Thursday, 10 December 2015

Giroud Shines As Arsenal Progress

Arsenal didn't have the greatest record away to Olympiacos before last night, but there was nothing riding on the previous games which Olympiacos won. Last night was do or die for both teams with a place in the knockout stages as the reward for the winner. It wasn't going to be easy away to a team with a 100% record in their domestic league.

Olympiacos had already won 3-2 at Arsenal and Arsenal were the ones with all the work to do. There were plenty of scenarios but Arsenal had to win and a win by any other result except 1-0 and 2-1 was what they needed. It looked like a very tough task on the face of it with players like Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin unavailable through injury. 

The only question for me before the game was whether Joel Campbell or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would get the nod with the rest of the team more or less picking itself. Arsene Wenger opted for Campbell  with Chamberlain only just back from injury and it proved to be an inspired choice with Campbell playing a pivotal role. I haven't been his biggest fan by a long stretch, but the run of games he's getting is making him look more and more like fulfilling the potential of the huge prospect we signed. 

I had hoped before the game for somebody to step up and put in an away performance akin to some of those Thierry Henry gave us not so long ago. From a strikers perspective Olivier Giroud did just that with a hat trick on the night to silence his critics and the Olympiacos fans too. It was great to watch on my TV and hear the Arsenal fans singing their hearts out once the home fans were silenced. I have no doubt that those fantastic travelling fans were singing well before then, but they could rarely be heard over the home fans who were trying to invoke an intimidating atmosphere.

Not too much happened early on with neither keeper bothered until a great run and cut back from Campbell found Mathieu Flamini and his effort was deflected on to the bar when it looked certain to go in. Arsenal got a hold of the game then and Mesut Ozil fed Aaron Ramsey down the right. His cross was met by the head of Giroud and beat the keeper at the near post for the all important first goal. Giroud did brilliantly to get his head to the ball and I'm still not sure how he managed to put it away.

Half time came and went with the impetus with Arsenal and Olympiacos rarely threatening their goal. When they did come forward they faced an inspired Laurent Koscielny who showed why some rate him as the best central defender in the Premier League. He was ably assisted by the ever reliable Nacho Monreal and both Hector Bellerin and Per Mertesacker who improved after slightly worrying starts. Behind the four of them was the imperious sight of Petr Cech who must never be rested again and proved exactly what a bargain Arsenal got last summer and why Jose Mourinho didn't want to sell him to us.

The second half had only just started when Giroud went down clutching his ankle and I worried that the injury curse had struck again. He got up and moved forward and within seconds he had bagged the crucial second goal after some great work from Campbell left him with only the keeper to beat. Arsenal had their fortunes back in their own hands now and another goal would seal it.

Olympiacos knew they had to offer more, but Arsenal held firm and Cech was on hand whenever they did get a shot in. The absolute killer came midway through the half when an Olympiacos defender was harshly adjudged to have handled the ball deliberately and that man Giroud stepped up to put the keeper the wrong way from the spot.

It was game over for Olympiacos at that stage as they needed three goals to qualify and their players knew it. Arsenal saw out the game with relative ease and it was their fans who could be heard singing as the locals went quiet. They're through to the knockout stages yet again and it's fully deserved no matter how badly they started the group.

Giroud scored his first hat trick for the club and was the man who delivered when the team needed it most. His red card in the opening group game is a distant memory and he should be proud of his performance last night. He's on a really good streak at the moment and hopefully he can continue that over the busy festive period.

The last 16 holds some possible daunting prospects, but it's got to be better to be in the draw than in the last 32 of the Europa League and playing European football on a Thursday night. Those games won't be until February though and there's an awful lot of football to be played before them starting with a trip to the Premier League's basement club on Sunday afternoon. A win at Villa will put Arsenal top of the table ahead of Leicster's game with Chelsea on Monday night and it would be the perfect way to end a great week.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.


  1. Your blog says that the game against Villa is on Saturday afternoon.Mick...the game against Villa is on Sunday 13th December..k/o 13:30 Cheers Bud.

  2. Thanks Tony I blame the auto correct and my big fingers as I wrote it on my phone.