Good morning Positivistas from a dark Norfolk at a little after 6 this morning.
An early start to Wednesday and just the vaguest lightening in eastern sky as I ponder last night’s events and how to describe and interpret them.
A howl of frustration and a shriek of disappointment would be appropriate to clear the system. With that important emotional ablution performed so to the game.
After the sumptuous enjoyment of the Leicester game I quipped that last night was all about the result and sod the quality of the football. And so the evening turned out. 94 minutes in which for long periods Arsenal dominated possession at above 70%, played attractive football, 654 passes, and had 18 shots, 13 on target. For long periods of the second half the visitors were penned up in the final third of the pitch and with all eleven men behind the ball. And yet the evening ended in defeat for us and triumph for the men in blue.
The events of the game I am reasonably sure are vivid in all our minds hence to repeat the sequence of events again does not seem sensible. A couple of the incidents will linger longer in the mind than I might wish.
Let me attempt to say what went right last night.
Alexis ran his arse off and was a constant threat to the Greeks every time he was on the ball. His second headed goal in a week, this time from a lovely chip from Theo was of the best quality. Theo finished his chance well and looked full of confidence in the first half. In the second, as space reduced and the Greeks were packed back around their box he was less able to contribute. Another useful learning night, and a goal to show for it. The introduction of Ramsey appeared to have been the key to breaking Olympiakos’s resolute defence and he was superb for the 30 minutes he was on. Ox’s performance came in for some ‘stick’ last night and I thought that was unfair. Being blamed for the own goal was ludicrous as the shot hitting the outside of his boot was unavoidable. He worked hard, won the ball and like Sanchez was a persistent thorn. Our attacking play and two goals were enough to have won that game.
What went less well was the defence. Clearly the finger of doom must point at our Colombian stopper for a moment of pure madness but from the outset the back five looked nervy, as though they had never come across opposition who wanted to take them on. Most uncharacteristic of Kosc and, from the times I have seen him, Gabriel. Kieran was uncomfortable all evening. Very little was smooth at the back, players showed almost no composure and that edginess encouraged the Greeks.
And to concede a soft third when we had battled so hard to score our equalizer ……….
That is one of the incidents that will stick in my mind, for all the wrong reasons.
There are lessons to be learned from last night, and mainly I think they are lessons about the players’ approach to the game. It may be that like me the players were too focussed on the ‘result’, not concentrating on their own football. I have in mind also preparing insufficiently for opponents they do not know well. And concentration – ah yes concentration – for every single one of those 94 minutes.
And our opponents ?
A really competent display from every man in blue. They came with a reputation for solid defending but having seen Olympiakos before I took that with a pinch of salt but that proved foolish on my part; Siovas and Costa were rock like, the clever Elabdeloui a top quality full back. At times they were severely stretched and twice broken open by Arsenal goals. They regrouped and stuck to their plan though. Their coach Marco Silva must be delighted.
So what next?
As with our previous recent defeats we have the benefit of no time to dwell on our disappointment with the red Mancs due on Sunday. Indeed the table-topping Mancs due, and the proverbial “six pointer” for both clubs’ PL hopes. No time for regrets or for hiding. We have hills to climb together on Sunday. Bavaria can wait, for now.
And as I draw this epistle to an end the sun is up, the day is begun, enjoy yourselves!