Olympiakos 2-1 Arsenal: Gunners lose barely relevant game

"aw hell, did I leave the garage door open?" - Handout

Arsenal put out a team of young players, typical substitutes, and Sebastian Squillaci against Olympiakos in Greece. They lost.

0-1 Tomas Rosicky 38'
1-1 Giannis Maniatis 65'
2-1 Konstantinos Mitroglou 73'

With qualification to the knockout rounds of the Champions League already assured and the runners up in more than one group looking better than their winners, the result of the group-capping match at Olympiakos mattered about as much this year as it did last year, when Arsenal had the group safely won. The team that took the field was approximately the same quality, and while they showed some flashes (including taking a first-half lead), it ended the same way.

The most interesting thing about the match was Tomas Rosicky's performance. He scored Arsenal's goal in the 38th minute - a powerful finish after Aaron Ramsey and Gervinho made good moves in the box to create the opportunity. While Arsenal were hit-or-miss in the first half, Rosicky was generally good, and looked about the same as he did at his best last season, when he was one of the side's most important players. He was taken out of the game at halftime and replaced by Andrey Arshavin. It was his first start this year, and first after returning from injury, so that likely played a role in the quick hook. It's also possible that Rosicky has a role to play this weekend, whether starting or on the bench. It would be really nice to get a rest for Santi Cazorla, so I'm hopeful we'll be seeing him again soon.

Additionally, there was (presumably) a bit of controversy over Olympiakos' first goal. A free header wasn't covered well, and it appeared that the ball beat Wojciech Szczesny at his far post and ricocheted off the woodwork out of bounds. It was called a corner for Olympiakos despite his protestations, and (of course) it led to a goal. Szczesny was booked for his protests, and honestly by my eyes I'm on his side: it really looked like he didn't touch the ball. The defending should have been better in both cases, certainly, but it's not entirely certain why we have officials behind the net if they don't actually do anything.

Other than that, it's time to start looking at who we can draw in the next round. With a second place finish in the group Arsenal will get one of the group winners: presently, some groups are undecided, with matches left to play tomorrow, but the leaders are Paris Saint-Germain, Schalke 04, Malaga, Borussia Dortmund, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, and Manchester United. We can't play against the winners of our own group, nor a team from the same country, so Schalke and United are out. Valencia could pass Munich; Juventus could pass Shakhtar. Other outcomes are also possible, but unlikely. It's unfortunate that Arsenal didn't win the group, but when you look at potential and likely group runners-up (Porto, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Juventus, Valencia, Celtic) there are some dandies in there, too. It would be just our luck to win the group and draw Madrid in the round of 16.

So it goes.

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