Arsenal 2-1 Olympiakos, No natural leader. Players rating, and Arsenal loan watch for the week.

If you watched the match yesterday, you would have realised that it was a real surprise the scoreline stayed as it was after the second half began. Goals from both Oxlade-Chamberlain and Andre Santos ensured that 3 points was secured, and two very happy new players. For match highlights go to http://player.arsenal.com/player/968-olympiacos-h-bitesize the free videos provided by Arsenal. Or you could skip the video and go to the match report.

Arsene rested several players, with one eye on the weekend’s fixture against the scrums. However, he persisted with a 4-4-3, explaining it is the best system for our players. Chamakh came in for RVP, the Ox for Walcott and etc.

Arsenal pulled out of the blocks rather quickly, with some luck in the ball ricocheting back to the Ox, and the youngster made a quality finish to score his first goal in Europe. Shortly after, it should have been 1-1 but Arteta managed to clear off the line. Tellingly, the chance came from a corner, and was a sign of how unstable our zonal system was.

Andre Santos doubled the lead in the 27th minute, as Arsenal was under some pressure from Olympiakos. Again, some luck was involved as Santos crossed was cut out and the rebound came back to him, but the Brazilian showed his composure and managed to beat what-his-name at his near post. 2-0 Arsenal.

Yet again, Arsenal conceded another goal from a set piece. Olympiakos took a quick corner and played a 1-2 before crossing the ball into the box. No one was near the ball, and Torrijos reacted quickly to flick one past Szczesny. Our Polish keeper was livid with the marking, and seriously, questions have to be asked of this zonal system. The players seem confused as to when to challenge for the ball, and maybe going back to the man-marking system might be more effective for now.

From there on, it was a nervy ride, as Olympiakos hit the cross bar once, while Arsenal were unable to extend their lead despite dominating much of the second half proceedings. An interview by Tony Adams has stated that RVP has no back up as captain and that is seriously undermining the team. I would have to agree on this occasion.

Yesterday’s captain for the team was Rosicky, given that RVP was rested, and Vermaelen was out. Rosicky may be the captain for the Czech national team, but he was no leader. The squad yesterday looked bereft of composure after they conceded, and couldn’t string the passes that encompassed Arsenal previously.

It was up to the leader on the pitch to try and calm the players, and assure them that all was still within control. Unfortunately, the lack of a natural captain meant that we were found wanting in skippers, and nobody was there to compose the team.

Fortunately, Arsenal hung on and managed to come out in the second half slightly more assured. However, it highlighted more shortcomings of this Arsenal team. The fact is, we have many young and inexperienced players. We need the mature and experience players to keep the team together when they are under pressure, and most of these senior players were unable to assert any influence yesterday. Rosicky failed badly, as epitomised by his reckless challenge at the edge of the penalty box, giving away a dangerous freekick, and earning himself a booking.

RVP may have been rested yesterday, but seriously, as a calming figure, I don’t think he would have been the one. RVP speaks more to me as an galvanising symbol, someone whom you can look to for hope and inspiration. A leader who can lead you by example. Back to what Adams said, RVP needs a deputy, someone who can provide that calming ability. However, one look at this team, and we are all spoilt for choices really. I mean look, there’s Szczesny, oh wait, he’s only 19…… Yeap.

Given our poor record so far, having had 3 players red-carded, I would say the need for someone to step up and be that calming influence is imperative. However, there is nobody in the squad who can do that at the moment, either them being too young or passive to be the vocal calming leader.

So against Tottenham, a relatively stronger team than Olympiakos, there is a real need to instill self-belief into the team. Arsene has to let the team know they can’t perform as they did yesterday, putting on a rather nervy show after conceding once. Players would also do well to learn from their mistakes, such as Gervinho has.

One player singled out for mention should be Alex Song. Song and Mertesacker were assured at the back, jumping into tackles and interceptions as Arsenal gave away possession. Should Kosieclny not recover in time, Song  would haveg to stay at centre back. However, his performance yesterday wouldn’t make me very worried anyway.

Song has also mentioned that he is ready for the Scrums, and warned of Cashdebayor. Seriously, no need to worry about the cash whore, all you have to do is throw a dollar on the pitch and Cashdebayor would run lapping after the cash.

So, that’s about it today. Will end of with a rating of players, and these are purely my own views, followed by loan watch for the week. Scroll down for more! Remember to subscribe for new posts as well! Cheers.

Player ratings:

Szczesny – Composed, made a few good save, but could have done better perhaps in making the save for the goal conceded. 7

Sagna – Uncharacteristically nervous yesterday. Gave the ball away needlessly, and had trouble containing whoever was on the left flank. 6

Santos – Scored a goal, made brilliant forays down the left wing. Did well in tracking his player, making timely interceptions and worked hard. 7.5

Mertesacker – Immense at the back, making interceptions and headers. Held the backline well, and helped ensure that chances by Olympiakos were at the minimal. 7

Song – Composed, and looked at ease in the centre back position, despite playing out of position. Made a few timely tackles to deny Olympiakos any decent chances. Provided the pass to Ox for our opening goal. My man of the match in my opinion. 8

Arteta – Couldn’t venture out much, playing as a holding midfielder. Tried to make things work but couldn’t somehow. 6.5

Frimpong – An abundance of energy, putting in a few tackles to win the ball back. Made little mistakes and is developing well as a player. 7

Rosicky – Quite poor truth be told. Couldn’t do much despite trying. Earned a silly yellow card and conceding a dangerous free kick at the edge of the box. 5.5

Arshavin – One moment blowing hot, one moment cold. The Russian was found wanting some times, and frustratingly so. Despite having a shot on goal, was poor. Did not help track back, and give Santos much help. 5.5

Chamakh – Worked hard, pressing the ball from up front. Missed a decent chance to score after being put through. 6.5

Oxlade-Chamberlain – Lively, and managed to score a goal. Directness served him well at times, but saw him losing the ball as well sometimes. Decent delivery, not yet the finished article, but definitely one for the furture. 7.5

The subs are unrated because I felt they had too little time to do much, and so probably would give them all 6 for efforts.

On to loan watch of the week.

Henri Lansbury continued with his fine form for West Ham, playing 90 minutes and earning a penalty for the Hammers, helping them to a 1-0 win.

Nicklas Bendtner started for Sunderland, and played the full 90 minutes. The Dane tried but despite many chances, was thwarted by Ruddy, and unable to prevent the Black Cats from going down 2-1. Still waiting to break his duck, oh poor Mickey.

Joel Campbell came off as a substitute in the last 15 minutes of Lorient’s 1-1 draw with Lille. Campbell struggled according to reports, and was unable to conjure much, and nearly got booked following a poor tackle towards the end.

Carlos Vela started in Real Sociedad’s 2-1 defeat to Real Mallorca. Again, not being Spanish, what google translation says of report is that the Mexican won a couple of free kicks and was withdrawn after 57 minutes.

Samuel Galindo made his first start of the season for Gimnastic as they lost 3-1 to Huesca. However, he only managed 45 minutes before coming off with yet another injury.

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