In a season that seemed like Arsenal fans had seen the peak-level of frustration possible, they were shown how wrong they were. With a 1-0 agg. cushion, heading into this evening’s game against Olympiacos, Arsenal will have felt the in a good place to see themselves advance. History was on their side, recent results have seen them in good form, and in competitions with two legs you always like to stake your chances at home.
All of this simply adds to the frustration and anger Arsenal will have after a static, stale performance has led to a 2-1 win for Olympiacos and seen them advance on the away goals rule. Arteta picked a very strong side, one that has seen them win three straight games and produced a much higher level of play, but were overall very poor as Arsenal’s Europa League hopes come to an end.
Leno, Bellerin, Mustafi, Luiz, Saka, Xhaka, Ceballos, Ozil, Pepe, Lacazette, Aubameyang
Martinez, Sokratis, Torreira, Maitland-Niles, Willock, Guendouzi, Martinelli
Arsenal had a good opening 20-seconds winning themselves a corner, but any hope or excitement that may have won them from fans died after that moment. The opening half and first 105 minutes were slow paced, leading to a lot of the problems Arsenal would create for themselves. In the 12’ Arsenal worked a flurry shots from Xhaka and Pepe that ended up blocked.
Mustafi was called into action in the 18’ when he made a nice last-ditch slide to block a low cross out for a corner. Two minutes later in the 20’ Lacazette played Pepe through, down the middle, where he was sandwiched between two defenders on the edge of Olympiacos’ box. It was pretty clear Ba was the last defender that chopped down Pepe only receiving a yellow that could have easily been red. On the free kick at the top of the box, Pepe sent it high – unable to get the ball up and down from close range.
From there, the half mostly continued without anything happening. There were only 7 chances created between the two teams in the first half (Ars 3-4 Oly)
0-0 at the half.
The second half started very similar to the first half ending. Not a lot of chances created, a bit of possession from Arsenal, but their fair share of technical, let downs. Xhaka, Mustafi, and Luiz all sprayed errant passes and as a whole, Arsenal made it too easy on Olympiacos.
In the 53’, Olympiacos got what they were looking for. A corner kick found Cisse unmarked making a dash into the center of the box. Free header from 8-10 yards out – 1-0 Olympiacos.
The confidence was there, as Leno was almost immediately called back into action to make a save 4 minutes later. Pushing the ball over the bar was the best he could do, but Arsenal needed to get their heads into it and find some momentum.
72’ Torreira comes on for Dani Ceballos to change up the midfield. 76’ Xhaka does great to find Pepe who whips shot forcing a save. The keeper pushed it back out into the box and after ricocheting around it finds Lacazette on a diving, stooping header that he somehow didn’t manage to get much on nor steer it on frame.
From there Arsenal would spray a handful of shots, but none of them would threaten Olympiacos or hassle their keeper much. In the 84’ Joe Willock came on for Hector Bellerin seeing Arsenal switch to a 4-4-2 that transitions more into a 3-4-3 when they have the ball pushing Willock and Saka into the attack.
1 – 0 Olympiacos after 90’ and 1-1 agg sent us to Extra Time.
Shortly after the start, Pepe was denied a foul again at the top of the box on a pretty blatant block off, but the ref waived play on. Not much happened as far as chances but Mustafi did come up limp after a passage of defense and was subbed for Sokratis.
The first set of Extra Time saw a good chunk of possession for Arsenal, but again, they worked very few actual opportunities.
Onto the 2nd set of Extra Time. With the new rules, Arsenal were given their extra sub and used it on Gabriel Martinelli who came on for Lacazette. In the final 15 minutes, Olympiacos looked content to sit in deep and try to beat Arsenal on the counter.
In the 108’, Torreira was pinched in the midfield and Olympiacos was away with a 3v2 that worked a shot from the left. Arsenal fans breathed a sigh of relief as Leno put the shot over the bar. In the 113’, Arsenal got the goal they were searching for when Ozil played in a cross that Martinelli challenged for making it difficult to defend. The ball looped up in the air where Aubameyang was able to put it away with an emphatic bicycle kick. 1-1, Arsenal through on Aggregate.
Given how the game had gone, that goal should have proved to be enough to see Arsenal through, but when Leno conceded a cheap corner, Olympiacos made it count. Arsenal cleared the first ball but when the ball came back in, runners were lost, men weren’t marked and a second goal came. 1-2 Olympiacos through on away goals.
If that wasn’t painful enough, there was one final gasp from Arsenal at the very end. Somehow the ball found its way right to Aubameyang’s feet, 6 yards out, and Arsenal’s main man put it wide. A look of sadness and disbelief was on his face as Arsenal crashed out of the competition and their dreams of Europa League finals came to an end.