Arsenal get a precious win at a critical point in their season. Two straight wins, three straight clean sheets, and another hurdle cleared as they keep their momentum going. It was a night filled with cautious tactics, a few moments of shaky play, but in the end, Arteta and the players are proven right and given their reward.
After a match against Newcastle that showcased an Arsenal attack thrashing through Newcastle’s defense, we saw a different team build with different tactics to showcase a more cautious approach. However, all the players were on the same page with one another and Arteta to put it all together – something we didn’t necessarily see under Emery.
Arteta’s first European match was crowned by a late Lacazette goal to see Arsenal leave Greece was a 1-0 win and a nice cushion to bring back to London.
Leno, Sokratis, Mustafi, Luiz, Saka, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Willock, Martinelli, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Martinez, Maitland-Niles, Holding, Kolasinac, Ceballos, Pepe, Nketiah
For the second game in a row, Arsenal found themselves on the backfoot and looking a little bit off the pace to begin the game. This time in an away setting surrounded by a crowd boisterously rallying against them. Olympiacos came out of the gates with a purpose, forcing Arsenal into early mistakes and leading to two chances that should have been converted.
Arsenal were let off the hook when Leno made a brilliant save to get down on a Valbuena volley and Olympiacos were barely able to get on the rebound. This was followed by a header from closer range that went just over the bar leaving Arsenal feeling a bit scrambled to catch up and get some footing in the game.
Similar to the game against Newcastle, it took Arsenal 20 minutes to find their first chance and it was a good one that Lacazette will have been frustrated not to finish. Martinelli with a great piece of effort to keep the ball from going over the end line, inside the box, cut it back to Lacazette at the top of the six-yard box, who snatched at it and put it wide.
From there on, Arsenal seemed to make strides toward controlling the game through longer spans of possession. Although they only managed 4 shots in the half, they had also calmed down the pace of the game to switch the momentum. Arsenal were clearly cautious to launch numbers forward into the attack with a lineup that could be exposed – Sokratis playing right back – and in a hostile environment which is justifiable.
Zero – Zero at the half.
Again, Arsenal started the half poorly. Sloppy play and inconsistent passing causing themselves more trouble than they needed. Thankfully, Olympiacos also started the half with sloppy play resulting in an inability to make anything of the gifts Arsenal were presenting them.
The first change of the game came from Arteta who subbed on Dani Ceballos for Gabriel Martinelli and moving Joe Willock to the wing.
The evening continued and so did Arsenal’s cautious approach. A couple chances here and there cropped up but were squandered by Arsenal attackers without causing much trouble.
A momentary worry for Arsenal’s defense on a free kick that led to a free header inside the six-yard box. An offside flag would likely have nullified a goal, but it didn’t matter as Leno managed to make an incredible save on the pointblank shot. Leno with a solid performance making 3 saves – all at critical times.
After 75 minutes of caution, Arteta looked to inject a little more attack into the lineup by adding Pepe to the mix for Joe Willock. Pepe took the right wing, sliding Aubameyang back to the left where he has played in all his games under Arteta. This was a move that would pan out for the Gunners, although their goal came almost out of nothing.
Mustafi played a long-range pass across the field to find Aubameyang who died great work to get onto the end of a ball that took a skip across the rainy, wet surface. From there he settled it and found Saka in acres of space making a run into the box. Once Saka was on the ball it was all too easy to play a low cross into the six to meet an oncoming Lacazette for a tap-in lead.
From there, Arsenal should have put away all hopes for Olympiacos but couldn’t make the most of their chances. A counterattack saw Arsenal with a 5v2 break ending with Lacazette having a strike and forcing a save. It was a good strike, but one that he could have or should have done better with to stick into the back of the net. Off the ensuing corner, Sokratis put his header off the crossbar followed by a Mustafi rebound header that went wide.
There were definite chances to extend the lead, a few chances early to concede goals but with a win and a critical away goal, Arsenal will return to the Emirates for the second leg in a week to hopefully punch their ticket into the next round. First, they take on Everton at the weekend.