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Arsenal Versus Olympiacos: “Lazarus, Come Forth”

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I was watching Aaron Ramsey particularly closely on Saturday afternoon. Along with everybody else I have been aware of how much less we are without him in the starting line up and how much more we seem to be when he plays. We all see the goals and the assists and the miles of turf covered but against Sunderland it was something else that struck me about our Welsh Wonder.

During the first half he made a couple of mistakes, or at least what appeared at first glance to be mistakes. On one occasion he attempted some quick fire passing on the edge of our area and we lost possession. On another he fired a ball so hard back to Per that our big German could only look startled as it flashed past him. A bit ring rusty I thought. The lad’s been out injured and his radar is perhaps a little off.

Then, watching the game again I realised something. There wasn’t anything wrong with what he was trying to do. At their very best our players hit the ball to each other in tight spaces, hard and at speed and regardless of where they are on the pitch. It is what makes Wengerball the mesmerising thing of risk and beauty that we all know and love so much. Playing to our full potential we are not content to simply walk the high wire, we want to juggle blindfold as we step across the void. It is this audacious approach to the game which makes you and I gasp and brings the crowd to its knees.

Aaron Ramsey typifies this approach and without him in the team we seem less adept at it. When he starts firing the ball at his team mates and trying to move it fast and unexpectedly in our half of the pitch isn’t he in fact galvanising the team? Isn’t he reminding them and us how Arsenal, at its best, out plays the opposition, bamboozling them with fast intuitive football?

Having him back will increase the tempo at which we do things and, I suspect, increase as well the amount of the ball we have to work with. His other great skill lies in the positions he takes up on the pitch. Always the third point in the triangle, always in space always annoyingly between the lines of the defenders. He must be as much of a joy for someone like Mesut to have around, whether centrally or moving in from the flanks, as he is a pain in the backside for the opposition’s defence.

That is perhaps his greatest strength of all. He brings others into the game and gives everyone else an option, an out ball, a vital greased cog in Arsène’s Beautiful Machine. The highlights video versus Sunderland is a remarkable thing. I hadn’t actually been aware of Aaron being as involved as he obviously was and being so very effective almost all of the time.

Watching live we tend to notice the big moments both good and bad. The odd missed or over hit pass, the occasional breathtaking display of skill as he turns two defenders into confused, bewildered and baffled men, but not always the rest of his contribution. He failed to convert a couple of chances but still continued to make those killer runs into the box, never allowing any disappointment to either dissuade him from trying again or to make him try too hard the next time.

Allied to Mesut’s truly astonishing from and leadership on the pitch this season, Campbell’s steadily growing confidence and with the Ox still having his best up his sleeve it is amazing how much more positive things look compared with this time last week. That is partly because we won a football match on Saturday afternoon, certainly, but it also has a lot to do with the return of our wonderful Welsh wizard and the feel good effect he spreads throughout the team. I’ll tell you who would have liked him – Brian Clough. The way he passes and immediately moves into space ready for a return ball then looks to move it on quickly again would have been right up his street. He is, at his best, the heart of the team.

Can he step up another gear tonight and help us to secure progress through the Champion’s League group stage? Can we get a bit of a run of results going again and lift our confidence? Yes, obviously, to both questions. Whether things will go our way is a little less easy to predict but the result on Saturday and the performance in the previous Champions League match when we outclassed Zagreb ought to have set the team up perfectly for what is effectively a knock-out match.

It is of course a knock-out with a difference. A bit like a certain Friday night in May back before mobile phones and home computers when we needed to win by two clear goals, a draw will be good enough for the home side. In fact they can lose 2 – 1 and still qualify. That break away third goal they scored at The Emirates may yet prove to have been far more important than anyone might have guessed. If we are leading 2 – 0 with ten minutes to go my many years of sobriety may be sorely tested. It will, at the very least be a tense affair.

According to the experts it’s important we don’t fall behind. Where would we be without experts? I don’t think there is much we can do differently from the way we approach every game. We don’t want to follow Man United’s example but we cannot allow that or any other negative outcomes to play on our minds. George Graham’s mantra before sending his players out at Anfield on that fateful night was keep it tight first half, score early in the second and then the pressure will begin to build on the side playing for a draw. I doubt Arsène can better that blueprint tonight. I certainly won’t be feeling any tension before there is at least an hour on the clock, but will probably pour myself a cup of camomile tea around the 70 minute mark if we still haven’t scored.

While it would have been preferable to have wrapped all this up long ago the excitement of this fixture has really enlivened what might have been a dull and pointless game. Edge of the seat stuff with a chance to dine with Europe’s elite if we win by the requisite amount or grub about in the bins with the likes of Spurs if we don’t. Not exactly a shit or bust scenario. We would be in what we used to call the Fairs Cup if things go wrong and I am old enough to recall when Arsenal fans wouldn’t be quite so sniffy at the chance to win the Fairs or UEFA cup. Perhaps it is a measure of the level to which Arsène has lifted us that, along with the League Cup, these are seen as such second rate baubles nowadays.

On a personal note before I leave you to debate whether Theo should start ahead of Olivier (no by the way) (unless Arsène says different, in which case yes) I would like to welcome our own leader back into the fold. In his absence the place has felt a little like a ship without a rudder or a skipper. As much as Andy Nic and myself have tried to trim the sails and keep the tub afloat it is and always has been George’s energy and vision which drives the good ship Positively Arsenal along and having him back among us is far more important to me even than having Aaron back on the pitch. Welcome back George, let’s hope your return is marked by a famous victory.

About steww

Arsenal, books, photography, bass guitar, dog walking, mountain biking, being on the radio, writing, talking too much, failing, making mistakes, buggering on regardless.

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171 comments on “Arsenal Versus Olympiacos: “Lazarus, Come Forth”

  1. That’s a relief Eddy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. you have to laugh at pundits, didi hamman was on RTE tonight, and before the game he said he did not fancy AFC getting through, now that they are in last 16 he is saying that we can make semi finals at least

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  3. I’m glad it’s Sunday – the extra 24 hours will be important.

    Like

  4. I am so happy! OG finally gets 3 perhaps he will shut up those arseholes who think he’s not good enough to take us places. Well done Arsene and the players. When the chips were down, they showed they have what it takes. I think I’m going to explode with pride!

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Only just got around to reading your blog steww. A bloody prophet you are.
    Certainly a famous victory – the ones you win when the chips are down always are.
    And I’ve already posted my own little eulogy to Aaron.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. On the other hand – camomile tea?
    I’d rather drink elephant piss.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I told you bastards about Campbell, didn’t I?

    Stew is a fucking treasure. Not only does he know sports, but he’s also an agile writer. He engages one’s sense of taste and touch into what he writes.

    UEFA coefficient my dick.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. As Mel said on Twitter:
    “Arsenal doesn’t do Thursdays mate.”

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Aaron is a top level player and so is Jack. And Danny too one day.

    Like

  10. For the WOBs.

    Like

  11. dkg – its something of an acquired taste perhaps

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Szczesny made a wonder save to keep Roma in the CL tonight v Bate

    Liked by 2 people

  13. WENGER ON THE WIN, GIROUD AND BELIEF

    Arsène Wenger spoke to the media after Arsenal’s 3-0 win against Olympiacos on Wednesday. This is what he said:

    on the win…
    We had a perfect performance on the tactical and mental side too. Overall it was a real team performance.

    on the last 16…
    We’ll see. At the moment I haven’t even looked at who we could get. We were so nearly out that I put all my focus into staying in this competition. The kind of performance tonight, in a very heated atmosphere, showed that we have great character. These games make the team stronger and this one certainly will.

    on the achievement of qualifying…
    It is a fantastic achievement for us. When you look at who we’ve lost in the last three weeks, we’ve lost Coquelin, Cazorla and Alexis among other long-term injuries, not many people gave us a chance. We are a real team. In the dressing room this team is very close and you could see that again today.

    on whether it is one of his best European wins…
    Yes, certainly because we needed a perfect performance to score without conceding. That is not easy because they are a good side.

    on whether Giroud has taken a penalty before…
    He was on the list to be No 1. Number two was Walcott and No 3 was Ramsey, so we respected the order. It is maybe easier to take a penalty when you have already scored, but he took it well. He practised in training and it showed.

    on belief…
    It will make us stronger and strengthen the belief of the squad. It is a special night for us because, as we said before the game, we were in escape mode. We needed something special and when you deliver something special it can create positive memories for the rest of the season. Maybe it’s a lucky year for us in the Champions League, you never know.

    on Giroud’s performance…
    It was a perfect performance because he scored a header, one with a good combination thanks to a good pass by Campbell, and also a penalty on top of that. He was sometimes in uncomfortable positions but he fought like mad and he has shown skill and character. I always defended Olivier on the character side because he has always had something special on that front. He showed that in the game again today.

    on Campbell…
    A former player for Olympiacos was firstly a former player of Arsenal. Joel Campbell is a very good player who has individual skill but what I also like is that he is a real team player who fights for the team. On top of that he will get to an age where he becomes a real professional footballer. He came from Costa Rica at a very young age, went to four different clubs on loan and that made him tough. Now he gets his chance and he is getting stronger in every game.

    Copyright 2015 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to http://www.arsenal.com as the source

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20151209/wenger-on-the-win-giroud-and-belief?#xIR9FdLWj4I5h008.99

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  14. FK² ‏@fkhanage 2h2 hours ago
    Petr Cech, you hero. Upon being asked by a reporter, ‘well, who could see that result coming?’, he calmly replied, ‘we could.’

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Yermakovich: Szczesny Shattered BATE Borisov’s Hopes Against Roma
    Think you know Calcio? Join the team at Forza Italian Football… Click for more info

    Szczesny RomaBATE Borisov coach Aleksandr Yermakovich said Wojciech Szczesny’s save shattered their hope of qualifying after drawing 0-0 with Roma.

    The Giallorossi goalkeeper made a stupendous save from all of six-yards out to deny BATE a historic win that would have seen them into the Champions League knockout round.

    “Until the very end we dreamed of winning this game,” Yermakovich said during his press conference.

    “However the save shattered our hopes,” he added.

    “I want to thank my players for putting in the effort until the final minute.”

    Despite finishing bottom of Group E, BATE always knew it was going to be tough facing one of the top Italian teams away from home at the Stadio Olimpico.

    “In the first-half I thought Roma played the ball well in their defence and stopped our attacks well.

    “It was difficult to play against them.

    “All in all I am satisfied as the team have taken a big step forward than least season on the European stage.”

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  16. Good to see Stew’s got his clairvoyancy game going – as far as pre-match prophecies go, that was a masterclass. (And an extremely readable preview by all the more usual metrics might I swiftly add?)

    And he only then goes and calls Giroud’s maiden hat-trick in the comments section!!

    As Murray Walker would have once said: “Errrr Stew Black – remarkable!!!”.

    Must confess to finding in-game judgements – especially the more down-beat ones regarding player performance – a little tiresome.

    Games ebb and flow, and tricky – but absolute must-win – encounters (requiring a multi-goal margin no less) mean a degree of caution has to be the order of the day. The big picture of the entire match sometimes just does not reveal itself until late on in the game.

    My point is that the achievement of the clean sheet is the second critically important side of that same coin featuring Olivier’s, Ramsey, Campbell and Ozil’s men of the match attacking performances. The clean sheet element of the match may not exactly thrill very many of us, but without it, Giroud’s spell-blindingly marvellous hat-trick could have been rendered entirely meaningless.

    I personally didn’t think Per – or any other defensive player – was poor or ‘flat’. Sure, as all defenses usually do, they rode their luck a little at times but the testing context of the game in a difficult away environment can not be over-stated. I honestly felt it was an all-round heroic performance.

    All this from a team carved out of an injury-addled squad which in itself told us so much about where we stand as a club right now.

    Strength, in the kind of depth fans of Man U and even Chelsea/City, despite Olympic squad spending levels, can only dream of.

    So let’s hold fire on writing off our less ‘glamorous’ players before the drama has fully unfolded; the bum-biting risks are simply too high.

    Liked by 5 people

  17. Takk Andrew. A little common sense and perspective from you just what’s needed.
    Apart from today’s post of course *cough*

    Liked by 5 people

  18. Yes, always look forward to the blog posts before and after *cough cough* a game.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. 9.57 and its up !!

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