All Arsenal needed to do to advance against Olympiacos was not concede three goals. The best thing I can say about today’s match was that the Gunners didn’t concede three goals. It was not a pretty performance. Arsenal set up to kill things off from the opening whistle, and they more or less did that.
Even with the passive tactical plan, Arsenal were the better team for large stretches of the game. Olympiacos had an out-of-nothing chance that may have been offside in the first half, a decent 10-minute period in that same half in which they didn’t manage any chances, and a good opening 15 minutes to the second half in which they did get a goal. That was it.
Full credit to Mikel Arteta for immediately bringing on Martin Ødegaard and Thomas Partey when his side conceded and not waiting a second longer. The changes calmed things down noticeably and helped Arsenal regain control of the match.
Somehow Arsenal didn’t turn that control into a goal. And if I’m Ødegaard, I’m a bit peeved I didn’t wind up with multiple assists on the day (not actually). Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang didn’t convert several chances, including a half-breakaway and a full-on breakaway. Aubameyang had 1.71 xG-worth of chances today on his own. Overall, the Gunners had 2.58 xG overall to just .71 xG from Olympiacos.
I thought Nicolas Pépé had a pretty good game. He was a bit loose on the ball, but I think that’s just what you’re going to get from him. He was involved in the attack and looked dangerous. He stubbed his shot on a good chance and was unfortunate to have another shot that looked labeled for the corner deflect off Emile Smith Rowe and over the bar. ESR looked lively and had a good one, as well.
It was an evening to forget for Dani Ceballos. I’m not sure what was slower today, his decision-making or his feet — not the kind of performance you want to put in when you’re trying to stake a claim for additional minutes. Thomas Partey also looks not quite fully fit after his most recent injury. Hopefully the upcoming international break helps him to get all the way back.
Whatever you thought of the performance, Arsenal are through to the next round, and they didn’t have to spend too much energy to manage it. That’s a job well done in my book.