Yesterday I asked for the team to show how good they can be, and they did. The 2-0 scoreline does Olympiakos a favour, they were under the cosh for 99% of the game and the movement, speed and creativity you get from Arsenal at their very best lit up Ashburton Grove last night. The 60 odd thousand people in the stadium got a real glimpse of football at its most beautiful.
On the other side they got a glimpse of football at its most fustrating.
Olympiakos, managed by a Brazillian, conspired to keep as many men between the ball and their net, and for the majority of the game it worked. If it wasn’t for their keeper it would have been a cricket score, he put in one of the best goalkeeping displays I have seen for a very long time, it was similar to Almunia’s display in the Champions League away at Old Trafford last season.
I was starting to get twitchy, for all the beautiful football I would have given anything for a goal and when it came it was a massive relief. It was an acid test, can Arsenal now get three points from a game where the other team parks the bus in front of the goal? The answer it seems is yes.
Eduardo, who I thought should have started in a game like this, was fed the ball by Cesc within minutes of arriving on the pitch, he produced a lovely little pull-back for van Persie to slot home and get a goal he really, really deserved. His celebration showed the team-spirit that is in the squad this season, he didn’t race away lapping up all the applause from the crowd, he wanted his team-mates to celebrate with him.
Eduardo is one of those players that can produce something that can win the game, yes Arshavin and van Persie are capable of that but neither of those possess the natural predatory instincts that Eduardo has. He will be important this season, very important.
The second goal was a thing of beauty, after some lovely passing the ball was slid across the box to the offside Arshavin to back-heel home, it was a deserved reward for him after a frustrating game, he was sublime in phases and towards the end of the game was running around like he was getting chased by a swarm of wasps. In a mood like that nobody can touch him. At one stage earlier in the game he seemed to get a bit of a bollocking from the boss on the touchline but when a game opens up, there are not many finer exponents of a situation like that than Arshavin. It shows why he is one of the worlds best footballers.
It was a fitting way to end the scoring, none of the goals came from scrappy goal-mouth scrambles it was pure football, the type Zico would be proud of, sadly he seemed to be a little bit angry with the French officials, accusing UEFA of being pro-Arsenal.
There were welcome returns to form for Cesc and Clichy who despite having the odd wobbly moment was sublime in others, his interceptions were brilliant and he attacked with the kind of force we saw a few seasons ago. Cesc was everywhere, he had numerous attempts on goal and on another day would have got himself on the score-sheet more than once, the woodwork denied him what would have been a quite stunning goal. It was good to see him back, a relief.
Praise must go to Emmanuel Eboue who is probably playing some of his best football in an Arsenal shirt, you can see why Wenger sometimes goes with him instead of Sagna to offer an extra bit going forward and in the final third Eboue can come up with the down right awful, and some down right excellence, there was some of the latter last night.
The concentration the center-back pairing showed was impressive, along with Vito Mannone who was a passenger for much of the game, when called upon he did his job well and made one good save. Sadly for him it seems Almunia may well be back at the weekend and hopefully Mannone has given him a kick up the arse.
It was a great performance from the lads last night and so far this season we have shown that we have the class, grit, and determination to get us through the toughest of games. Yes, have have lost two league games already but there will be no team this season that goes to Citeh, Everton and United and comes out with more than 6 points. We got 3 from those games, thats 3 very tricky games out the way.
Bring on the weekend. More tomorrow.