Beyond an Arsenal win, I’m really not sure what I just watched. There were elements of “same old Arsenal” and elements of “what the heck just happened” in today’s 3-1 win over Olympiacos in the Europa League. But in the end a win and three away goals has the Gunners sitting pretty heading into the “home” leg next week.
(yeah, yeah. last year. don’t count your chickens and whatnot)
Arsenal were firmly in control in the first half. In fact it was starting to feel like those “we’re gonna rue these missed chances” kind of matches. But then T
hor flung Mjölnir Martin Ødegaard blasted a 25-yarder through Jose Sa’s hands to put the Gunners ahead. Don’t get me wrong, it did go right over his head and between his arms, but it was kind of like when the Avengers trying to lift the hammer off the table. Try as much as you want, a save just wasn’t happening there.
In distressingly typical Arsenal fashion, the Gunners gifted Olympiacos a goal to let them back into the match. You could see it coming, really. Arsenal had two or three giveaways leading to near-misses that the home side easily could have put away. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Bernd Leno played a pass into a teammate under pressure (Dani Ceballos this time), that teammate maybe tried to do too much, lost the ball, and boom, in the back of the Arsenal net.
I was about ready to give up. How many times can Arsenal keep making the exact same mistakes? It’s ridiculous. There has been clear improvement in the play of late, but they can’t seem to get out of their own way.
Credit where it’s due, Arsenal kept plugging away. They didn’t fall into the “here we go again” malaise after giving up the same stupid goal against. And they were rewarded for their efforts with a towering, authoritative headed goal from Gabriel Magalhaes. There was a brief second where I thought I might have to lead a riot on the Europa League VAR headquarters, but thankfully, Gabriel was deemed not to have fouled Yann M’Vila. Posterization isn’t against the Laws of the Game.
Mikel Arteta looked to be happy to take a 2-1 win into next week. On comes Mohamed Elneny, the guy you bring on to help shore up the defense and salt away the win. I was not pleased with the change; I wanted Arsenal to go for the jugular, get another away goal, and more or less cement their place in the Round of 8.
You know, football is a funny little game sometimes. Three minutes after coming onto the pitch, Mohamed Elneny collected the ball about 40 yards from the Olympiacos goal. The defense fell off him, almost daring him to shoot. And, well, he did just that. He ripped a thirty-yard shot off the inside of the post to put the Gunners up 3-1.
Also in the funny little game category, Willian assisted Gabriel Magalhaes goal. That’s his 7th assist of the season, most of anybody at the club.
It wasn’t the prettiest game from Arsenal by any stretch, but you don’t get style points in the box score. Three away goals and a Double-U is an successful day at the office for the Gunners. It’s mildly amusing to me that it came on a night where the side maybe didn’t play as well as they’ve been playing lately. Boy, it feels good to manage a good result from a not-so-good performance. Funny little game, and all that.