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Pure and Absolute Domination
Does anyone really need any commentary on last night’s 2-nil victory over Olympiakos? It was just pure, absolute domination for 90 minutes. Olympiakos registered only one true scoring opportunity but Mannone came up trumps when called upon not long after the restart.
As the match was getting into the later stages and it looked like it might be one of those nights when Arsenal just can’t get the ball to actually cross the goalline, I was thinking to myself that, if this match finished scoreless, it would’ve been the most one-sided nil-nil draw I had ever seen.
The Greek keeper, Nikopolidis, had what was likely the match of his life as he kept out shot after shot dealing with what was essentially a barrage of scoring opportunities for the Arsenal. It really did look like one of those nights.
However, Eduardo continues to show that he can be just as important and productive for the side when played wide left as when he is played down the middle. This is the second time this season that we’ve seen him make a great run with the ball in the box and get to the touchline and cut the ball back for an assist.
Robin van Persie’s 79th minute-goal broke the deadlock and Arsenal really began to turn on the style then. A great sequence of passes led to the second goal for Arshavin from a very slick backheel, even if he did appear to be offside. But, in truth, even a 2-nil scoreline flatters the entire Olympiakos side except for Nikopolidis.
This being our first European match at the Emirates since that semifinal disaster against United, the result and performance were highly encouraging. Arsenal have now fully recovered from the disasters in Manchester a few weeks back, having outscored their last four opponents 9-nil in two Premier League matches, one Carling Cup match, and last night’s Champions League match. Arsenal are now three points clear of Olympiakos at the top of Group H.
We really cannot underestimate the importance of four consecutive clean-sheets in three competitions. The City match was an anomaly and I have to say that I am really pleased, and a bit surprised, at how effective the new partnership has become so quickly.
But it’s not just as a partnership. Gallas looks even better than he did during the few months before his season-ending injury last campaign. For me, it has to be down to confidence. Toure was never a true centerback and it’s obvious that Gallas never had full confidence in his partner. With Vermaelen it’s there and each knows that the other will be there to cover for him.
In other news, Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere both played 60 minutes in a specially-arranged Reserves fixture against the Olympiakos Reserves yesterday, which saw the home side win 3-1. Walcott assisted, from the right, on Gilles Sunu’s opening goal and, of course, you can get a full report on the match from Young Guns.
Well, that’s it. We seem to have come through the match without picking up any serious knocks. Rosicky looked sharp and has walked right back into the side looking as if he’s never been away, which is interesting because the last time he played it was a completely different formation with different personnel. That just shows his overall class and quality as a footballer. Rosicky staying healthy could be one of the biggest keys to our season.
Arsenal now sit atop their Champions League group, are six points off the Premier League leaders but with a game in hand and are through to the fourth-round of the Carling Cup having drawn Liverpool at home. Not bad for a club in crisis…
This has been achieved without Walcott, until now without Rosicky and Vela, and without Samir Nasri. Most Premier League sides would kill for four players of that quality going forward and yet we remain within striking distance of the top despite missing them.
The two losses in a row at Manchester made it look like there was something wrong at the club but those were two incredibly tough away fixtures. And the scheduling made it look worse than it was. If we had lost to United in September and then City away in February, there would have been no “crisis.”
Also, it’s not as if we went up there and completely tanked two matches. We were by far the better side against United and were unlucky to come away from Middle Eastlands with nothing.
By bouncing back straight away from those results, the team has shown character and determination and I believe we have recovered some of the team spirit that was lost last season, for many reasons. When we regain full fitness, I believe this team will be determined to push on from last season and I just smile when I see the so-called “pundits” writing us off because they do so at their own peril.