Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Champions League: Arsenal 2-0 Olympiacos

ARSENAL 2-0 olympiacos.

[the arshavin situation]
Is it worth making Arshavin unhappy in this 4-3-3? Only if it's a roaring success. can it be a roaring success with an unhappy Arshavin? No. He is, along with Fabregas, far and away our best player. So, with 4-4-1-1 seemingly consigned to the tactical dustbin, much depends on how this natural number 10 can adapt to being a roving left winger.

There were good signs on Tuesday night, and some bad ones too. He was called man of the match by David Platt. I thought that a bit of a giddy assessment because he disappeared for a long stretch in the second half. It's been noted in a few places that he's had a tendency to do that, and these sources uniformly point to his starting position as a debilatating influence. I wonder if we're all missing the point a bit, if maybe it's just in his nature to flit in and out. Then again, I guess the reasoning these people employ is that if he's in a central area it means he simply MUST be extensively involved, rather than having to go looking for the ball.

But in a way now, all of that is irrelevant. Wenger did not sign a commanding midfield presence in the Summer so playing Arshavin off a front man in a straight 4-4-1-1 is unlikely. And the manager probably feels that playing him as a third midfielder, along with Fabregas and Song, leaves us too lightweight. So it seems the left is his home. I'm not overjoyed about it, mostly because he doesn't seem to be, but he was good lastnight so let's see. (that said, the thought of him and cesc as dual central pivots is mouth-watering).

The team's performance in general against Olympiacos was encouraging, and the first half in particular saw some of the most fluid Arsenal play in a while. One move in particular, involving the aforementioned duo, ended with Fabregas- back on typical form- flicking up the ball with his right, and smashing a shot with his left that cannoned back off the crossbar. Thrilling stuff, with a high tempo despite the defending Greek hordes, and good, controlled passing despite the high pace.

Worrying in a way I suppose that it remained goalless so long, but the great merit of the possession football Arsenal now ply is that the opposition inevitably tire if the ball is kept from them for long stretches, and that seemed to allow our opener when it did arrive about twelve minutes from time. A fairly straightforward move in its way, saw Fabregas play in ub Eduardo to the left of the area and he cut back for Van Persie to end the frustration. A cheeky flick from an offside Arshavin made it 2-0 and that was that.

All in all, encouraging stuff, but Abou Diaby will drive me insane before the season is out.

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