic and it will be an enormous struggle to do that this year. We have been in decline before the current structure of new ownership.

      2. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1GoonerNC

        To me, it’s very simple. We built a plan under certain conditions. Money came in and totally changed the game in unanticipated ways. We live in the reality that, in the laws of Newtonian physics, we have built a perfectly wonderful machine. But now the world functions under the realities of quantum mechanics, and we are really struggling. I don’t blame Wenger or Kroenke or anyone else for that. At some point, there must be a paradigm shift if we want to be winners in this football universe, either in the way the game is governed or the way that we play the game. If things stay as they are, we are headed for a future that looks like Fulham’s. I think those are the facts.

      3. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1nycgunner

        Agreed. Let’s not forget that it’s Arsene and the board that sold the model of self-suffiency to Kroenke and not the other way round. Putting all of the blame on Kroenke absolves Arsene of his penny pinching habits and that’s not completely fair. However, if Kroenke was the type of owner who understood how football in England works and was passionate about the club, he would have put some money into the squad and maybe even forced Arsene’s hand in buying a couple of world class players. Being such a passive owner is not helping. So really, we are caught between a rock and a hard place, as the saying goes.

      4. Vote -1 Vote +1GoonerNC

        “Self-sufficiency” and “penny-pinching” are perfectly legitimate when everyone is playing with pennies and not bullion. It’s not Wenger’s fault that things changed.

      5. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1nycgunner

        Self suffiency and penny pinching aren’t bad qualities as long as they don’t happen at the expense of squad but it has and that blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the manager.

      6. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1GoonerNC

        This is true if you actually know how much money has been made available to the manager. You don’t know this. Definitively. You do not know this. So you have no idea if this actually falls on the manager’s shoulders. You can say you THINK it does, but you have no more idea if that’s true than I do.

      7. Vote -1 Vote +1nycgunner

        No I don’t know the exact amount. What I do know is that money from the sales of Adebayor, Cesc, Nasri, RVP, Song were not reinvested back into the squad as well as it should have. I do know that Wenger kept his faith in Diaby, which was a horrible gamble. He has to take his share of the blame.

      8. Vote -1 Vote +1GoonerNC

        Those are all inarguable. But the lack of reinvestment at sufficient levels (because there was SOME)… we have no idea if that’s Wenger’s fault. We have no idea if he was forced to just rely on Diaby or if he chose that willingly. I think blame falls on Wenger’s shoulders with who we DID sign. Chamakh and Gervinho have not panned out at all. Park? What the hell? Squillaci? I think he bears responsibility for those.

      9. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Jerry

        This is exactly 100% right on the money.

        This should be read by everyone trying to make a comparison between American sports and English Football. In the US, the gold standard of sports owners spends money up to the salary cap and gets out of the way. Owners don’t win in American sports. It’s just not possible for them to have that kind of positive impact. Bad owners, however can cause losing by meddling or not ponying up cash.

        Stan is not a bad owner by American standards. He’s “just a guy”, like the vast majority of other owners, who spends the appropriate amount of money and stays out of the way. Nobody has an opinion about the guy in the US because he’s neither good nor bad and he doesn’t over-involve himself like Snyder or Jones and he’s not super-cheap.

        Now that might not be conducive to success at the highest level in English Football because it seems that you need to operate at a massive loss to remain competitive at the top. But saying he’s a bad owner because the Rams aren’t good right now and Nuggets max out at being a decent team in West is nonsense.

      10. Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

        Trading away the number 2 pick, and with it either RG III or Andrew Luck, for a #6 and two future first rounders was always risky. on the one hand, it represented a “win tomorrow” attitude similar to what Arsenal fans are used to. Or, it represented faith in Bradford, and an unwillingness to “kill him” like buying Alonso might have killed Denilson! Management parallels!

  7. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1nycgunner

    Ever feel that with every passing minute of a football game a part of you simply fades away? That, my friend, is what most people call as a soul-crushing game. The part of you that is fading away is the part that believed in the club. Unfortunately for me, these soul-crushing games come too frequently. At what point do you say, okay – I love this club but I can’t take these games anymore, I want out. It’s like when a woman is married to a man with a bad gambling habit. She loves him, and he’s a good man except that his gambling problem has caused him to lose all their savings. At some point, she will leave him despite her feelings for her. Arsenal is like a man with a bad gambling habit.

    I’m not sure about where the problem lies though. Is it Kroenke or is it Wenger? Probably a combination of the two but anybody giving you a definite answer is speculating since there is no way for the average fan to know. I do know I have somewhat warmed up to the idea of Wenger leaving. I always thought of him as a technical coach rather than a tactical coach but coaches who emphasize on technique need players who are technically superior. Wenger doesn’t have that in this team and that has left him horribly exposed on the tactical side. We can only move forward with him if we get the kind of players that will compliment his technical side but it doesn’t look promising. We were in a similar predicament last season but Wenger had RVP and Song, both technically excellent players, and in the end the team pulled through – barely. I’m not sure we can repeat that this season with this crop of players. Somebody in the club needs to make sure we get the right players in this Jan. If not, I don’t think Wenger should stay at the club and that is depressing.

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Eurazian

      This is not at all a shot at you, nycgunner, but it’s funny to hear Song’s name start to be mentioned again. Even when he was racking up assists for fun last season, he was regularly held up as a poor defensive midfielder and blamed for the defence shipping goals. A seemingly bright start to this season seemed to reinforce that, and Arteta was apparently a guy who could do the same role but better. Fast forward a few months, and how it has changed. Song has gone, yet our backline is still making the same horrendous errors, and the only difference is that our rate of chance creation is woeful because we struggle to get the ball forwards.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

        While I wouldn’t class them as a majority, Song has had strong support on this board. a lot of people were very critical of him, and some pretended or actually were glad to see him gone. a lot of others were not, because of a) his immense size, an attribute we lacked and lack again, b) his status as a true-blooded “project youth” player who was with us from sporting infancy and grew up in the Arsenal system, c) he was just learning to find a pass, d) he was a capable EPL hardened midfielder, god for the rotation, and e) most distressingly, his being able to heavy-hand us, with 3 years left on his contract, drove home to some people the unmistakable fact that there was something truly wrong at the core of our club, financially, and that we are either unwilling (unlikely) or unable to address it, except through player sales. which will never stop.

      2. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

        Song isn’t that big. He is 6ft. Similar to MVila. But he was strong and more so, he was just about coming to grips defensively (position-wise) where a good proportion of the blame was also upon our poor defensive set up (whereas this season we have tighten a little at the back but have ceded in midfield)

        Capoue is a good option for us I feel. Maybe he isn’t Diaby going forward but he offers similar physical frame (6’2) with better durability and some dynamism where MVila is more strictly tidy play but not much going forward.

        In this case, Capoue can cover both the link man role (ie Diaby, Jack and to some extend Rosicky) and more importantly Arteta.

        Wenger mucked up with Song and not providing the midfield engine room with enough cover. Plain and simple.

      3. Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

        You have Capoue and M’Vila exactly backwards. M’Vila offers the more creative options and is more cultured, more suited to the link role but has no problem playing defense and Capoue is more of the defender first.

        Have you seen them play lately?

  8. Vote -1 Vote +1DF

    The British lost an empire. We will lose the 1995-2005 Arsenal and back to the pre-1995 Arsenal, a quite depressing prospect. However, what will be will be.
    I have said Wenger lost his Midas touch with players and bought wrongly, not just miserly. Haven’t someone mentioned Michu costs just 2M? The Arsenal has groomed T Henry, van Persie with patience; now perhaps only Wilshere & the Ox are worth grooming. All these years, which young players or bought-in players have improved and showed promise of being world class except Szc?
    Don’t mention spurs again. We played 11 against 10 most of the game; no wonder we are good. Like Aston Villa, these last 2 wins all 11 vs 10…Martin O’Neill wrecked his reputation in these months. Wenger will too, sadly….and one gets angry when hearing Wenger saying again and again: we will buy “if we can find a top player”, meaning he did not buy because there is no such player around, which is of course NOT TRUE…

  9. Vote -1 Vote +1Denver Gunner

    I did not mean to imply that Kroenke was totally responsible for the downward spiral we have witnessed agt Arsenal. Although reading my post I would gather that is my point as well.

    What I meant to imply is that Kroenke has no interest in investing the extra money it takes to win when his ultimate goal, it appears for his dealings in the US, is to use the sports team a magnate to draw people to his other commercial ventures based on/or around the sports team. It can be living qtrs, retail, merchandise, TV stations or other items. The sports team is just a vehicle he uses to increase the value and revenue of other ventures.

    Kroenke is only intersted in the sports team being as successful on the field as is necessary to keep people intersted in the other ventures.

    I think Kroenke , Wenger and the board all have vert similiar thoughts on this and as a result things are where they are without much of a prospect to improve. I hope I am wrong…but I hope to keep getting taller as well.

  10. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

    Not going to add on the Kroenke argument other than I’m not sure if a meddling businessman is better. We hope for a positive effect but if the owner comes in knows little about footy (Kroenke and Usamov) and starts throwing weight around, it could be more detrimental and disruptive in building on any consistency.

    And lest we forget, whilst we may not be punching close to the league leaders, the teams above us and below CHelsea are all built with more frugal means than us, so in that very least, we should have no excuses to being competitive to third. Sadly expectations these days.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Eurazian

      Can’t trust the Daily Mail, but this wouldn’t surprise me in the least. One the best right backs in the world, one of the few players in the side who has that famed quality “mental strength”… and we are reluctant to pay him more than Chamakh.
      If anyone can claim to have proved he is worth a pay hike, it’s Sagna. A true soldier.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

        it’s almost as if they’re forcing him to quit, so that they can get a substantial-ish transfer fee. not the first time.

      2. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

        Sagna exit, to be expected. You are surprised?

        Considering his Song comments (purely justifiable I’d might add)

        Likely Yanga Mbiwa coming in who can play across the defense thereby covering RB, CBack and allowing Vermalen to cover at LB unless we find someone like Meade or better (with added height)

  11. Vote -1 Vote +1Josef

    So “Gervinho got to the by-line and dragged the ball back and connected with an Arsenal player” who turned out to be Rosicky, who scored a goal: 2.5 pints. No wonder this piece was so pissy: with 2.5 pints from the goal on top of all the other sips you probably had a massive hangover when you got up at 7am Wednesday.

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