Two North London clubs went into European competition last night with two goal leads tucked away in their back pocket and a clear expectation of progressing to the next round.
This morning the team from N5 are European Remainers. The team from N17 are experiencing the trauma of Spexit. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be laughing yourself silly right now.
We shan’t dwell on the problems facing the noisy neighbours who, let us remember, were also comprehensively outplayed by us in the North London Derby on Sunday, but let’s just say this: Mourinho In! Please keep Jose for as long as you can!
The travails of Totteringham helped divert attention from our own lacklustre performance on the night. Playing at home against a fairly average Olimpiacos team and with a 3-1 lead from the first leg, this really should have been a cakewalk for Arsenal.
But whether there was tiredness following the NLD (although the five changes made by Arteta to the starting 11 should have provided plenty of fresh legs: 10 of them to be precise) or whether it’s simply hard for players to get their heads round a scenario where you can lose but still win, things just did not click in last night’s game.
Let’s start with the line-up. El Patron sent out a familiar back five (Leno, Bellerin, Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney). Partey was rested, with Elneny partnering Xhaka in midfield. Ceballos took the central attacking midfield role with Pepe on his right and Smith Rowe to the left, and we had Aubameyang back off the naughty step and playing as the central striker.
On paper it looked well capable of doing the job and, in terms of chances created on the night, it should easily have done so. However, it was one of those evenings where Aubameyang passed up golden opportunities and where our overall play was sloppy and careless at times.
Unfortunately the selection of Ceballos did not work out. I hoped that getting the opportunity to play in the CAM position would really spark the Spaniard into life and, indeed, he played some incisive passes in the early part of the game.
But we have been spoilt recently by having been exposed to lots of minutes of Odegaard and Smith Rowe playing with speed and dynamism. By comparison Ceballos looked leaden-footed and slow. He needs more touches than either Ode or ESR and seems to run with the ball always slightly under his feet, slowing him down.
I don’t want to beat up on Dani, who has had some good moments in an Arsenal shirt, but you can’t help but feel that we won’t be seeing him in N5 next season.
The move that led to the Olimpiacos goal was initially caused by Ceballos (not for the first time) being indecisive and getting caught on the ball and then dispossessed. However, he was well up the pitch and Luiz can share some of the blame for allowing El Arabi to cut back inside before sending a deflected shot past Leno and into our net.
By that time (the 51st minute) we should have already put the game beyond doubt, Aubameyang having blasted over from close range and Pepe almost scoring when an attempted square ball for Auba deflected off the Olimpiacos ‘keeper and trickled past the post.
But the Greeks, knowing they needed three goals, had started the second half determinedly and we were having trouble controlling possession and keeping them at bay. Careless passes, lingering in possession, bad decision-making all contributed to shifting the momentum in favour of Olimpiacos.
Within minutes of going behind Arteta made two changes which helped wrest control back in our direction: the struggling Ceballos was replaced by Odegaard and Elneny, who had not made any major errors but was not making his presence felt strongly enough in midfield, gave way to Partey.
Immediately we looked better, with Ode in particular grabbing the game by the scruff of its neck and driving us forward. Olimpiacos were still threatening us and you could see we were nervous, but now we were taking the game back to them as well.
Odegaard played a neat one-two with Pepe but blasted his shot over the bar; Pepe fired a Tierney cross goalwards only for the ball to unluckily deflect off ESR’s head then Aubameyang got through for a one-on-one with the goalie (the sort of chance we’ve seen him score many, many times) but chipped it wide.
Partey, meanwhile, had a few sloppy moments of his own, including giving away an unnecessary free kick just outside our penalty area, but his strength in midfield and willingness to break up Olimpiacos moves and drive forward were another important element in seeing us safely through to the end.
The wind finally went out of the opposition’s sails when Ba was sent off after getting two yellow cards in quick succession (one for putting an arm across Tierney’s face and a second for dissent).
In the end it was a disappointing result on the night, but with the satisfaction of knowing we were through to the last eight of the Europa League.
Meanwhile in Zagreb….
Player Ratings from RC78
Leno – 5
Bellerin – 5
Luiz – 5
Gabs – 6
Tierney – 7
Xhaka – 6
El Neny – 5
Pepe – 6
Ceba – 4
ESR – 5
Auba – 4
Personally I would give Gabriel 8 and MoTM – I thought he was outstanding in defence. And I would give Odegaard 7.5 for his performance with a 7 for Partey. But then I’m always a bit more generous with my ratings than RC 🙂
Why is Xhaka never substituted?
Disappointing performance but through.
Moaninho for President
Granada for us at 12.00
Soares Holding Gabriel Tierney
Saka BOdegaard Smith-Rowe
Nice one, Rocky.
Zagreb looked better coached than the spuds and their manager is in prison 😂 Can’t see Maureen going anywhere anytime soon as according to reports, sacking him would cost them a whopping 34m!!!
Reckon we’ll draw Unai and Villarreal….
A superb post-match report, Rocket, so well done sir.
You made a rational comment in your report Rocky, that we should have comfortably won that game against a so-so Olym team but failed to do so as a possible result of tired legs etc after last Sunday’s winning game.
That sounds right — but I have to say my view as to why we gave ourselves such palpitations, and got very close to being knocked out, is a little different.
Frankly, Aubameyang was awful last night, and if he only managed to net one of the three easy chances he had, we would have comfortably walked away with the game, instead of struggling so badly.
He should have been dumped at half time, and allowed Martinelli and/or Nketiah to come on and showed everyone, including Auba, how easy a hat trick could and should have been scored with all the easy chances available.
If I had my way, I would let Auba go in the summer, and let Balogun or John Jules join the first team squad with Martinelli and let them show us what they are made of.
I am reminded of the old adage that although we played rubbish for a large part of the game, we are still there with a fighting chance of winning the EL championship.
So — Go Gunners !!!
Disaster for PSG…
Left Half: PSG – Bayern ; Dortmund-City
Right Half: Real – Liverpool ; Chelsea – Porto
Bayern – City
Real – Chelsea
I think Chelsea will be in the final but can’t tell against whom…
I am gutted 😦
@Rocky – Thanks for the post-match report, always brilliant.
I am always a bit harsher on grades and thought that our best player was Tierney and our worse was Auba closely followed by Ceba.
We will keep Auba this summer for sure, he just signed a LT contract. No chance he will leave.
I think Ceba may not be kept in the end and Odegaard will be kept. Too many mistakes in critical games for Ceba – I think he will flourish outside the EPL. I think he should join the French league and Monaco in particular or Marseille. Otherwise, Germany, Italy and Spain will be good destinations for him.
Partey was odd yesterday, decent energy but poor ball control and passing. The whole team was off but when your CM is off, it makes things worse.
Mbappe v Lewandowski
City v Haaland
Will Ramos take Salah out again? 😄
And the other fixture – meh…
Very juicy ties, RC…
Yeah but I was hoping PSG would play Real, Liverpool or Dortmund to be honest…I did not want Bayern, Chelsea or City nor Porto….
Bayern, Chelsea, City and Real are the best sides left
Dortmund, PSG, Liverpool and Porto are second tier compared to them this season
Interesting RA but don’t think Eddie would taken even the best miss Chances
I had high hopes for Eddie for quite some time — unfortunately he has not been as good as I had hoped — but he has been given most of his minutes in games when Arsenal have been really poor.
(Arsenal have got Slavia Prague in EL.)
Thank you Gael
Emery in the semis. Roma in the Final
Salvia, LBG? Sounds like a nice girl!! 😜
My earlier comment ( to be ignored, of course) mirrors your earlier view of Auba – but no surprise – we have independently written similar views over quite a long time — spooky !! 😎
Not that I am suggesting anything shady, but Manu always seem to get the easiest draws in European games – in my opinion – so Granada v Manu — no surprise.
Thanks for the comments everyone.
Xhaka never gets subbed – you’re right. Successive Arsenal managers have always seemed to find him indispensable. He also appears to have a great engine and is not injury prone. I’m sure he’ll start on Sunday.
My team vs the Hammers:
Cedric – Holding – Gabriel – Tierney
Xhaka – Partey
Saka – Odegaard – Smith Rowe
Auba was as profligate as a drunk in a casino last night. And yet… he was in the position to score a possible hat trick and one of his attempts (the cheeky back heel) was very unlucky. So, for being in the right place at the right time, 7/10; for finishing, 0/10.
So if I’ve got this right, we play Slavia Prague and then (if we get through) we face the winner of Zagreb and Villareal in the semi?
At least (if we make it to the final) there are two chances for ManUre to get knocked out before we would face them.
I hate playing British teams in European competition.
Glad you were right again!
Not surprisingly your observation of Auba last night is sensible, and the ‘parts’ of the action broken down between his ‘anticipation’ of where to be to score (7/10) is fine, and so is ‘score’ for his success in kicking/heading the ball into the net (0/10). 🤪
As for Auba’s general profligacy being akin to a drunk loose in a casino, that is also apt – thankfully he did not randomly pee too, 😳
I have no idea what problems he was experiencing during the game, but he seemed to be lacking focus, or energy, perhaps both — and some are saying it was because he was still sulking over being prevented from playing against the Spuds?
It won’t happen, of course, but I would not be sorry if he went in the summer — he has the quality, but if he cannot respect the manager’s discipline ……..
We are shortly going to be entering the doldrum days of an Interlull because of international fixtures.
After we visit the Happy Hammers on Sunday we don’t play for two long weeks.
It would be nice to keep the energy going on the blog during these famine weeks so can I please encourage you all to consider submitting a post to email@example.com
It need be no more than a couple of sentences to start a conversation…
If three or four people submitted something then, with some regular efforts from me, RC and LBG we might just get through it all unscathed.
Whether you’re a daily regular or a once-in-a-while visitor your efforts would be much appreciated.
Please don’t be bashful.
Continuing from the above, perhaps some of you could volunteer to do a few words about how one or other of our players performs on international duty…
Make your bids now.
Hi Rocky – I drafted a post a few days back. We can use it for Tomorrow and then for Sunday we can use your comment as a pre-match, what do you think?
Should we be concerned about the missed chances? Not sure. We are still a transitioning side that has started to play high level football capable of competing with the best, but not consistently, and we have games that are disappointing.
However in those disappointing games we are rarely outplayed now and are usually the dominant team that just hasn’t been clinical enough. That still bodes well as we progress.
I am not so sure its chiefly about analysing individual players one game to the next to find solutions. I think we have a final transition in our formation to go through and that is moving to an attacking 4 behind a striker with 1 holding midfielder rather than an attacking 3 behind the striker with 2 holding midfielders.
That extra attacking body will give us more dominance in the opposition final third and will see us play more football in and around their box and create more chances. Let’s call it the Man City effect as the final thing we need to do.
At present we still mix between playing good football in the oppo box but often launch from deeper positions, courtesy of the 2 deeper holding midfield players, and are still to heavily reliant in the counter attack side of our game.
As much as I love the idea of Balogun and Martinelli being our future solution they are still not ready to fulfill Aubamayengs shoes on a regular basis, even when he has some off games.
He still remains one of the preeminent strikers in world football and we should be careful what we wish for else we may find the youngsters end up going through bad patches missing chances and damaging their confidence at a young age if we put all our Hope’s on them now.
They should be easing into Aubas shoes over the next season or two and will then be ready to be the main men we rely on.
I saw that RC – I can post it up tomorrow.
And I can do a prematch for Sunday.
Sounds good Rocky!
As for Nketiah and Willock, I think we should allow them to flourish elsewhere like at Newcastle – let us just have a buy-back clause in case…
In terms of our young guns, it seems Azeez, Balogun and Martinelli are the one to focus on…We should also allow Mavro and Saliba to stay one more year on-loan and we will have a tough call to make regarding AMN and RN.
Good points GoonerB
I would like us to play a 4-1-4-1 but the 1 holding at the base of MF needs to be very good.
By the way, you have just reminded me that almost all your comments could be Posts in their own right, so be prepared to have a couple of them ‘disappeared’ in the coming two weeks and then re-emerge a day or so later as a Post!
I to had high hopes for Eddie, but after seeing Leeds and how day play and Eddie could cement a startling squad with them, then not seeing him take his chances early on in the season showed me he not ready yet to fill PEA shoes
PEA score nine goals this season to Eddie one so don’t think he would have even score those shots PEA missed
As for the game vs Olympiakos to be honest, it was a poor performance but what stuck beides Auba’s finishing touch was how cheaply we gave the goal away and gave in to the pressure.
I feel somehow that Holding and Mari reassure the defense more than Luiz…and Bellerin is just annoying me by now. He should not start for us. This is clearly a position that needs an upgrade.
I have to agree re the RB position.
Emerson > Cedric > Bellerin 😛
M talking about Sevilla’s (on loan from Barca) Emerson, not Chelsea’s
Personal I don’t understand why AMN has been frozen out surely he should have stayed to compete with Cedric at either of the full back position
I hope his time at west brom would sho him hw is not good in the midfield and FB is were he excels at
Nelson has been given a rough deal especially since e signed willian who does jack shit but get games
Personal I hope arteta give some of the players like Nelson martinelli pepe balogun more time in the prem games and save the main squad for Europe
I still hoping willock can cement himself in midfield cause am 100.% sure he is better than ceballos and I can even argue he could do a better job than xhaka
He didn’t want to play RB, he is finally getting a chance to play the position he thinks he should, AM.
Is AMN struggling in his loan spell?
I believe Willock is doing well.
Not a great performance. but the hard work was done in Greece. A few observations:
– Ceballos constantly gave the ball away. I can’t see his loan deal being extended.
– Bellerin still prefers playing right wing to defending. The sight of him 30 yards behind an opposition attack happened again last night. Why play so aggressive when you have a two goal advantage. Cedric is now the safer option at right back.
– Pepe – Despite a few flashes he generally played like a headless chicken. He is better from the left and adds little beyond a cut back and shot on the right.
@Rocky I will try to drop a piece on games in the past….if I get a chance
Pete – that would be great.
Fred.. AMN was late for training ‘several times’ apparently… maybe that had something to do with it 🤷♀️
Honesty I say both a struggling on their loan spell but willock doing better since he got a goal in his first game
Why am truely pissed at AMN he miss place passing in key areas in attack and From my recollection 2 were passes if he got them right would have led straight to goals
So that why I think he should reconsider becoming FB rather than CM,
Smart players know their limitations and make the best of their abilities in roles that suit them.
Silly players have ideas above their station and inevitably fail because they get ‘promoted’ beyond the level of their competency.
I know LB so am glad he is getting a chance at playing where he wants to play just so he could prove to himself he isn’t good enough there
As mentioned above a CM shouldn’t be misplacing pass in the final third thats if he want to be a top quality CM
He has also been given a chance in central midfield and, surprise surprise praised by supporters, BUT equally criticised for some of his decision making. Not a right back either.
he highlight of one of the game i talked
from watching him play both CM and RB i prefer him RB
I have just seen your request for Posts from the great unwashed, like me.
If I have understood you correctly, let me know in the comments, and I will apply my speed typing [1 word per minute] and I will put a Post on yesterday’s post, (so to speak) or … even todays, like I used to for Duck when he ran Admin. 🤪
(I would need 5-10 mins — and no one will read it – as you will be aware!! 🙄
yea i saw the request, i remember 2017 Chas ask me to write a post of my visit to the Emirates but i decline since it ending a a 3 nil drubbing
playersbloggers have ideas above their station and inevitably fail because they get ‘promoted’ beyond the level of their competency.
But I don’t care — I have my friend LBG to ignore me!! 😜
Naturally any offering from the Bard of Kansas, the Proust of the Prairies, would be a thing of beauty and a joy for ever.
I am also extraordinarily conceited, Rocky, so as I know you are a good fisher of loopy bloggers, and as a result, I am almost finished.
DONE — (you did not ask for quality – wouldn’t do any good, anyhoo). 😁
I will copy/paste it to you now, on here.
Happy Birthday, Kolo. Have you apologised to Arsene yet?
I hope you don’t mind if I ‘disappear’ it and use it next week.
Wow, I never knew I’d gone, Rocky! 😉
Apologies are never required from you, Rocky, especially if you ‘disappear’ me!
It is so difficult to type when friends, sods and pests jog my arm — when I get back, I will have to ask Sue to fix my digits – they are susceptible to PC lids descending on them. 😉
Tara my friend — tomorrow!