That was the most careless performance I’ve ever seen from an Arsenal side. I lost count of the sloppy passes, the hesitancy on the ball and the indecision that saw us caught in possession repeatedly. No wonder Wenger was going barmy on the sidelines, for this was actually a stronger side than the one which outplayed Man City last week as Vermaelen and Santos started.
Who else but the useless Fabianski set the tone for the evening in the very first minute when he made a terrible clearance which came straight back and fizzed across the area. That was lucky escape number one and more were to follow later.
We shrugged that off though and for the next 15 minutes dominated the game, looking good in possession and causing the nervous Greeks plenty of problems. On eight minutes Arshavin sped onto Chamakh’s pass and shot straight at the keeper from six yards. It genuinely looked like he couldn’t be arsed shooting either side of him.
A few minutes later Frimpong drove at a retreating back line and fed Chamakh, whose shot was blocked before Frimpong lashed the rebound into the side netting. At this stage I thought we looked good and a win was probable, but I’d forgotten Szczesny wasn’t in goal.
Vermaelen then gave Fabianski an awkward back pass and the Pole’s sliced clearance was poor, eventually being hit wide by Kevin Mirallas.
Soon afterwards Squillaci stopped an attempted through ball and was unlucky to see it rebound off Djourou and into the path of Djebbour. He was going away from goal and there seemed time for Djourou or Squilaci to get back, but the Madness of King Fabianski took centre stage as he rushed out of his goal like an excited eight year old. Djebbour had the simple task of sidestepping him before stroking the ball into the empty net.
On 25 minutes more hesitancy at the back saw a dangerous ball flash across the area and Fabianski injured himself as he tried to deal with it. I was pleased to see him go off so that Mannone could get his chance, but I guess you should be careful what you wish for!
Stick a couple of keepers on the January shopping list Arsene
Ten minutes before the break Frimpong was robbed inside his own half and a through ball was headed clear by Mannone outside his area. “Good awareness Vito,” I thought to myself as the ball was lobbed back towards goal by Fuster. No problem, for the Italian was by now five yards inside his area but inexplicably he didn’t realise this
and tried to clear the bouncing ball with his foot, only to miss it completely and watch it trickle into the goal. Fuster actually looked embarrassed.
With halftime approaching we now had the proverbial mountain to climb. Confidence throughout the side had disintegrated thanks to shocking goalkeeping and hesitant defending, with only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Yossi Benayoun seemingly immune. They combined well shortly before the interval as Benayoun volleyed AOC’s cross just wide as we tried to inch our way back into the game.
At halftime Wenger’s hands were tied as Santos had also got injured, so he only had one sub left and understandably didn’t want to use it yet. Still, whatever he said in those 15 minutes didn’t work. Olympiacos were first to everything again after the break and pressured us into more silly mistakes. Yet out of nothing we pulled a goal back when Chamakh inadvertently chested the ball down to Benayoun who lashed a superb volley in for 2-1.
Game on? No, not really.
Immediately there was a mix up between Mannone and Squillaci and somehow Modesto missed the target with a simple header when it looked easier to score.
It’s usually Greeks who bear gifts, but all night long we were the benevolent ones.
We created one more decent chance when Rosicky played in Arshavin but he couldn’t turn the ball square for an unmarked AOC to tap in. Then Mellberg (who’s 34 and a long way past his best) beat everyone in the air to nod a corner against the post and Modesto tapped in the rebound to wrap up a comfortable win.
This was a real chance for the fringe players to build on last week’s performance and put pressure on the first XI. AOC did that and Benayoun played well, but the one who came out of the game with his reputation most enhanced was Szczesny. Neither Fabianski or Mannone look Premiership standard. When you consider we’ve just recalled our fourth choice keeper James Shea from Dagenham & Redbridge because he wasn’t good enough to get a game there, it really illustrates our weakness in that department.
In fact, I’ve just thought of a new joke:
Q. What’s the difference between Fabianski, Mannone and Almunia?
It’s not funny is it. I hope Szczesny was watching the match wearing a giant coat of cotton wool because if anything happens to him we are screwed.
The injury to Santos is a big concern and with hindsight it looks like a poor decision to play him. He’s played a lot of football recently what with Gibbs’ injury and surely was one of those “on the edge” as Wenger claimed last week, so I was surprised to see Miquel not start. Let’s hope he’s OK for Everton on Saturday.
As for Fabianski, I really don’t care.
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