Morning guys. Probably just a short blog today ahead of the match. I talked quite a bit about this match yesterday, especially about Olympiacos, and you can read that entry below. A few things I'd like to get to before kickoff though, so I'll get right to it.
Disappointing reports about Abu Diaby who is in line to miss about three weeks of action with a thigh injury. What can we say, other than we probably shouldn't be too surprised by this. I feel terrible for him, especially after having a pretty nice start to the season, and let's hope this is just a minor hitch. I suspect he would have started today's match had he been fit, so it effects us directly and immediately. Fortunately for Arsenal we have some options in midfield, and we shouldn't suffer too badly over his absence, at least in the short-term.
That said, it appears we may have one less option than expected as Mikel Arteta is struggling with an ankle problem. If Arteta can't go, that leaves us with a likely starting duo of Cazorla and Coquelin, and one of a few different options for the third spot. Depending on how Wenger manipulates the formation, we could see AOC, Ramsey, Arshavin or possibly even Frimpong. If it were up to me, I'd go with Ox, or anybody but Ramsey. Should be interesting to see how it unfolds, but needless to say we won't be at our absolute best in midfield, and it would have been nice to have Wilshere available for this one.
As for the defence, I'd expect Gibbs, Jenkinson, Vermaelen and Mertesacker. Koscielny didn't have a very good day against Chelsea and I think Mertesacker is a better option against Olympiacos, who figure to be physical, and dangerous on set pieces. In truth, we've done better with Mertesacker all season, and I fear for Koscielny that he may have officially been demoted to a second choice centre-back, but I guess that remains to be seen.
Up front, I'm hoping for Podolski, Gervinho and Giroud. I think Giroud deserves a shot at starting a match. I've talked a lot about how much pressure we've put on him, and bringing him on late in the match when we're at desperation point probably isn't helping. Podolski seems pretty automatic and Gervinho has played about as well as anybody on the squad this season so I don't see any reason for him to take a seat in a match as important as this one.
And it is indeed important It's not enough for us to get out of this group. We need to win it. It was a favorable draw for us and we need to take advantage of that. The Montpelier match was on the nervy side, especially in the second half, and I'm hoping we can do better this time around. In contrast to Arsenal Olympiacos are plowing through their league matches, but struggled against Schalke in their first Champion's League fixture, so they'll be desperate for a win at The Emirates. It feels unlikely, but we'll need to be on full alert to avoid a poor result. Enjoy the match Gooners, see you tomorrow.
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Some of you may not know a lot about Olympiacos so I thought I'd take this opportunity to examine their squad and current form. For starters, they have played five Greek Super League matches and have taken all 15 points, enough to be three points clear of PAOK and Panionios in what has been a competitive start to the campaign. They boast a +10 goal difference and appear to be the side to beat, and their form is something we will need to be both aware of, and concerned about. The reigning league champions have picked up where they left off in 2011-2012, where they were also winners of the Greek Cup.
Olympiacos will be hurt by the loss of 24-year-old Belgian international Kevin Mirallas who transferred to Everton over the Summer for a fee of £6m. He scored 20 goals for them last season, and is widely regarded as one of the best young talents in the Prem. While Mirallas' departure will hinder their goal scoring prowess, 28-year-old Algerian striker Rafik Zoheir is off to a great start to the new campaign, already notching six goals in four League appearances. He is an extremely dangerous striker, who is known for his ambidexterity and goal poaching abilities.
The Red-Whites have also played very well in defence, allowing just three goals in their five league matches. The defense is flanked by a pair of talented fullbacks, Giannis Maniatis and José Holebas, both of whom are Greek internationals, despite Holebas being born in Germany.
The only loss for the Greek side this season came from their first Champion's League fixture against Schalke, in a 1-2 affair at Karaiskakis Stadium. You can view the match highlights here.
Speaking of Karaiskakis Stadium, we'll do well to take 3 points in this home fixture, because traveling to Piraeus will be one of the greatest challenges we face in group stage, as it is considered one of European football's most intimidating atmospheres. Schalke were fortunate to escape with the points, and replicating their performance will not be an easy task.
So there's your crash course on Olympiacos. I'll be back tomorrow with a more Arsenal-centric preview of this match, including news on Abu Diaby, who will not play in this fixture, nor any fixtures for the next three weeks or so. Thanks for reading guys. See you in the morning.
Monday, October 1, 2012
Morning everybody. Needless to say, Saturday's result wasn't quite what I was hoping for. In my preview of this match, I said I felt like a draw would be somewhat disappointing, so dropping all the points was something beyond disappointing. That said, I feel as though I may have underestimated Chelsea. This was the first time this season that I really intently watched them play, and their quality was clearly evident, even with the unexpected absence of Lampard. They remain at the top of the table and as of this weekend, I can definitely see why. I think there's a silver lining to this cloud though, and I'm not totally gutted by the loss.
The fact that we kept it close says something about us. To be honest, I think we could have easily lost that match by two or three goals, but we didn't allow ourselves to be completely overcome, and held on strong until the end. I think if last year's Arsenal team were on the pitch, we could have struggled badly, something akin to the 8-2 disaster. We were outplayed in nearly every aspect of the match, but keeping our composure allowed us to remain in contention for a point, and I think that speaks to our maturity as well as our quality.
Looking back, the hard part to swallow is that we looked a little bit foolish on both of Chelsea's goals. That's been a disturbing trend for us over the past few seasons. We seem to beat ourselves. As well as we've played on defence under Bould, we still look confused and disorganized on set pieces. The good news is that I see that as something that can be fixed, but until we actually fix it, we're going to see goals scored on us like the ones we did on Saturday, and that isn't the type of play consistent with winning trophies.
That isn't really to say that Chelsea's goals were lucky, or totally a result of our own mishaps. Torres had to work for his goal and it was fairly impressive, but the fact that Luiz came within a hair of heading it in himself, totally unmarked, points to the fact that one way or another, we didn't have it quite right. In other words, that goal was always going to happen, and it was just a matter of who was going to have it. Koscielny will be blamed, but you can't properly mark two men with one man, especially when you're playing a side like Chelsea.
I don't know how many times I've seen Mata's goal, if that's what we're calling it, and I'm still not sure what to make of it. It was just an odd sequence of events in a short space of time that left me with a "what the **** just happened" look on my face. It looked like a great ball that was intentionally played to Koscielny, who finished nicely, while Mannone just seemed to sit and watch it all unfold.
Koscielny won't walk away from this match feeling good about it, but to be fair, a lot of guys on our side had a howler. Rarely, if ever, will I take a shot at an Arsenal player, but Aaron Ramsey was awful and for me, he isn't a player of enough quality to be starting matches of this caliber. Every now and then he plays a beautiful ball, but they are too few and far between and I don't think he is ready for, nor deserving of the playing time Wenger is giving him. I know he's young and that's fine, but if we're competing for trophies, I think we ought to put our best XI on the pitch and I would have much preferred to see Walcott, or Giroud, or some other combination of players wherein Ramsey wasn't one of them.
But again, nobody had a really great match. Cazorla even looked human for the first time in an Arsenal shirt, and I think he was somebody who was going to have to have a great performance for us to win. If anybody looked good, I think it was Gervinho. I'm not sure what has happened with him, but he looks so much better than he did last year. I think it's partly positioning, but there is something else going on as well. Probably confidence, and let's hope he can keep it up because he's looking dangerous, and more like a striker than anybody else on the team so far.
No time for us to pout about this result. As I said, it wasn't a complete disaster and I hope we've learned a thing or two from it. The gap between ourselves and the top of the table is starting to be a little bit of a concern, but it's still very early and our schedule, at least as far as the Prem, is about to ease up a little bit. From here, we need to pick up the pieces and get ready for a midweek Champion's League fixture with Olympiakos which will be no walk in the park, but if we can get the points, we'll be in great shape. Chin up Gooners, and I'll see you tomorrow morning.