Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Ox, Coquelin and Frimpong given Greek lesson -Gotze move back on?

Morning Gooners.

Well that's not exactly how we wanted to end the group stages of the Champions League this season or how the manager wants to remember his 200th European game in charge. But having already done the hard work and qualified for the next round, last night was an education for some of our youngsters who were given valuable game time.

As expected the manager started with both Thomas Vermaelen and Andre Santos - the only players who started the game last weekend against Wigan along with eight players who had started against Manchester City last week in the league cup.

It was another chance to see the likes of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin perform at this level. Unfortunately I think all three didn't have the best of games and this was probably a great learning experience for the trio.

In my opinion it was our ability to retain the ball in key areas which let us down. When players like Alex Song and Mikel Arteta make double the amount of passes as Coquelin (29) and Frimpong (44) did in similar games, you know that in our important midfield engine room we've been pegged back.

We should have been ahead early on as Arshavin exchanged passes with Chamakh and the Russian burst into the area only to have his shot saved by the legs of keeper Balazs Megyeri. You really want him to be taking that sort of chance. But it was not to be.

Of course it was Arshavin who lost the ball inside our area which started the Olympiacos move for their opening goal and a lucky deflection off Squillaci and Djourou which set up Djebbour for the opener. He  cooly rounded Fabianski and slotted home.

Unfortunately the Poland international suffered a deep cut to his knee and was replaced half way through the first half. But within ten minutes of Vito Mannone coming on we were two down. Again we were unable to retain possession inside our own half. The young Italian coming out of his area to head clear but only into the path of Fuster who returned the ball into the Arsenal net as Mannone was rushing back into his area.

The Italian tried to stop the ball with a swinging leg when he was safely back in his area and could have stopped the ball with his hands. You could blame him for not stopping saving the shot but I honestly don't think he knew whether he was inside his area or not. And if he had handled outside the area he'd have been sent off. We would have been down to ten men and with an outfield player in goal. Not a good situation to be in.

The Gunners were behind by two at half time and suffered another injury blow in the opening ten minutes of the second half. Andre Santo having to be stretchered off with a knee injury which Arsene Wenger said post match would leave the player short to face Everton on Saturday.

Within 15 minutes of the restart we'd pulled a goal back. Miquel, on for Santos, tossed a ball into the area which Chamakh chested back for Benayoun who volleyed into the Olympiacos net. A stunning strike and a goal to offer us confidence.

We pressed and made our final substitution of the game. Rosicky replacing Coquelin. The Frenchman was pretty anonymous so Wenger was right to take him off.

It wasn't until the final minute of normal time that the home side made sure of their victory. Mellberg headed a free kick against the post and Modesto was fastest to the ball to prod home the fourth goal of the evening. Nothing you can blame the goal keeper for but you have to ask why we weren't quicker to the ball.

Overall a disappointing result but one which doesn't matter to us.

Afterwards Arsene Wenger said:
"We had the early chances but Olympiacos played a very committed game. They made it a good battle and we lost too many balls in the first half especially. We were a bit insecure. 
"Overall they were 2-0 up because they were sharper than we were. We came back to 2-1 and it looked more like we could level, but they scored the third goal."
With Marseille beating Dortmund in Germany, it is the French club who progress with us. Olympiacos go through to the Europa League, whilst Dortmund are out of European competition all together.

Does this mean we'll have a chance in January to sign Mario Gotze?

The draw to the knock out stages takes place a week on Friday. Tonight sees the final group games played to decide the other eight teams who qualify for the next round.

There it transfer talk. The Daily Mail are reporting that Wolves manager Mick McCarthy is looking to sign both Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin on loan in January.

McCarthy has said: "If it can be done, we’ll do it." Personally I don't believe we can afford to lose both players. We've already seen them both come in and play games for us this season. Frimpong out of the two needs to gain more first team experience because Coquelin spent last season on loan at Lorient. However both could use more Premier League games.

I think we're likely to see one loaned out. But it won't be until the end of January before the manager decides who. It's far too early for this type of decision to be made given the number of games we'll play over the festive period, plus he can't predict who will be available and not injured.

Elsewhere, the club are set to unveil three statues at the ground on Friday ahead of our 125th anniversary match against Everton this weekend. The Daily Telegraph report those statues will be of Thierry Henry, Tony Adams, and Herbert Chapman. Three fine choices, but does there need to be the speculation? Can't we wait until Friday to find out?

And finally, congratulations to Arseblog who will be launching his first book - an anthology of Arsenal writing - tonight at the Tollington. I know how much hard effort must have been put into publishing So Paddy Got Up. If you're heading to the launch tonight have a great time.

Follow Ashburton Grove on Twitter, chatting Arsenal throughout the day. To receive the blog everyday you can subscribe via e-mail or take the RSS feed to your favourite reader.

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