Well that wasn’t fun to be honest with you. We may have won, we have have scored three vital away goals but I couldn’t help but feel unconvinced by large parts of the game. My apprehension, like the players’, was probably down to last year and there seemed to be a large amount of post traumatic stress lingering in the Greek air.
Don’t get me wrong, for the first hour we were in control, unworried in defence and sure-footed in offence. But the slow four/five touch passing, the 5 minutes Granit required on the ball and the conviction-less runs off Odegaard meant for me, it was only a matter of time for us to shoot ourselves in the foot, again. The only surprise is that we didn’t make it easier for El Arabi.
Leno 6 – Leno had a particularly quiet night only facing 2 shots, one of which was created by the same unbelievably naive pass he gave to Granit down at Turf Moore. Only Partey would’ve dealt with that pass at Burnley and the one he’s stuck on Dani there and I think Mikel needs to spell it out to him: Don’t put your already technically challenged midfield under undue pressure when there are 6 different options which would have alleviated the pressure from Olympiakos and my grip of the sofa.
Bellerin 7 – Although every time I see him play I am imagining what any number of our transfer-linked right-backs would do in the situations he seems to confuse himself and his legs, I thought he had a decent game. He looked energetic for once, able to shuttle back and forth for the entire 90 minutes which he has struggled to do recently. If I’m being pessimistic, I’d say he put in one and a half/two good balls which in my book is bordering on a person best (post injury). The Auba chance in the first ten, then a conglomerate of almost chances including a tantalising ball which seemed to snort the goal line, begging to be tapped in by Auba. A good defensive performance to boot, well done Heccy. On the other hand, I am glad Cedric will surely now start at the weekend, as I wouldn’t like to think what Son would do to him and his confused legs.
Luis 7 – Was guilty of Granit syndrome in the first half. Dwelling on the ball waiting for runners. Personally, I would prefer for all our players to pop the ball around until you can start to involve players higher up the pitch instead of glancing around for half an age then passing to Granit in the left pocket to do the exact same thing. To be fair, he picked out a couple of nice balls, got closer to a freekick goal than ever before and for the most part kept Olympiakos at a decent distance from Leno.
Gabriel 8 – I felt Gabriel had a couple more cobwebs to blow off in the first half since his minute downturn in form. A handful of long balls fired off his head in directions that I didn’t know were possible and his touch was that of a Bulgarian not a Brazilian. I had faith he would turn it around and reach the heights of the first half of the season. I didn’t predict he could literally reach the height of 9ft though – what a class, R7 leap and an opportune goal. Really was a game changer
Kieran 8 – KT worked tirelessly, and should’ve had two assists by half time for the miles he had clocked. Odegaard didn’t touch his dinner when Kieran put it on a plate for him and what epitomises KT is he simply encouraged and gestured to his gutted and slightly embarrassed team mate to crack on and not to worry cause he’ll be serving pudding in the next five anyway.
Granit 5 – Some of you could feel this totally unjust and I want to say now I am not a Granit loathing character that can’t stand the sight of him in an Arsenal shirt, like a lot of you are. But I feel there are more mobile, ambitious and quicker minded midfielders available these days and Mikel’s Mr Try Hard, tried hard to slow any attacking phases we put together today. Surprisingly, he didn’t put a foot wrong, I just refuse to rate higher than a 5 for anyone able to morally stand on the ball for so long.
Partey 6 – Fantastic in the breaking up of play, Thomas showed some scary pace at times to regather possession, albeit when he lost it which unfortunately and carelessly he did a few times. A shot from outside the box that actually questioned the keeper instead of row z and a handful of tidy link ups only leave me wanting more – only because I know what he is capable of. Another 60 minutes in his legs and I hope he is raring to go for the weekend.
Odegaard 7 – I feel the biggest issue with the young lad and it isn’t even his fault, is the lack of understanding his teammates have with him at this early stage in his Arsenal career. There were often times where he had the ball tentatively at his feet either on the edge of the opposition’s box or at the foundation of a counter attack and the likes of Bellerin and even Saka seemed reluctant to make the run. As I say, I put the down to a lack of understanding which not only improved during the course of the game put in bound to progress the longer he is at the club. The beauty of a first goal for Arsenal was, for me, marred by some very sloppy losses of possession, one of which almost had my dinner on the ceiling.
Saka 6 – It was quite a similar performance to that of the Burnley game from Saka. Nothing terrible, far from it, but his bleedin’ bar which he has set himself if so high that I am left scratching my head when he’s not influenced the game in the slightest. He worked hard and was fantastic in defence lending his stamina to Bellerin at times. I think he is missing his pals Emile and Laca who had found him instinctively which gave him more space that he’s being afforded in recent weeks.
Willian 7 – Willi was very neat and tidy and grabbed another assist today. What impressed me the most was his willingness to defend which begs the question why has he suddenly started to care about the cause as he didn’t left a finger for months. Anyway, I’m right behind him and it’s about time he joined the squad and had an impact on the scores of the games.
Aubameyang 6 – I imagine Auba is knackered from the beep test he was running out there. Yes his work ethic in defence was commendable, but I’m talking about the numerous times he would run in behind; a run that was often ignored by our ball carriers. When he was found, which was over a couple of times, he forced a save or two but nothing got me off my feet. However, he deserves credit for creating space for teammates with his tireless running
Arteta 8 – The poor man must be so sick to death of giving away cheap goals on a weekly basis. The game plan was transparent. Not in the sense that it was readable or solvable but in the sense that it was simple. It was to dominate possession and attempt to score goals from the safest possible attacks, whereby any counter would be cordoned off. He should be happy enough with the 3 goals and for the most part his tactics were correct
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