Greeks make Arsenal work for victory

A win is a win I guess, in what was quite a cagey game Arsenal managed to do just enough of what was required to win the match. The game was riddled with mistakes all over the field, the fluency and quality that we have become accustomed to this season deserted the team last night. It could just be down to nerves as the team try to bury the demons from the defeat to Chelsea at the weekend.

From the team selection Per Mertesacker was probably expected to start in light of the frailties at the back exposed by Chelsea, but due to illness the big German was not involved in the squad. I thought Olivier Giroud would start the game but Wenger decided to utilize the Frenchman as a substitute. Mikel Arteta passed a late test to start at the heart of the midfield and Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Aaron Ramsey.

Gervinho continued his fine goal scoring form with the opener, although the goal was quite lucky in the way the ball broke to him but he still had to work the space and drill the shot home. He may still frustrate fans with his play at time but when a player puts the ball into the back of the net when played up front he answers back to his critics.

The goal we conceded was another where you question the centre backs as the Olympiacos striker drifted in between the two to glance a simple header past Vito Mannone. The goal itself came within minutes of us taking the lead and was on the stroke of half time. Steve Bould who was in charge yesterday due to the touchline ban enforced on Wenger probably gave a right rollicking to the defence for the goal.

Olympiacos did threaten throughout the first half and never let arsenal settle into their flowing passing game. The halftime score line was probably a fair reflection as we really needed to get out of second gear.

In the second half the game carried on in the same vein however we managed to score to take the lead. The goal was quite fortunate and a lucky ricochet from a cross allowed Gervinho a second chance to work the ball into the box and from the by-line he pulled the ball back to Podolski who shifted the ball forward and drilled into the back of the net through the keeper’s legs.

This time we managed to hold on for longer than five minutes as the Olympiacos team continued to threaten and keep us on our toes. One worrying thing I noticed and picked up by Niall Quinn in the commentary box was Thomas Vermaelen’s tendency to storm forward to join the attack on a number of occasions. It’s great when he scores goals for us but much like in the Chelsea game his ventures forward can leave us in trouble. He was caught forward on Saturday and it was from trying to get back that he conceded the free kick that lead to the goal. Yesterday he was storming forward with the game at 2-1. Even if a player covers for you when you move forward there are times when you should go and times when you stay. It was slightly worrying to see him nearly getting on the end of chances when a breakdown in attack would leave us vulnerable.

The game was evenly poised for the majority of the second half and required our defence to stay solid and focus on shutting out the Greeks. I feel Wenger and Bould should have a quiet word about when to stay and when to go to the Belgian.

As I was saying the game was still quite nervy and needed another goal from the gunners to make it safe, The Greeks committed forward looking for the equaliser and it wasn’t until deep into injury time that we managed a third when Aaron Ramsey burned away from his defender and dinked the ball over the keeper to make the game safe. This was far from an impressive victory but it was a victory; 6 points on the board so we just need to look forward and focus on the next game against Shalke.

Enjoy your day people

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