By Walter Broeckx
Games in the CL are never easy. I know we have the exceptional high score when we beat a relative new or unknown team. But I don’t think that we really have any real easy teams in our group this year.
We have two champions in our group (Montpellier and Olympicacos) and the team that finished 3rd in the Bundesliga. And teams in the Bundesliga are not that easy to beat as we found out last season against Dortmund. So despite Arsenal being favourite to end on top of this group each game has its own tricks and problems that we have to overcome.
With the arrival of Olympiacos we have seen a team that we almost can consider a PL team. They have some kind of familiarity as we seem to play them each year in the CL. It was almost on the same day one year ago they came for their annual game. Last season we won 2-1 after a difficult match.
Before the game a little surprise when we found out that Mertesacker was not even in the squad as he was sick, so Koscielny and Vermaelen were partners again. Coquelin came in for Diaby and Oxlade-Chamberlain for Ramsey.
Today proved to be the same. Olympiacos defending in numbers and Arsenal being to sloppy with a lot of passes. It was visible from the start that the defeat against Chelsea affected our players a bit. Too many lost balls, balls played out with no pressure. I think it is fair to say that we have seen them play better in the last games, seasons, years. Olympiacos was counting on a counter. And they nearly were successful with this tactics. But fortunately an effort went over the bar from close range and Manone stopped a shot that went passed a few defenders and held it tight to his hands. That was an excellent and vital save.
Arsenal pressed more and more and gradually our game improved a bit. And thanks to an attack started on the left flank with Podolski who made a 1-2 with another Arsenal player and then his low cross was a pull back to Arteta. Arteta wriggled his way past a defender and Gervinho took the ball away and just took a low shot from outside the penalty area and the Greek keeper was beaten. A nice taken goal. Almost a copy of the Manone save but the Greek keeper couldn’t get to the ball.
But then we just seemed to relax a bit. We invited pressure a bit too much and we thought the ref would make an end to the first half. The result was that nobody really put pressure on the left flank player from Olympiacos and so he could take his time to deliver the perfect cross. The wild looking Mitroglou headed the bal perfectly in the far corner. Nothing Manone could do about that. One have to admit it: a beautiful goal. But why did we allow the crosser that much time and space?
The second half I felt we played much better. Olympiacos defended like in the first half and we could open them up a few times. An attack, again on the left flank saw Gervinho dribbling to the goal line. He cut the ball back and Podolski was first on the ball. He only had one thing in his mind: turn and shoot. And his hard and low short from 8 yards out went through the legs of the Greek keeper. 2-1 to the Arsenal.
We kept in control for most of the game after that. Walcott came for Oxlade-Chamberlain. And a bit later both goal scorers left the field and Giroud and Ramsey came in their place. The further the game went the more Olympiacos was searching for an equaliser. And as a result Arsenal could launch a few counters but the final ball was not there. A cross from Walcott to Giroud saw the latter deviating the ball but the keeper was standing in the right place. And a cut back from Cazorla to Giroud was the perfect chance to open his CL account for Arsenal…but a defender blocked his goal bound shot but he didn’t know much about it.
Time was ticking away for Olympiacos and Arsenal defended the lead. And in the extra time when Manone made a goal kick Giroud opened up his body and headed the ball in the path of the upcoming Ramsey. Ramsey went past his defender and steered the ball with a nice chip over the goal keeper . 3-1 was the final result.
A difficult game against a team that can play football, that can defend and that doesn’t need much to score a goal. This is the Champions League. No easy games in this group. We just need to work hard, be concentrated, defend like mad and take our chances when they come.
If we win our next home game we are very close to being qualified. And then we can finish it off in the next away game in Schalke when I will be there to support our Gunners. Well that is if all goes well and Arsenal gives us the tickets we ordered.