Robin van Persie inspired Arsenal to an impressive win over Olympiakos as the Gunners fluent football was too good for the Greeks.
How do Arsenal propose to become more ruthless? By ditching the goalpoacher of course. Obviously Eduardo is more than a fox in the box and fully showed his worth when Arsene Wenger switched to a 4-2-4 and the Croatian broke past his marker to set-up up Robin van Persie for the first. But right now Arsenal are all about movement, mobility and support, hoping that there is more than one goalscorer which will pose the opposition defence with greater problems. And van Persie is key to that new mechanism of the side.
“He has such a short technique that he can bring other players in,” said Wenger. “We play with plenty of offensive players, so it is important you have somebody up front who can make a short control or a short pass. There is no better player than Robin at that.”
The first half was played at a breathtaking tempo as Arsenal repeatedly bombarded the Olympiakos goal but stood in their way was Greek goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis. The shot stopper, wearing number 71 to signify his year of birth and not the number of saves he made in the game, got his hands first to everything and for good measure, he even flapped at a couple of crosses. But he was unable to get anywhere near what was the move of the match as van Persie, Arshavin and Fabregas combined and the skipper struck a ferocious volley on to the cross bar.
Arsenal pulled apart the Grecians with a flurry movement and quick interchanges which Olympiakos had no answer to. Van Persie drifted around the pitch and allowed others to get in to dangerous goalscoring positions and as a result the Gunners had 22 shots, all in and around the box. And while on another day it would have been 5-0, only Rafa Benitez would have found much to complain about.
Defensively it was a much better performance aswell. High intensity pressure means defending from the front and the Gunners pushed Olympiakos back so far to the edge of their own box and whether or not it was part of their game plan, when they tried to get out they could not. Arsenal suffocated the space superbly; Song in particular was fantastic as he read every loose ball that came out of the box while Eboue pushed Raul Bravo up the field so much that in the end, the former Real Madrid left back had covered the greatest distance of his side. The structure was better although with Olympiakos pushed that far back it made life easier. Fabregas was able to dictate more and then was given greater securities to get close to van Persie when needed. And Diaby covered for both Rosicky and Arshavin, allowing them to float around the pitch, the latter of whom wrapping up a great win with a cheeky backheel. The goal looked offside but the Russian, and more importantly the team well and truly deserved their good fortune.
Arsenal 2-0 Olympiakos: van Persie 78, Arshavin 86.
Arsenal (4-3-3): V Mannone (6) — E Eboué (7), W Gallas (7), T Vermaelen (7), G Clichy (6)— F Fàbregas (7), A Song (8)*, A Diaby (7) (sub: C Vela, 77min) — T Rosicky (6) (sub: Eduardo da Silva, 67), R van Persie (7) (sub: A Ramsey, 84), A Arshavin (7).
Substitutes not used: W Szczesny, B Sagna, P Senderos, K Gibbs.
Booked: Van Persie, Fàbregas.
Olympiacos (4-2-3-1): A Nikopolidis — M Zewlakow, A Papadopoulos, O Mellberg, Raúl Bravo — C Ledesma (sub: K Mitroglou, 78), Dudu — J Zairi (sub: I Stoltidis, 46), V Torosidis, Leonardo (sub: O González, 81) — Diogo.
Substitutes not used: U Pardo, D Domi, G Galitsios, I Papadopoulos.
Booked: Zewlakow, Dudu, Torosidis, Raúl Bravo.
Referee: S Lannoy (France).
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|11||Shots on Target||2|
|8||Shots off Target||4|
|106972||Distance Covered (metres)||103791|