Well that was a game to forget, full of performances to forget. I wouldn’t say this was a demon exorcised as pundits up and down the country keep repeating these days as not only did we lose on the night but we looked as convincing as a school girl playing a tree in her Nativity play. We are through to the quarter finals thanks to Mohamed Elneny. I won’t be thanking the Cairo Kroos in a hurry however as tonight it wasn’t abundantly clear where his allegiances lied, constantly giving Olympiakos the ball. His long range effort towards the end of the first leg has really got us out of a pickle and I am just glad I am not a Tottenham fan, for a plethora of reasons but mainly because they have crashed out of yet another competition.
Leno 7 – Leno made a fantastic stop from El Arabi’s effort in the first half and apart from that refrained from passing to a triple marked midfielder. He looked less than pleased to receive the ball under pressure at times and I can’t help but feel that it might teach him a valuable lesson.
Bellerin 4 – Hector not only confuses himself, but he confuses me and vitally Nicolas Pepe! Cedric has made it all too obvious that Pepe needs over lapping, unselfish runs to give him space. At times it looked as though Bellerin was playing tag with Nico, running after him on the same line
Luiz 7 – David was commanding with his head, calm in complexion and unflappable with his feet. He showed more decisive passing than our entire midfield pre and post substitutions.
Gabriel 8 – Gabriel continues his fine rediscovery of form with a dominant performance, one which David has exhibited in years gone by and would have been proud to partner. I think he will have to be my man of the match.
Tiereny 7 – KT was fantastic as ever, even though he was quite clearly tired. Giving Aubameyang a disgruntled gesture when Auba plain refused to run a line for him to play out from the back made me happy. I am looking forward to KT prizing the armband off Auba in the years to come.
Granit 7 – Unless Granit is reading my player ratings I think Mikel has given him a slap and asked if he could release the ball just that little bit faster. He varied his forward passing between the lines, down the middle and his usual sweet spot: out to KT. Put it this way, I cramped up less when he was on the ball than his other midfield contributors.
Elneny 4 – If you were surprised by his performance then you must think that the Earth is flat. Although he is a lovely man and friend to many at the club, I will be happy to see the back of him as Partey will undoubtedly need legitimate professional cover.
Cebellos 6 – Dani was one of the handful of players who actually thought it was a game worth playing in that first half. Pressing like a mad man and passing with the objective of wanting to win the game. He should’ve had an assist for the perfectly timed pass to Auba but equally will have to shoulder some of the blame for their goal, at least in my eyes. His appetite for the nutmeg after recent successes turned into greed as he ignored an opportune left flank consisting of Aubameyang and KT in the pursuit of limited happiness and Nicolas Pepe. This triggered the counter in which ended in the only score of the evening. A good teaching moment for the entire squad in the video analysis session.
Pepe 7 – I felt disappointed with his performance but not entirely let down. He had his chances which, as a man of his calibre, I was already celebrating before each one missed, was saved or blocked by Emile (which was destined for the top corner by the way). Nico worked very hard which I have become accustomed to since his banishment from the regular team.
Emile 6 – Working hard is a given for Emile and so is creating chances and space for his teammates. I imagine he was down to play in his preferred central role before Willian pulled up with a tight calf.
Auba 4 – I was expecting a riled up and point proving Aubameyang to turn up today – destined to score a brace to tuck the week’s stories in bed by writing a new one. However, we got the knock-off version, not even wish.com worse; the Poundland Auba. He should have passed his first chance into the bottom right corner to give the team a bit of a nerve release. Then the one-on-one was a disaster, never judging that cutting onto his right would have taken the retreating defender out of the game which is his usual trick. The finish reminded me of Iwobi and Auba’s flat-footed and lacklustre performance reminded me of the hangover I had last Saturday.
Partey 6 – Extremely promising in parts and shocked me with a couple of seriously amateur passes in his short half hour stint. At least he is getting minutes into his legs and needed chemistry with the team.
Odegaard 7 – Martin looked full of confidence and changed our attack dramatically, creating a handful of chances which if Pepe had done his laces up tighter might have resulted in goals.
Gabi 8 – I shouldn’t rate him as he was only on the pitch for ten minutes. But I’m so happy to see him, so happy to see that his spark is still well and truly intact having creating a clear cut chance for Auba that I had to rate him.
Arteta 6 – The only criticism for Mikel is he didn’t get the players motivated enough, most looked unbothered or so desperate to not replicate last year they’d trip over their own feet. I think that is more of an issue for the players but as the manager, unfortunately, the buck stops with you
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