Arsenal:1 Queens Park Rangers:0 Match Report

Goal: Arteta (83)

Mikel Arteta’s controversial goal gave Arsenal all three points against a QPR side who played the last 10 minutes with 10 men after M’bia was shown a red card.

Arsenal Line-Up

Arsenal lined up with a 4-2-3-1 formation. Vito Mannone started at the goal. Vermaalen was paired with Mertesacker at the center of the defence. Bacary Sagna started at right back for the first time this season, and Andre Santos continued to replace the injured Kieran Gibbs at left back. In central midfield, Jack Wishere started a league game for the first time in 17 months and was paired with Mikel Arteta. Podolski was on the left, and Ramsey was on the right. Cazorla was behind Giroud who started as the central striker.

The Game

Arsenal started the game with urgency and pressed on for an early goal with Wilshere especially lively in the center providing some much needed penetration. Four minutes into the game, Giroud headed down Mannone’s clearance to Wilshere in the center circle. The midfielder burst forward, played the ball to Podolski on wide left, continued his run to overlap the German and received the return ball. His low cross, however, bypassed three Arsenal players in the 6-yard box. Minutes later Podolski and Cazorla combined, and the Spaniard released Andre Santos on the left. The recently under fire left back’s low cross took a deflection, and wrong footed Cesar in the QPR goal, but the goalkeeper cleared the ball away as Giroud arrived to pounce. Around the 10th minute mark,  Wilshere found Sagna on the right, and the right back’s early cross was met by Ramsey whose header in a difficult position bounced off the bar.

Arsenal kept plugging away, yet their narrow shape meant that they relied too much on Wilshere and Cazorla’s penetration from central areas. Around the 20th minute, Wilshere dribbled away from Granero and played a quick one-two with Cazorla. His shot from the edge of the box was spilled by Cesar, but the goalkeeper dived and collected before Cazorla could get to the ball.

After the first 20 minutes, Arsenal’s attacking promise slowly waned, and QPR started exploiting the space behind Andre Santos (Arsenal’s soft belly as we have seen against Schalke). A quick QPR build-up released Bosingwa on the right, but the Portuguese right back’s low cross inside the box was intercepted by Vermaalen. Minutes later, Shaun Wright-Philipps cut inside from wide right, but his shot did not really trouble Mannone.

The rest of the half saw QPR gaining confidence and being able to hold the ball in Arsenal’s half with Taarabt and Hoilett’s dribbling skills easing off Arsenal pressure. Arsenal’s movement in attack became increasingly predictable due to their narrow shape. Placing Ramsey on the right wing away from home, especially when Arsenal play with a natural winger (Gervinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain) on the other wing, allows Arsenal to have an extra man in central areas. But against tight defences at home, it is not really helpful as it simply enables the opposition to crowd the center. The only other Arsenal chance of the first half came when after good build-up on the left, Giroud fired a low shot from the left edge of the box, which was parried away by Cesar. The half petered out with Arsenal not being able to regain the urgency they displayed in the first 15 minutes.

The second half did not really bring about the much expected Arsenal onslaught. Except an early chance when Arteta’s delivery in a set piece was headed by Mertesacker and forced Cesar to make a very good save, QPR looked comfortable in defence. In fact, it was visible that QPR thought they can catch Arsenal on the break as their forward forays became increasingly dangerous. Shortly after the hour mark, Taarabt’s brilliant diagonal ball found Shaun Wright-Phillips on the right. The winger’s inviting cross was intercepted by Vermaalen just before Zamora capitalized in the six yard box. Later, when Granero’s over the top ball searched for Hoilett’s dangerous run, Sagna made another crucial interception.

With visible signs that QPR was going for a win, Wenger addressed Arsenal’s width problem and took off Wilshere (who had a very decent one hour performance), sent in Walcott to the right wing and moved Ramsey to the center. Gervinho also replaced Podolski on the left wing. With two natural wingers, Arsenal started attacking with more purpose and missed their biggest chance of the game so far: Ramsey found Walcott wide on the right. Giroud attacked the winger’s delicious cross and the ball bounced off Diakite towards Cazorla standing on the penalty spot. The Spanish playmaker had all the time in the world and was under no pressure, but he blasted the ball high over the bar. Cazorla then released Gervinho on the left channel with a brilliantly weighted through ball, but the Ivorian’s cut back was blocked by Bosingwa. Gervinho was injured in that instance and was replaced with Arshavin.

A crucial moment arrived 10 minutes from time, when M’bia clattered Vermaalen off the ball (after he was fouled by Arsenal’s captain) and was shown a straight red card. Against 10 men, Arsenal now desperately wanted the win, but Cesar made an incredible save when he fingertipped a ball on the line after an Arsenal corner was not cleared. The home side finally found the goal they were searching for 6 minutes from time. Arteta’s ball left Arshavin one on one with Mackie who was forced to play right back after M’bia’s red card. The Russian tricked his way past Mackie and delivered a peach of a cross into the box, which was headed with power by Giroud. Cesar again made a great save, Ramsey’s attempt to finish the rebound bounced off to Arteta who was offside, and the Spaniard forced the ball in after two attempts on the goal line. It was not pretty, it was offside, but it was what Arsenal needed.

As one would expect from Arsenal, in the last 5 minutes and the 5 minute of extra time, QPR found two chances to salvage a point despite being a man down. First, Granero controlled Taarabt’s over the top ball in the box, but his shot narrowly missed the far post. In the third minute of extra time, Mackie made a brilliant solo run from a deep wide right position beating Arteta, Andre Santos and Vermaalen on his way into the 6 yard box, but Mannone prevented a certain equalizer.

Conclusion

After a horrible past week, it was a game in which only one thing mattered, and that was the three points. Arsenal were far from convincing, but with Wilshere and Sagna already back from long injury layoffs and hopefully Diaby, Gibbs, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Szczesny joining them soon, the team found some breathing space before the big encounter next week at Old Trafford.

Arsenal:0 Schalke:2 Match Report

Goals: Huntelaar (76), Afellay (85)

Arsenal lost for the first time at home against continental opposition in the Champions League since 2003 after a toothless, subdued and disjointed performance.

Arsenal Line-Up

Arsenal lined up with a 4-2-3-1 formation. Vito Mannone again started at the goal. Vermaalen was paired with Mertesacker at the center of the defence. Carl Jenkinson started at right back, and Andre Santos continued to replace the injured Kieran Gibbs (at least in name) at left back. In central midfield, Mikel Arteta was paired with Coquelin. Podolski was on the left, and Ramsey was on the right. Cazorla was behind Gervinho who started as the central striker.

The Game

Arsenal started the game with more aggression in the midfield and dominated possession in the very early exchanges. As we have seen against Manchester City, Aaron Ramsey coming narrow from wide right position and joining Arteta and Coquelin gave Arsenal a numerical advantage in the center of the pitch. Around the 10th minute mark, Arsenal created the first chance of the game when Podolski’s low cross from the left was missed by Gervinho at the near post. The visitors, however, soon adjusted their shape with Holtby dropping back on Arteta and helping Hoger and Neustadder to prevent their center from being overrun. Schalke got their attacking game going after the first 10 minutes.  When Arteta lost possession, Farfan’s through ball was chased by Afellay who got to the ball before Mannone and fell over the Italian’s challenge. It could have been a penalty, yet the Swedish referee showed a yellow card to the Dutch winger for simulation.

The crucial and recurring theme of the game was Schalke exploiting time and time again the space on Arsenal’s left hand side, with Farfan and Uchida taking turns to torture Andre Santos. It is safe to say that the only thing Farfan and Uchida did not do on Arsenal’s left flank over the 90 minutes was to grow marijuana and sell it to the frustrated crowd who would appreciate a good joint given the visible toothlessness of the home team. Schalke directed almost all their attacking effort towards the space left exposed by Andre Santos’ forward forays. Santos is a technically gifted player, yet unlike Gibbs, he clearly lacks the athleticism and pace required from a marauding left back. What made the problem worse against Schalke was that due to Podolski’s narrowness and reluctance to track back on that flank, the Japanese right back Atsuto Uchida also found space to bomb forward and overlapped Farfan. In one of many such attacks, Uchida’s cutback to Farfan put the Peruvian winger in a shooting position in the box, yet Mertesacker’s brilliant block prevented an almost certain goal.

During the first half, the midfield battle looked to be heading for a draw, as the two sides matched each other. What was worrying for Arsenal, though, was their absolute inability to create any clear cut chances. The overall look of Arsenal in attack was a frustrating combination of players playing out of position with Ramsey providing no width on wide right (as he is not a winger), Gervinho making runs to the flanks but looking too lightweight to play the centerforward position and Coquelin being a solid tackler and neat passer in the holding role but not being able to provide much penetration and forward drive from midfield (and hence basically duplicating Arteta’s role).  As the first half drew to a close, Uchida again popped up on the right unattended, yet his ball into the box was blasted wide by Huntelaar when he should have scored.

In the second half, Arsenal continued to look ineffective in attack, and Schalke slowly gained the upper hand in the midfield battle as well.  Early in the half, Farfan again skinned Santos on Arsenal’s left and his cutback found Howedes unmarked in the box, yet the defender smashed the ball over the bar. In the 69th minute, Gervinho summarized what was wrong with Arsenal’s attack as he found space on the left, yet his cross into the box found no Arsenal player despite Ramsey’s best efforts to get there from the opposing flank: False 9s, false right wingers, false (or rather inadequate) left backs were the order of the day for Arsenal.

As Arsenal looked increasingly toothless in attack, it was curious that Steve Bould (note: Wenger was serving the last game of his touchline ban) waited until the 75th minute to send in Giroud, taking off Gervinho, in an attempt to win the game. Yet, when Schalke scored almost immediately after Giroud’s introduction, it surprised nobody as they were well on top in the second half. Uchida’s cross from Schalke’s right was deflected towards the middle of the pitch, but two Schalke players won two headers in a row to put the ball back in the danger zone near Huntelaar. The Dutch striker would have been offside if Andre Santos was not asleep a good two yards behind Mertesacker and Vermaalen, and Huntelaar’s finish was hard and low.

To salvage a point, Steve Bould took off Jenkinson and Podolski and sent in Gnabry and Arshavin. As Arsenal pushed forward desperately for an equalizer, they got  further exposed in the back and Schalke secured all three points in the 85th minute. A flowing Schalke counterattack released Farfan on the right again with Andre Santos nowhere to be seen. The Peruvian’s low cross to the back post was swept in by Afellay as Jenkinson who kept Afellay quite all game long was taken off minutes earlier. In the dying minutes, Arsenal did register their first shot on goal though when Gnabry’s curling effort was saved by the otherwise unemployed Unsteller.

Conclusion

Schalke completely deserved their win given their excellent display. What was surprising was that they did not take the lead until the last 15 minutes. Just like against Norwich on Saturday, Arsenal looked subdued, lacking ideas and any execution ability in attack.  They also looked criminally exposed on their left.  Andre Santos had a total nightmare all game long, yet the defeat was clearly far from his fault alone. It was inexplicable that Steve Bould did not attempt to find a solution to the apparent danger on Arsenal’s left as Schalke targeted this space from the 15th minute on. QPR on Saturday already looks like a very difficult game, and they don’t even have a single win in 8 league games.

Norwich City:1 Arsenal:0 Match Report

Goal: Holt (19)

Arsenal suffered their second defeat of the season after a performance so lifeless that Damien Hirst would have been tempted to put them in formaldehyde and exhibit them as an art piece.

Arsenal Line-Up

Arsenal lined up with a 4-2-3-1 formation. Vito Mannone again started at the goal instead of the injured Szczesny (who is going through the longest two-week injury in football history). Vermaalen was paired with Mertesacker at the center of the defence. Carl Jenkinson started at right back, and Andre Santos replaced the injured Kieran Gibbs at left back. In central midfield, Mikel Arteta was paired with Aaron Ramsey (as Abou Diaby remains injured).  Podolski was on the left, and Gervinho was on the right (yes, contract rebel Walcott was also injured). Cazorla was behind Giroud who started as the central striker. Jack Wilshere was fit enough for the bench after his 14 month injury.

The Game

This was one of the worst Arsenal performances in my recent memory. Over the last few seasons, there were many occasions where Arsenal have been breached rather easily defensively, but they have always been quite dangerous going forward, especially against lower ranked opposition. Today’s game against Norwich, who started the day without a win in the league, had one clear recurring pattern. A criminally sluggish and lackluster Arsenal side were chased after and pushed backwards all over the pitch by a very dedicated and focused Norwich team. The Canaries pressed very purposefully and closed down every hole that emerged in their defensive shape. Arsenal did have a big majority of the possession, but except a few half chances very early and late in the game, they were not able to create anything with it. Prior to this game, Norwich City had the second most porous defensive record in the league conceding 17 goals in 7 games. Yet, the extent of their comfort in keeping Arsenal at bay was a point of embarrassment for an Arsenal side talking about a title challenge.

Norwich started the game with a tight defensive shape, leaving only Holt up-front in a 4-5-1 formation. An important role in their game plan was given to Wesley Hoolohan who occupied the most advanced midfield role. Hoolahan was helping their lone striker Grant Holt to press Arsenal’s ball circulation through Arteta, as well as dropping deep to receive the ball when Norwich gained possession to direct their play with clever and simple passes.

The first attempt on goal came from Norwich when Pilkington cut in from the left and fired wide.  At the other end, after good combination play with Giroud, Andre Santos slipped Podolski through inside the left channel, but the German’s threatening left-footed drive missed the post by a small margin. This chance was as close as Arsenal would get for the rest of the first half. Norwich never allowed the visitors much time on the ball. When Arsenal tried to push forward from the center through Cazorla and Ramsey, they were forced wide by Alexander Tettey and Bradley Johnson who tirelesly screened in front of their defence. When Arsenal tried to attack through their two full-backs Jenkinson and Andre Santos on the overlap, Norwich wide midfielders Pilkington and Bennett tracked them excellently and pushed them back.

As Arsenal looked surprised at finding such a determined and well-organized Norwich side, the home team took the lead almost midway through the first half. Norwich’s Ghana-born Norwegian midfielder Alexander Tettey received the ball 30 yards from goal, and he was basically invited to shoot as no Arsenal player closed him down. The Norwegian’s hard and low drive was parried by Mannone, but before Mertesacker could react to the rebound, Holt burried the chance from 4 yards. Some observers might put the whole blame on Mannone for not parrying the ball away from the goal, yet it seemed that the main culprit was the lack of any midfield cover to deny Tettey the shooting chance. Andre Santos snoozing a good yard behind everybody else and playing Holt onside when the shot was taken did not help either.

Falling behind did nothing to galvanize Arsenal. It was actually Norwich who found two more chances to extend their lead. First, Turner inexplicably missed a free header from a Pilkington corner. Later, when Hoolohan overhit a through ball, Mannone’s hesitation allowed Holt to control the ball on the by-line. Fortunately for Arsenal, the big striker’s cutback was cleared by Mertesacker.  At the end of the first half, as Gervinho hilariously fluffed Arteta’s set piece delivery at the far post, he basically summarized Arsenal’s performance.

The second half exhibited the same pattern of Arsenal being sluggish and Norwich being intensely focused. Early in the half, Jenkinson finally found the space to overlap on the right, and his low cross was spilled by Rudy in the 6-yard box. Giroud tried to find the net with a scissor-kick-like attempt, yet he could not execute whatever it was that he intended to do. It seemed like if the Empire State Building was filled with adrenaline and injected into Arsenal’s collective arse, it would still not be enough to get them going. They were that dire.

Wenger curiously waited until the 63rd minute for a substitution, yet instead of the completely anonymous Gervinho, he took off Podolski and sent in Oxlade-Chamberlain to the right wing (Gervinho moved to the left wing to continue his abject performance). Oxlade-Chamberlain, however, got injured with his first action in the game when he burst forward from the right wing under the close attention of Bassong. Nine minutes later, he had to be replaced by Arshavin (yes, the Russian is still at the club). Wenger also threw in the 17-year old prospect Serge Gnabry, yet it was not happening for Arsenal. Norwich found themselves in very promising counterattacking situations time and time again, but those were all wasted by Holt’s bad decision-making. The home side, though, gave nothing free to Arsenal at the other hand. In the last minutes of the game, Arsenal were reduced to hoofing the ball to Mertesacker who was sent forward to win headers in the Norwich box. Arsenal’s pseudo-pressure yielded one clear chance in this last period. Gnabry released Gervinho on the right edge of the penalty box, but the Ivorian’s shot was blocked brilliantly by Bassong.

Conclusion

This was a truly terrible performance by Arsenal, and watching it was like chewing glass. It is futile to talk about individual performances and tactics when the team basically does not show up for work. Until the Schalke home game in the Champions League in midweek, Wenger and Bould have three days to put this game behind as an exception.

West Ham United:1 Arsenal:3 Match Report

Goals: Diame (21), Giroud (41), Walcott (76), Cazorla (83)

Arsenal got all three points in a hard fought and tense encounter at Upton Park.

Arsenal Line-Up

Arsenal lined up with a 4-2-3-1 formation. Vito Mannone again started at the goal. Vermaalen was paired with Mertesacker at the center of the defence. Carl Jenkinson started at right back, and Kieran Gibbs was at left back. In central midfield, Mikel Arteta was paired with Aaron Ramsey,  Podolski was on the left, and Gervinho was on the right. Cazorla was behind Giroud who started as the central striker.

The Game

Arsenal completely dominated the opening 20 minutes and hardly allowed West Ham any possession. Their quick passing and slick movement opened up West Ham on a number of occasions in this early period. After only 70 seconds, Cazorla played the ball to Ramsey who was running inside from the wide left channel. Ramsey’s return ball to Cazorla created havoc in front of the box, and the ball was deflected towards Giroud on the far side. The Frenchman’s low drive was saved by Jaaskelainen at the near post. On Arsenal’s left, Podolski, Cazorla and Gibbs were combining very well, and an early Arsenal goal looked likely. Podolski was released by Cazorla, and the German’s early cutback found the Spanish playmaker on the edge of the box. Cazorla went for placement rather than power, and his shot was blocked by Reid when Jaaskelainen was wrong footed. Shortly after the 15th minute mark, West Ham failed to clear a Cazorla corner, and Giroud’s curler inside the area was deflected wide by Andy Carroll.

Having hardly touched the ball in the first 20 minutes, West Ham took the lead with their first attempt on goal. McCartney brought the ball forward from his left back position and found Diame who was making a run inside the left channel. The Senegalese was tracked by Ramsey, and Jenkinson was also closing down, but he showed great skill in tricking his way past Ramsey into the box. Mertesacker could have attempted a tackle, yet he stood off, and the West Ham midfield enforcer curled a beauty into the far corner from a tight angle.

Surprisingly, the goal deflated Arsenal as they must have wondered how on earth they were trailing after their dominant start. West Ham, on the other hand, gained some confidence as Andy Carrol was working very hard up front, winning many headers and helping West Ham to hold the ball in Arsenal’s half. The big target man also forced a save from Mannone, when he rose above Arsenal defenders from a corner.

Arsenal seemed to have lost their slick movement of the first 20 minutes, yet they equalized 4 minutes from half time. Arteta won the ball in midfield and played it to Giroud. The French striker quickly fed Podolski’s run down the left, raced towards the near post, and guided home Podolski’s low cross for his first goal in the Premiere League. In the last minute of the half, West Ham almost reclaimed the lead. Noble’s set piece was again won in the air by Carroll whose knock down was missed by Nolan at the goal mouth.

West Ham started the second half in a more aggressive manner, as their midfield duo Noble and Diame started pressing the ball early. At around the hour mark, both teams were forced to make substitutions due to injuries. First, Kieran Gibbs left for Andre Santos due to a thigh injury. Vaz Te got his shoulder dislocated after a collision with Mannone, and he was replaced by Taylor. Wenger also took off the tiring Gervinho and sent in Walcott to the right wing.

West Ham’s physical approach seemed to be paying off in this period as Arsenal were not able to carve out any clear cut chances. It was West Ham who missed a big chance through Carroll to take the lead. A deep long ball into the box was met by the England striker who beat Mannone to the ball, but he could not direct his header into the unmarked net.

In the last 20 minutes, Arsenal raised their tempo again, led by the excellent Cazorla and found a string of chances. First Cazorla drove forward with the ball riding a couple of challenges, but sliced his effort wide from the edge of the box. Minutes later, Podolski cut inside from the left, but his low shot was saved by Jaaskelainen. Arsenal finally found the goal they were looking for with a brilliant counterattack. Cazorla started the move in Arsenal’s half with a collector’s item of a release ball to Giroud. The Frenchman broke from midfield, played Walcott through on the right channel, and the pacy winger finished in a very composed manner inside the near post.

Arsenal then secured the three points with another brilliant strike by their Spaniard master 7 minutes from time. Walcott drove inside from the right. When he almost lost the ball, his tackle placed the ball to Cazorla 25 yards out. The man who is a constant joy to watch fired a looping left footed shot to the top right corner. In the dying minutes of the game, Arsenal looked comfortable, missed a few more chances on the break, and wrapped up their victory.

Conclusion

This was a classy performance by Arsenal, despite facing difficult moments against a physical West Ham side. Cazorla’s performance in the second half was simply mesmerizing. Mertesacker and Vermaalen fought well with Andy Carroll, and Arsenal defense was generally alert to the second ball.  Ramsey sometimes took too much time with the ball and was at fault in the West Ham goal, but his energy and drive forward showed that he is a better choice to pair with Arteta in the absence of Diaby and Wilshere.

Arsenal:3 Olympiakos:1 Match Report

Goals: Gervinho (42),  Mitroglou (45), Podolski (56), Ramsey (90+4)

Arsenal continued with their winning start in the Champions League group stage, despite looking unconvincing against a resilient Olympiakos side.

Arsenal Line-Up

Arsenal lined up with a 4-2-3-1 formation. Vito Mannone started at the goal. Vermaalen was paired with Laurent Koscielny at the center of the defence. Carl Jenkinson started at right back, and Kieran Gibbs was at left back. In central midfield, Mikel Arteta was paired with Francis Coquelin as Diaby was injured. Cazorla occupied the advanced midfield position. Oxlade-Chamberlain was on the right and  Podolski was on the left side of attack. Gervinho played as the central striker.

The Game

In the early stages, Olympiakos quickly settled into a disciplined defensive shape, and Arsenal found it quite difficult to pose any threat going forward. In Arsenal’s midfield, while Arteta did his anchoring job with the usual excellence, Coquelin was not able to perform the required penetrating role effectively. The slow ball circulation in Arsenal’s center forced Cazorla to drop deeper to facilitate the moves forward, which allowed the Greek side to easily tighten up the area in front of their box. The visitors’ confidence in their narrow shape increased throughout the first half. This narrow shape invited the two Arsenal full backs Gibbs and Jenkinson to push forward, but time and time again the crosses they delivered into the box yearned for a real target man, who Gervinho was not. Past the half hour mark, Arsenal had not carved out any real chances except Cazorla’s free-kick from the right edge of the box, which was tipped over by Megyeri. Despite their defensive focus, it was Olympiakos who created the best chance of the first half after a neat move on their right. Maniatis’ inviting cross was incredibly missed in the six yard box by Machado.

Arsenal were desperately looking out of ideas, but they took the lead three minutes from half time. Cazorla linked up with Podolski on the left, and the German’s low cross found Arteta at the edge of the penalty box. A defensive challenge put the loose ball in front of Gervinho who fired a rather tame shot. Megyeri should have done better as the ball went into the net under his late dive.

As if to prove that they did not deserve to take the lead, Arsenal continued to look sluggish as Vermaalen gave the ball away in front of his box under no pressure, but Olympiakos could not capitalize. They did, however, equalize in the extra time of the first half, when Kostas Mitroglou got in between Koscielny and Vermaalen to glance a great header inside the far post after Jenkinson allowed Greco to send in a measured cross from Arsenal’s right.

Arsenal started the second half with more dynamism. First, Gervinho’s cutback from the left was missed by Cazorla. Soon after, Gervinho again found space on the left. His initial cross was blocked, but when the ball came back to the Ivorian, his neat cutback was picked up by Podolski in the box who smashed the ball under Megyeri with a fierce shot on the turn.

Arsenal were in control after taking the lead, as Olympiakos started pressing higher up the pitch and gave up their vigilant and compact shape.  The home side also looked more composed defensively in this second half, restricting Olympiakos to mainly shots from distance, and found a string of chances to extend their lead themselves. First, Koscielny could not direct his header into the net inside the six yard box after Arteta’s wonderful delivery from a set piece. The late substitute Giroud, who looked very lively during his 10 minutes in the game, got at the end of a cross by Walcott (another energetic substitute), but the Frenchman’s attempt was well saved by Megyeri.  Moments later, Ramsey (also a late substitute) combined brilliantly with Cazorla on the left,  but Giroud’s one time shot from the Spaniard’s cutback was blocked by Siovas on its way into the net.  In the dying minutes of the game, Giroud’s headed flick was collected by Ramsey, who burst into the box and dinked the ball past Megyeri to add some gloss to the scoreline.

Conclusion

In the first half, Arsenal lacked ideas in attack and looked fragile and uncertain at the back. Yet, they were able to raise their tempo in the second half to get the job done.  The Vermaalen-Koscielny partnership again looked unconvincing, especially because of Vermaalen’s lack of positional discipline.  The Belgian’s attacking urge sometimes borders on pure madness. Coquelin and Arteta pairing did not seem to work well in the first half either, mainly due to the French midfielder’s reluctance to push forward with the ball, which slowed down Arsenal’s tempo. The second half was much better, especially because Olympiakos started taking risks after Podolski’s early goal, and Cazorla started influencing the game with more ease. Overall, it was a pleasing result, yet worrying signs at the defense continued to emerge.