Arsenal v. Olympiakos Recap and Player RatingsBy: Felegy | October 4th, 2012
Yesterday we saw another somewhat mediocre performance from our Gunners in the UCL and another win. I’ll take that all day long. I usually don’t like writing the recap and doing the ranking unless I can closely watch the game and jot down some notes. This time I was at work, taking phone calls, watching the game on a stream (and yes I do have a fine stream), and adding my thoughts to the liveblog. So…this is going to be a dicey recap and ranking to say the least.
Arsenal dominated the majority of possession throughout the first half and not surprisingly created the majority of the chances. Our first chance came after some nice combo work from Gibbs and Cazorla resulting in Gibbs being fouled just outside the box. Cazorla took a quality free kick from the edge of the box forcing their keeper to tip it over the bar around the 15 minute mark. Jenkinson and Gibbs were freely getting up the pitch and playing crosses into the Olympiakos box repeatedly. I thought both fullbacks played incredibly well throughout the entire game.
As the half wore on Arsenal continued to create chances but Olympiakos seemed to be getting a better feel for the game. Some might even say that our first goal came as a surprise as our opponents seemed stronger than earlier in the half. With just three minutes to go in the half Gibbs came down the left flank and cut the ball centrally to Arteta who lost control of the ball but luckily it fell to Gervinho at the top of the box. Gervinho took one nice touch to create some space for himself and fired a low shot across his body, through the legs of a defender and past the keeper for the 1-0 lead. Honestly I thought their keeper could have done better but may have been blocked by his own defender. What a way to go into halftime!
But wait…it didn’t end there. Just a couple minutes later Olympiakos would equalize on some pretty awful defending. Greco was allowed a bit too much space in midfield and played a nice cross into the box; they had one striker in the box and we had two defenders in the box so obviously Mitroglou (aka awesome Greek beard) got his head to the ball and equalized for Olympiakos just before halftime. So much for going into the dressing room at halftime in high spirits. Vermaelen should have done better on the goal. He allowed the one opposing player in the box to get in front of him then did not body up to him at all to disrupt the header. It was a nice finish but could have been avoided with some pretty basic defending. Vermaelen had an absolutely awful half. Like I said in the liveblog; if Merts was on the bench I would have swapped them at halftime, he was that bad.
I’ll give the team credit for coming out from the break looking ready to take the fight to Olympiakos in the second half. Gervinho continued to make good runs and cause the defense problems. His hard work and resilience would lead to our second goal in the 56th minute. His initial cross was blocked but he stuck with it and got past his defender to cut the ball back to Podolksi who again took only one touch before hitting a shot towards goal. The shot went through the keepers legs and put us up 2-1. Again, he should have done better, credit to Podolski though for putting the chance on goal as he was at a pretty tough angle. There were stretches of 10-15 minutes throughout the game when I forgot that Pods was even on the pitch but he took his chance well when it came.
We should have had a third right after but Koscielny put an open header over the bar instead of where it should have gone, in the back of the net. Olympiakos would press for the equalizer but it wasn’t to be. Walcott came on for Ox in the 70th and Giroud and Ramsey were brought on for Gervinho and Podolski in the 80th.
I’m not going to lie, I found the last ten minutes of this game very frustrating. We should have been more patient on the ball and killed clock to take the three points. Instead we seemed to be playing only for the quick counter attack 3rd goal to seal the game. I’m all for that when there is clear opportunity but we seemed to be forcing the issue. At one point Verms showed up in the box to try and touch in a Walcott cross (a poor one). What the hell is Vermaelen doing in the opposing box with less than 10 minutes to go in a game that we are leading!!?? The only guy on the pitch at this point that seemed calm on the ball and taking his time was Ramsey. He was rewarded in extra time when Giroud’s nice headed touch released him in space; one on one with the keeper he nicely chipped it over his head for our third goal. Game set match…phew.
On to my grades, oh wait, on to my “ratings”. For consistency reasons I was asked to use numbers instead of letters which is going to make coming up with these ratings that much more difficult.
Mannone (7): I really can’t fault him for the goal. He made some decent saves throughout and did a decent job holding on to the shots that were right at him. Probably a bit of a confidence boost for him after the Chelsea showing.
Jenkinson (8.5): He seems to be getting better and better with each game. He was constantly popping up offensively down the right and did everything that was asked of him defensively. Many of his crosses found that first defender which is my only knock.
Gibbs (8.5): I guess I have to give him the same rating as Carl, they both did their jobs on either flank. Gibbs has some incredible pace going forward which he showed on a couple of occasions today. He also seems to be growing in confidence with each game. Stay healthy buddy, I can see big things for you in the future here.
Vermaelen (4): Maybe he should even be lower than this? Probably the worst performance I have witnessed from our now Captain. He was caught day dreaming early on when Mannone tried to play him a quick ball and had to be bailed out by, I believe, Arteta who tackled back nicely. As I said earlier, he takes the blame for the equalizer as well. Hopefully this is the last time we see a performance like this from The Verminator.
Koscielny (5.5): Didn’t have a whole lot to do throughout the game defensively as Olympiakos looked as if they came to defend and play on the counter. He picked up an early yellow card and missed a clear chance header to put us clear at 3-1. A better opponent would have made our CB’s pay today. Let’s get Mertesacker and Vermaelen back together please.
Coquelin (5.5): Probably a wasted chance for the youngster. He never really seemed to get into the game and his distribution thoughout was pretty suspect from what I can remember.
Ox (6.5): Incredibly hard work rate as always but not much to result for it. He’s gonna continue to grow in confidence with each game.
Arteta (7.5): Did his job and did it well. Tracked back when needed and put in some tough tackles against a physical side. Pretty sure he played a really nice ball over the top to Ox as well that should have had a better result. This guy is crucial for us but at some point won’t he need a rest?
Cazorla (8): All over the place creating chances as usual. He maintains possession incredibly well even when surrounded by giant Greeks! His link up play with Gibbs seems to be growing and it’s just a matter of time before we seem him score from one of those free kicks.
Podolski (7): Often disappeared throughout the match but was in the right place at the right time to get the eventual winner from Gervinho. Like I said earlier, it took some real skill just to get the shot on frame.
Gervinho (8.5)MOTM: He got the first goal with a nice strike from outside the box and worked hard to set up our second. He makes some nice weaving runs when he is played centrally and did that throughout the game today. If he keeps scoring, keep playing him centrally and give him the freedom to float around.
Walcott (6.5): Ran fast down the wing, played some crosses that were gobbled up by their keeper. Pretty standard appearance for Theo these days.
Ramsey (7.5): Brought some much needed calm to our midfield in the closing minutes of the game and got our third goal on a classy chip finish.
Giroud (7): He got on the end of a cross from Theo which unluckily went straight at the keeper and had another chance in box unknowingly blocked by a defender. He did battle strongly to get his head on the ball which landed perfectly to Ramsey for our third.
It was a good result no doubt. There is some stupid saying that great teams win even when they play badly. Well, so far we are looking pretty great in the UCL. See you on the weekend for West Ham United. Be well fellow Gunners!