Arsenal 3 Olympiacos 1: Lessons as Gunners eventually grind to victory
Arsenal 3 Olympiacos 1: What lessons did we learn as the Gunners eventually sealed victory to top Group B?
Gunners make uncomfortable start
Despite dominating the possession stakes and stringing together more than five times the number of passes as their opponents in the opening stages, Arsenal lacked a cutting edge throughout the first half. Their failure to conjure any chances of note before the break gave belief to Olympiacos, who could have taken the lead in the 36th minute when Giannis Maniatis burst into the box but could only lift his shot over the crossbar when it looked easier to score. It was the best chance of the half, yet Arsenal took the lead in the 42nd minute despite becoming increasingly sloppy in possession as half-time approached. Gervinho took a touch outside the box and slotted his low shot past Balázs Megyerl to give the Gunners an advantage they barely deserved. But the visitors refused to be demoralised and equalised on the stroke of half-time, when Kostas Mitroglou glanced Leandro Greco’s cross past Vito Mannone after out-jumping the flat-footed Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen. It was a deserved equaliser as the Gunners were made to pay for a stuttering first-half display at a rain-drenched Emirates Stadium, perhaps suffering a hangover from their first defeat of the season by Chelsea at the weekend.
Cazorla is a marked man
After earning rave reviews from his first few appearances in the English top flight since his move to north London this summer, it appears Santi Cazorla’s free reign to torment defences could be over. The Spanish playmaker has effortlessly slotted into the Gunners’ first-team and emerged as Arsenal’s chief architect in midfield but it appears his eye-catching displays have also inevitably caught the attention of the opposition. The 27-year-old was marked out of the 2-1 loss to Chelsea on Saturday by Ramires, who was named man of the match – and Olympiacos did their best to afford the diminutive midfielder as little time and space as possible on Wednesday night as Arsenal failed to click into gear. After a phenomenal start to his career in north London, it will be fascinating to see how Cazorla copes with being an identified threat in the weeks to come.
Podolski comes good after poor first half
The Germany international was barely visible in the first half as he failed to make any significant impact down the left wing. Most of Arsenal’s forays forward came through Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as Podolski rarely enjoyed any possession, with his team struggling to break down a resilient Olympiacos. His cut-back did eventually set up Gervinho for the Gunners’ opener late in the first half – but along with the rest of his team-mates, Podolski improved significantly after the break. Gervinho turned provider in the 56th minute and picked out the former Cologne striker in the six-yard box despite seeing his first attempt at a cross come straight back to him. And Podolski needed no second invitation as he squeezed his effort through Megyerl’s legs to restore the Gunners’ lead, and ease some jangling nerves at The Emirates and notch up his fourth goal of the season. Substitute Aaron Ramsey then made the points secure with a neat dinked finish in the 90th minute to add gloss to the scoreline.