By Avenell Dave
I’m starting to get bored of all the negativity surrounding Arsenal at the moment.
Yes, we lack the swagger we had in our pomp and yes, we lack the superstars capable of getting bums off seats and pulling off results when all hope seems to be lost.
But while we would all have liked last night’s victory over Olympiacos to have been more convincing and less tricky, this is the Champions League and there is no such thing as an easy game.
Last time I looked, we had nine players injured and a handful of others rested, vitally, ahead of the North London derby and because they’ve played all the games so far.
Thomas Vermaelen, Jack Wilshere and RvP would be the first names on our teamsheet, and their absence deprived us of our spine.
I have no doubt that Aaron Ramsey and the highly impressive, if raw, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have fine careers ahead of them and the latter showed glimpses of the talent that has had Arsene Wenger proclaiming that he will be a star in Arsenal colours.
While everyone derides Pat Rice – and ideally we’d prefer to see Le Boss on the touchline – he’s right when he says that we have to take care not to hype The OC up too much, but if Theo Walcott was watching last night, he must have been concerned about the aptitude of someone who is clearly far more of a natural footballer than he is.
While all the post-match comments seem to be about our creaking defence, that misses the point.
Yes, the short corners caused us problems in the first half and we could have dealt with their goal better, but in the second half, although the visitors were very unlucky with the shot which hit the crossbar, they didn’t create any other chances of note.
When I read The Sun’s report this morning, which said that Szcz had to be in world class form to deny Olympiacos throughout the game, I could only chuckle at the crazy exaggeration which bore no resemblance to the game I witnessed.
Per Mertesacker may not be fast but his positional sense – as all those around me concurred – is awesome and he hardly put a foot wrong. He knows when to pass and when to clear the ball and the revelations that he almost joined us LAST summer underline the fact that he was not the panic buy everyone assumes he was.
Andre Santos netted his first goal for the club and had a very solid game at left back by simply doing the simple stuff well. He's still settling into the team, but given that Arshavin did very little to stop Olympiacos from flooding down their right flank, I though Santos handled the pressure well and with Kieran Gibbs pushing for selection, we'll hopefully have two good full backs tyring their hardest to make that position their own as the season progresses.
Yes, Maraoune Chamakh is not a world class striker, but he worked hard, chased after chances and apart from fluffing one good opportunity on his weaker foot – a sin many footballers are guilty of – I thought he did ok.
We have to help him and support him because RvP cannot play every game and we don’t have a whole load of other options, but he is not as terrible as some are suggesting.
More of a concern to me is the form of AA23. He has been a letdown for so long and with his contract up in a year and a half, I can see him being moved on at some point, maybe to the Russian team with more money than sense.
Sh*te H*rt L*ne will be a completely different affair on Sunday and of course far more intense and far more important. We simply cannot lose if we are to keep the momentum going, retain our belief and keep the media vultures off our backs.
But as far as last night goes, weren’t we the only English team to win in the Champions League??