It appears that consistency is still a stranger to Arsenal, having put in a Herculean effort against Everton at the weekend, when they faced Olympiacos in the second leg of their Europa league tie with a slender 1-0 advantage.
The early signs were good as Arsenal tried to exert pressure on the visitors but then the first half became incredibly even and ordinary, something the gunners couldn’t afford. In truth, neither deserved a goal in the first half and the absence of shots on target made the game hard to be enthusiastic about.
Yet the plan was simple or at least it should have been, let Olympiacos get frustrated in the first half, keep them at bay and in the second half, with about 20 minutes to spare throw the kitchen sink into attack.
Arsenal had chances early on and in the 38th minute, Xhaka fed Saka (rhyming) down the left and the youngster whipped in a low ball for Lacazette to dispatch but he was deemed offside. It looked like one of those occasions !
There were other moments like Pepe’s free kick but it wasn’t really happening and the fans became increasingly tense as the game went on.
Then in the 54th minute, Olympiacos couldn’t believe their luck. A ball in from Valbuena out on the left found Cisse, who popped up ahead of a statuesque David Luiz to nod in from six yards. It could have been worse four minutes on when Tsimikas unleashed a 25 yard Exocet which Leno athletically helped over the bar.
The game looked certain for extra time and in extra time, looked certain for penalties, when Aubameyang, so often the hero for Arsenal executed an over head kick from close range (113) after Ozil’s cross came off the head of Martinelli and on to the Gabonese striker’s foot. 1-1 with all eyes on the clock. That’s that I thought, except it wasn’t.
Arsenal let the game slip through their fingers when Masouras punted a hopeful ball to El Arabi whom I sadly identified as the main threat to Mikel Arteta’s men. He took it sweetly on the volley from five or six yards out and that really was that. Aubameyang had one final chance before the whistle but it was the length of a ford escort wide and Arsenal were unforgivably out of the Europa league.
A 1-0 advantage was always going to be hard to hold on to even with the home advantage because Arsenal don’t know how to. Arteta has done well with what he has, but it’s obvious that he needs more to take his side through these difficult ties and on to a series of finals and trophies.