Let’s be clear, losing is never really something we should be gloating about, even when you have assembled a band of ragamuffins, many of whom have only been bit part players for the past season or two. When we saw the squad which was heading to Olympiacos we knew that to get a result we would need something extraordinary as well as some luck and on the night that simply wasn’t to be.
That being said, there were many positives to be taken, even in defeat. That the majority of the first team will now have had a full week off before they play West Brom means that the excuse of being tired or jaded cannot be used. They will have had a chance to work, rest and play and should, in theory, be ready to put their money where Arsene’s mouth is.
Tomas Rosicky stepped away from workout programs in the gym and back on to the pitch where he belongs and his driving force in midfield was the difference in our performances in both halves and his tireless work rate was rewarded when Gervinho, after getting to the by-line and finding him perfectly with a lovely pull back, and he placed the ball expertly in to the back of the net. He was missed greatly in the second half but his substitution was planned with Wenger saying post-match
He has not played for six months and we were cautious with him. We decided before the game to play for 45 minutes and see how he got on. He’s a bit tight, muscular, but no injury. We’ll see how we recovers now for Saturday.
Jernade Meade was very impressive and, despite his diminutive stature, he did not look out of place on the big stage and it seems as if Arsenal have unearthed yet another talented left-back. I was starting to get concerned that our left-back tree at Colney had withered and died if I’m honest.
The equaliser was an unfortunate goal to concede, mainly because it came from a corner which wasn’t a corner. As many will have no doubt have commented this morning, just what, exactly, is the point of having a fifth official standing two yards away looking straight at Szczesny if he is not able to tell the referee that he’s got the decision wrong? Might as well stick some tinsel around his neck and call him a Christmas tree for all the use he is to anyone. But after the corner has been given then we need to be able to defend it better than we did, and while the bounce off Ramsey’s midriff was perhaps unfortunate, the fact that we had let two Olympicos players just wonder around our box unmarked was not. That was just poor and an indication of a lack of concentration.
Their winner, a great shot, could have quite easily been blocked is Squillaci had decided to make himself big instead of squeezing himself in to the smallest shape possible, defenders are supposed to want to get hit with the ball and while many things can be put down to him not having played for months, this isn’t one of them. That was instinctual.
Overall I believe we saw a far better attitude than we have done recently, and while that isn’t really saying much, we performed far better than I was expecting pre-kick-off. It was a dead rubber for both sides and while we could have secured top spot as Montpelllier stayed true to their word and took points off Schalke in order to help Arsenal, finishing in top spot this year isn’t much different than finishing second with many groups sending through top opposition in second place. It’s just a case of do we get Barcelona now or in the following round really.
All attention will now turn to Saturday and what is an extremely important game against West Brom at the Emirates. With less players out injured than we have had in recent memory and the majority of the first team rested, there really are no excuses left for this side. The time to deliver has arrived.
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