The Independent: Arsenal go down fighting in Athens.
ESPNSoccernet: Arsene Wenger’s young Gunners put on a brave display but were defeated by Olympiacos in tonight’s final Champions League Group H clash in Athens.
BBC: Arsenal’s unbeaten Champions League run in Group H came to an end at Olympiakos after their youngsters were undone by a cool second-half strike by Leonardo.
The dot com has three options for ATVO subscribers, just the key moments, a Match of the Day type highlight reel, and the whole match (split in two).
Man of the Match
Aaron Ramsey played one of his best matches of the season so far. Lacking any true finishing in front of him he none-the-less managed to get the ball to players who should get Arsenal the winner they deserved. The last 30 minutes of play went pretty much like this: Arsenal win the ball, usually through Song, who gets the ball to Ramsey, who picks out one of the three attackers with some piece of brilliant football artistry, and those attackers inevitably lose the ball, hoof it over the goal, blow the shot, or once with Theo simply stop running into space.
Given all the chances he created for the front three you have to think that had even Eduardo been up there one of those multiple chances would have been converted. Throw in Arshavin on either side and we win that match 2-1 easily.
Finally, Ramsey likes to compare himself to Steven Gerrard and I can see a bit of Stevie G in him, let’s just hope it’s not the part of Stevie G which attacks DJ’s at nightclubs.
Oh and he’s just 18.
Quote of the Day
I want to put Manuel under as much pressure as possible. What else can you do? You have to work hard every time you have an opportunity to show what you can do. We will see what happens. I hope he will be happy with that competition.We are going to go there to win because Liverpool are not in a good period and we have to fight for the three points. I think we will do well there. I am preparing to start that game as I do every time.
Lukasz Fabianski on his desire to get betwixt the sticks.
A lot of folks had a moan on Twitter last night after he conceded the goal but overall Lukasz Fabianksi had a pretty good game, for an Arsenal keeper. He controlled his area pretty well on set plays, though sometimes I wondered why he let balls go out of touch when it looked like he could easily claim them. He distributed the ball exceptionally well. And he also had at least one or two moments of Sweeper/Keeper madness outside of his area.
Obviously he’s not quite ready but then again it’s 6 of 1 for me: Almunia’s going to allow goals because he’s so bashful in the box and he’s added madness on free kicks, while Fabianski’s going to allow goals because he’s a bit crazy and sometimes he makes fundamental mistakes and gets nutmegged.
Alex Song, on the other hand, has no flaws* and is the best footballer on the planet. When Young Bartley made a rash challenge to free his player to slot in a pass and Young Gilbert stood around looking like a tourist gaping in wonder at the Parthenon and thus freed Leonardo to waltz into the box, it was Alex Song who tracked back and tried to trouble Leonardo. Moreover, Song’s distribution, tackling, and defensive nous was critical for freeing up Rambo for his man of the match performance.
Kerrea Gilbert is, erm, not good. He had a shocker last night, looking slow going forward, and blowing several defensive assignments which led to shots and ultimately the goal. I know that he’s young and all that but I can’t help but thank Wenger for having Sagna and Eboue as the starting right-backs. Gilbert is simply not ready for prime-time.
Similarly, the cult of Vela took another blow as his found himself easily nudged off the ball, putting in tame shots and more than once guilty of holding the ball when he should have done something, anything, with it. I remember a lot of folks last year talking about what an “absolutely clinical finisher” Vela is supposed to be but apart from some Carling Cup goals and one I can remember from the World Cup qualifiers, I honestly don’t see him as a clinical finisher. He might be more of a #10, maybe an Arshavin type of player, but after his last few performances, I hardly think we can call him a clinical finisher. And for the record, you can’t blame the referee, he gave Vela a ton of calls in dangerous areas that he would never get in the EPL.
Theo had an ugly game as well and we could put that down to rust, I suppose. But if he’s that rusty I have to wonder about the rationale of starting him. For example, he took a knock to his metatarsals at the end of the game which Wenger dismissed as “He’s OK” but it was literally centimeters away from moving from The Bad to The Ugly. I don’t understand the logic of having him as a sub three times in a row, suffer a two week layoff, and then straight away get a start. Especially since Giles Sunu looked pretty good when he came on for Wilshere.
Russ at Doyle’s had three matches playing on the televisions: Arsenal, Inter, and Barca. So it was a bit ugly to see all my Arsenal friends watching the “real” game in which Barcelona or Inter could supposedly get knocked out of the Champions League. Come on, there was no chance of either of those things happening, come over and watch the young guns put on a footballing display! Meh, part time fans…
Meanwhile, Chelsea’s Michael Essien suffered a “hamstring” injury in their pointless match and is expected to be out for a month. A lot of folks are pointing to this as an example of why Arsenal was smart to play our youth squad but I don’t see it that way. Look at the numbers and read the articles: this hamstring injury just so happens to potentially rule Essien out of the pointless ACN. It’s actually perfect timing. He’ll be out for the next three weeks, while Chelsea have a full compliment of midfielders, then he’ll be “fighting for fitness” around the time he’ll get a call up from Ghana in which he can say “sorry lads, hammy still hurts.” And then when Obi and Kalou and Drogba all ship off to Africa, he’ll pull a Vela and miraculously recover just in time for the Sunderland match on the 16th, just when they need him most.
Coincidence? I think not.
Arsenal are being pegged by some pundits to get knocked out in the next round and some of that depends on the draw (which happens on Friday). Up next is one of Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Porto, Lyon, and Stuttgart and none of them are pushovers. Probably the toughest test is Porto who are playing well in the Champions League though many others will be wary of AC Milan and Inter, while still others will dread the away trip to Moscow in February. With all the injuries to the team I’m hoping for a Stuttgart draw but usually the easy draws go to Man U and Chelsea so it’ll probably be Moscow.
The silver lining to this Champions League draw is that the second leg is being played at the Emirates on March 9, 10, 16 or 17. Any of those dates would mean a potential back to back home stand for us long-traveling Arsenal fans and the chance to see a Premier League match and a Champions League knock out match.
You know… I love London in March.
Anyway, big match on Sunday and I don’t think last night’s result will do anything to dent our chances at Anfield, after all, Liverpool lost 2-1 and they actually played their first team not a bunch of teenagers.
*This could be hyperbole, maybe.