Olympiakos vs. Arsenal: 5 Talking Points

Published 12/10/2015, 4:16 AM EST

The Gunners, who hadn’t won in their last three visits to Olmpiakos, all of which co-incidentally came on gameweek 6 in the Champions League group stages of those respective seasons, needed to win by a two goal margin or more to qualify for the knockout stages of Europe’s elite footballing competition. Under pressure, having lost their home tie against the Greeks, Arsenal came up with a professional victory and went awy with a 0-3 win. Olivier Giroud was the man of the moment, scoring a brilliant hat-trick, taking his season’s tally to thirteen goals.


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Having started off badly in the competition, Arsenal were threatened with getting knocked out to the Europa League, a fate suffered by their domestic rivals Manchester United a night before, but good results against Bayern Munich and Dinamo Zagreb at home and last night’s performance saw Arsene Wenger’s men qualify for the knock out stages for the 16th season in a row, a record matched only by Spanish giants Real Madrid. Let’s have a look at some of the key takeaways from the game


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Despite a Strong Gameplan, Olympiakos Were Made to Rue Missed Chances

Olympiakos enjoyed a good start to the game before Giroud put Arsenal in the lead

Arsenal set out with an attacking intent from the kick-off, probably expecting Olympiakos to sit deep and defend, as they just needed to lose by less than two goals to go through. But Marcos Silva’s men had different plans, as they countered Arsenal with attacking intent of their own, and this unsettled the Gunners. For the first twenty minutes, it was the Greek side who controlled the ball the most and created more chances, taking advantage of Arsenal’s eagerness to get in front. Walcott started out on the right and his lack of tracking back, coupled with Mertesacker playing on the right side of Arsenal’s central defence, saw Olympiakos attack Arsenal mainly through that route, with Bellerin offered little protection, but the Greeks failed to take advantage of their early domination. Wenger saw what was going on, and soon swapped Walcott and Campbell, and the right hand side became more solid and soon enough Arsenal grew into the game and started creating chances of their own, leading up to their first goal, after which the Gunners never looked back

Aaron Ramsey is Relishing his Return to the Middle

Aaron Ramsey set up Olivier Giroud with Arsenal’s opener

Injuries to Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin have left Arsenal light in midfield, with the likes of Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Rosicky also out, and saw Aaron Ramsey returned to his place in the midfield pivot alongside Mathieu Flamini. Ramsey has mostly been deployed on the right hand side by Arsene Wenger this season, and while he has put in some impressive performances there, he was having trouble finding the back of the net and getting more directly involved. Having switched to midfield, the Welshman has started to find the form that made him so crucial for Arsenal in the 2013/14 season. Ramsey notched a goal and an assist in their last match against Sunderland and set up Olivier Giroud for Arsenal’s opener last night. Ramsey looked lively and was involved in most of Arsenal’s moves going forward and put in a good shift defensively as well. Cazorla was starting to look ineffectual in his last few matches before his injury, and maybe the change in personnel was needed in the key area that is their midfield. Ramsey offers a different set of skills in the middle of the park, with his more direct approach and late runs into the box, giving Arsenal a different outlook for getting goals as well. So far, Ramsey has looked good in the middle, but he is yet to be tested against tougher opposition, although he will get that oppurtunity when Arsenal come up against Manchester City next Monday.

Joel Campbell Slowly Starting to Show his Worth

Campbell vies for the ball with Olympiakos’ Patjim Kasami

Joel Campbell put in a magnificent performance against his former loan team, setting up Giroud’s second goal after some brilliant ball control and an incisive well timed pass. The Costa Rican has come under criticism off late, with some disappointing performances in the league, although he was impressive in their win over Zagreb in their last Champions League match and scored a goal in Arsenal’s win over Sunderland. But last night was probably his best display in an Arsenal shirt, as he looked sharp and provided a constant threat to the Olympiakos defence. The winger also provided good cover for his full-backs, tracking back and helping Arsenal to a clean sheet.

Campbell linked up well with Mesut Ozil on a couple of occasions and was one of Arsenal’s best outlets going forward early on. Campbell almost set up Flamini when it was goalless, but the Frenchman’s shot was deflected onto the post. He carried on being industrious and in the second half received a chipped pass from Ozil, held off an Olympiakos defender, before playing in a lovely pass for Olivier Giroud who made no mistake with his finish, sealing the result for Arsenal. The Costa Rican walked off to a standing applause from both Arsenal fans and Olympiakos fans, and if he keeps his focus and puts in more performances like this, Arsene Wenger’s patience in the wide man will pay off.

Olivier Giroud’s Hat-trick

Olivier Giroud with the match ball after his majestic hat-trick

The Frenchman was at his clinical best, as he notched his first ever hat-trick for Arsenal. The striker was calm and composed, and grabbed the all important goals for Arsenal. His first came from a lovely Aaron Ramsey cross, powering home a thundering header. His second was a coolly taken goal, finished first time from a layoff by Joel Campbell. The third was probably the easiest, as he rounded off his treble from the penalty spot. It was probably Giroud’s best performance in an Arsenal shirt, and it could not have come at a better time. The goals apart, Giroud was a constant menace, using his physical presence to bring his teammates into play from counter attacks.

The Frenchman now has 13 goals in the season, and boasts an average of 1.65 non-penalty goals per 90 minutes in the Champions League, a stat bettered by only a few. His hat-trick also means that he now has more Champions League goals for Arsenal than revered legend Dennis Bergkamp, and he has scored them having played 19 matches fewer than the Dutchman. Giroud has been in terrific form this season and this hat-trick will only boost his confidence even more. Arsenal fans can hope that more such performances will follow suit, as they look ready to mount a serious title challenge and have also secured their way through to the next round of the Champions League.


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Arsene Wenger Got his Tactics Spot On

Arsene Wenger in a press conference before the Olympiakos match

Wenger got Arsenal to start off on the front foot, but was surprised by Olympiakos’ adventurous start to the match. but Wenger saw his team’s weaknesses and immediately switched Campbell to the right, to protect Bellerin, and stabilised the defence. The move turned the game around and Arsenal soon grew into the game and looked comfortable from the half-hour mark on wards. It was a crucial tie and the Frenchman needed to get his tactics right, and he did just that. The pivot of Ramsey and Flamini also worked out well for Arsenal, as they raced on to their third clean sheet in the Champions League.


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Dhruv George

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Dhruv George is a senior Formula One and NASCAR analyst for EssentiallySports, having authored nearly 12000 articles spanning different sports like F1, NASCAR, Tennis, NFL, and eSports. He graduated with a PG Diploma in Journalism from the Xavier Institute of Communications. Dhruv has also conducted interviews with F1 driver Pierre Gasly and Moto2 rider Tony Arbolino.