Aaron Ramsey comes to the fore in Olympiakos defeat

Arsenal’s youngsters succumbed to defeat against Olympiakos but could take much heart in the performance with Aaron Ramsey standing out.

It was perhaps a measure of the youngsters’ abilities that Olympiakos entered the encounter with the same mind frame as against the senior side earlier in the competition. That time two late goals secured the win for Arsenal and despite still needing a point to go through this time round, the Grecians sat back even on their home turf and looked to exploit gaps from transitions.

As it was, an early second half goal sealed the win for Olympiakos, a quick break was momentarily halted by Kyle Bartley but the ball found its way to Leonardo to burst through and score. More than a lack of experience was displayed in the goal; Bartley not quite timing the execution nor the power in the tackle while Kerea Gilbert was not quick enough to read the situation and cover for the centre backs.

But Arsenal’s youngsters will have found plenty of reasons to be cheerful. It was a performance of much confidence on the ball as Arsene Wenger’s side – who became the Champions League’s youngest ever team with an average age of 21 – competed manfully against a journeymen opposition. It was Arsenal’s ruthlessness and dynamism up front however, that let them down as the side’s relative disorganisation was expected. They never quite fashioned a guilt edge goalscoring opportunity in the first period, finding it difficult to open an Olympiakosside who stuck deep with two banks of four. With wide men who like to come inside, Arsenal was crowded out and with the substitution of Wilshere did the Gunners find a bit of light.

The Stevenage born midfielder seems slightly stuck in transition. At the club since the age of nine, he was brought up in the classic Arsene Wenger pass and move style best suited to a 4-4-2 seems slightly inhibited starting higher up. The opposition defending as deep didn’t help but Wilshere is a player who thrives on movement and dragging defenders out, usually starting from deeper and progressing forward. It is possible in the 4-3-3 but a system designed specifically to meet the needs of the current senior team has the player in a soul searching position.

It was in central midfield where Arsenal most greatly shone as Aaron Ramsey proved the catalyst in driving the team forward. The Welshman was substituted during half-time in the defeat to Sunderland and he clearly had his manager’s advice ringing in his ears. His concentration and decision-making were of a higher level which invariably had a positive effect on his passing range. The highlight, a fantastically weighted pass with the outside of his boot to split open the defence which nearly got Walcott through on goal. Alongside Merida and Song, the trio displayed great assurance on the ball and were pinging triangles across the park. “Overall,” said Wenger. “We looked like a team that play every week in this competition, the young players played exactly like the first team. It’s difficult to single out individual performances, although Ramsey had a good presence, gave good balls and had a good work rate.”


16 thoughts on “Aaron Ramsey comes to the fore in Olympiakos defeat

  1. Good article, as always!

    I think you make a good point concerning Wilshere. As a dribbler, I would compare him to Yossi Benayoun; he’s got great balance, quick feet, and close control, but doesn’t have the acceleration/explosiveness to be as effective in the final third. I would advocate him playing a deeper position – perhaps part of the midfield three – to allow him a greater range of passing options, as well as enabling him to build up speed in his running from deep.

    I think there were two main problems for our inability to beat Olympiakos:
    1) From an attacking perspective, as has been the case for a while since the injuries to Van Persie and Bendtner, we lack sufficient physicality and hold-up play in the final third. Vela works best feeding off of a main striker – remember how effective he was with Bendtner – and running into the space they create, as opposed to leading the line. This made it impossible to break down Olympiakos’ deep-lying back line.

    2) From a defensive perspective, Merida and Ramsey’s lack of tactical awareness/willingness to drop deep left Song very exposed, and left gaps in between the defence and midfield – one of the reasons Bartley decided to step out of defence for their goal, I believe.

    This is the reason Ramsey has featured so little in the Premiership this season; he and Fabregas cannot play alongside eachother due to their attacking tendencies.

    1. Hi. You’re definitely right on Vela and indeed Eduardo preferring to play with someone. The squad doesn’t have the presence at the moment but movement as against Stoke showed it’s problems it can pose. Admittedly it was against Stoke who have low mobility but they defend as deep as anyone and on the whole remain concentrated.
      The challenge for Eduardo and Vela is to find the right balance between being orthodox and dropping deeper. In two occasions Vela played on the shoulder and got shots on while Walcott’s runs inside were a joy to watch although he didn’t get the final right.
      There is an article coming up which has a mention of your second point next week.

  2. Good experience for the youngsters but as the youngsters before them are happy to look good first and win second.

    Ramsey is the future of arsenal as is wilshere.

    Cesc and merida will eventually leave and vela isn’t good enough despite the new contract.

  3. Ramsey and Song looked fantastic, but I didn’t really notice a lot of Merida, a late defense splitting pass aside. Theo and Vela, on the other hand, were big disappointments. It’s early to give up on them yet, but we need our front line to perform NOW and neither seems particularly ready. Vela, whose multiple chiped goals in the CC last year showed a certain swagger, couldn’t make the easiest of chips yesterday. Theo just had a terrible first touch, squandering a couple of very good opportunities as a result.

    1. By the way, two weeks ago I really didn’t think Ramsey was ready — his tendency to try and do too much and then give the ball away really made me think he lacked maturity to start. So I guess that shows how quickly Theo or Vela might turn things around and start impressing again. I hope they do it.

      1. Vela had a night to forget. I give you that.

        Theo wasn’t as disappointing as it looked. His runs and confidence were both there. The touches will necessarily have to wait (yes the two chances that Theo mis-controlled made him look bad but other part of his games last night were more than decent – he looked like he had picked up a few pounds of muscles as well).

        I’m thinking Ramsey could be starting in place of Denilson this weekend, which would be mind-blowing. After all Ramsey played yesterday so that Denilson can be rested for Saturday. It’d be interesting to find out.

    2. It just goes to show you the importance of mentality in top level football. They’ve always had the technical ability but could they marry that with making the right decisions and awareness. Wenger was disappointed with Ramsey in that regard after the Sunderland game.
      Vela looks to be lacking confidence in front of goal which is strange as he normally is an instinctive, first-time shooter. Walcott, on the ball is lacking that also, as he was fantastic last season before he got his succession of injuries. Once he becomes more decisive again he will be a huge weapon in the sides arsenal.

  4. I thought Merida did his fair share of tracking back.

    Yes, firstly, he is a more attack minded player but on a number of occasions I saw him chasing back and making tackles.

    It is key in this 433 that not only song tracks back. One of the two midfielder along with Song need to do some defensive work.

    This is why Denilson brings a bit of balance to the side he links offence and defence quite well but still has room for improvement.

    What amazes me about Songs progression is that his passing and dribbling has become very effective. And when I say passing I mean passing forwards. He looks for the forward ball now which really helps with our counter attacks in transitions

    1. So true about Song. he looks phenomenal. his balance is excellent. I enjoyed watching him use that little spin move with the outside of his foot that Cesc always uses to get away from defenders and create space. overall, his composure on the ball gives him the breathing room to look up and actually do something with it.

      1. Yeah, he’s really good at keeping the ball right outside of the opposition’s box, it makes him really useful for attack.

        For me, I knew Song would be a great player (although not necessarily a great DM since Wenger said that he would only be a center back http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/wenger-sings-song-s-praises-after-late-surge..was very sad when i read that) after his dominance against Blackburn in 07/08 Carling Cup.. when he set up Eduardo with a through ball for THAT extra time winner. 🙂

  5. Despite what I said about Theo and Vela yesterday, I hope at least one of them plays at Anfield on Sunday (and perhaps both). I have not had the chance to watch much Liverpool this year, but last year there defense was slow and they had serious problems maintaining a balance between offense and defense (which is why, of course, they could completely dominate us but allow four goals… and be saved a fifth by a poor offside call). My sense is that with Johnson always forward there and Carragher not very fleet of foot, there will be big gaps to exploit. If we put speed in our front line, I think we will burn them.

  6. Give Olympiacos some credit….we had a tough time with them with in the first match at home with our top squad….the youngsters did great…Cruise is the only boy i question, he’s not near ready.

    1. Yeah, in my opinion, the only weak link we had in last year’s FA youth cup win was Cruise, but he didn’t do that badly either.

  7. 4-4-2 Baby! I’m sure Wenger won’t talk about it, but that is what it was. We were totally and completely owned in the midfield during the first half today. But once Nasri dropped back, things changed. That, Arshivin’s great finish, and healthy dose of luck got us the victory today.

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