It is time to hail the talismanic striker, Arsene Wenger’s team are capable of performing when it matters and other things we learned from Olympiakos 0 Arsenal 3.
By Editor Wayne Veysey
Arsenal are a team to fear
Despite the never-ending injuries, the tactical naivety and the midfielder void, Arsenal remain a team who anyone but the very elite should fear. They came to a hostile venue needing at least two goals to extend their outstanding 15-year record of qualifying for the Champions League knockout stages and duly went one better with one of the outstanding European performances of the Wenger era. This was an away-day masterclass. In the heat of one of Europe’s most passionate venues, Arsenal were ruthless and almost chillingly effective. After a shaky start, they constructed two delicious goals to give themselves the platform they needed and then soaked up the pressure of the hosts before adding the match-sealing third. It was a complete display and the perfect balance between defence and attack.
It is time to hail Giroud’s brilliance
One of the accusations levelled at the big Frenchman is that he saves his best for the middling and weaker teams. Big players perform on the big occasions, and, with Arsenal’s Champions League chances hanging by a thread, this was a perfect opportunity to silence the doubters. It is time to appreciate what a fine striker Giroud has become for Arsenal. He leads the line, holds the ball up to bring others into play, brushes off knocks and scores important goals. The first hat-trick of his Gunners’ career was not only exquisitely timed but showcased the 29-year-old’s strengths. He raced to the near post to powerfully head in the first, showed fine technique to slot in the second moments after suffering an ankle scare and then converted the penalty with consummate ease. That’s 13 goals for the season for Giroud and five in four Champions League starts. Flat-track bully? Nonsense.
Campbell is not just an understudy
This was a memorable evening for those of a red-and-white persuasion, but few will remember it more fondly than Joel Campbell. The 23-year-old is only in the team because of the club’s crippling injury list, and has had a mixed introduction to first-team football at Arsenal, but showed tonight that he is worthy of more than understudy status. He offered a consistent threat on the flanks with his pace, movement and relentless running, and demonstrated with a brilliant pass to lay on the second for Giroud that he also has the vision to find better-placed team-mates.
Giroud is the near-post king
When it comes to penalty-box positioning, Michael Owen knows his onions. The former England star is adamant that the best place to be for a striker when the ball comes into the box ’90 per cent of the time’ is the near post. Judging by the success he has had in meeting wide deliveries at the near post, Giroud must have those words inscribed in one of the many tattoos on his body. Arsenal’s opening goal was a microcosm of how to extract the best from Giroud’s physical presence. A sensational reverse pass from Ozil set the rampaging Ramsey free down the left channel, a beautifully weighted cross on his weaker left foot arrowed into the danger area and there was the Frenchman to power in his 11th goal of the season.
Ozil needs to be wrapped in cotton wool
By the law of averages and common sense, Mesut Ozil is the next Arsenal player due to break down. It is the duty of Wenger and his staff to ensure the German maestro does not do so. Ozil has been the Gunners’ outstanding player this season as he repays Arsenal for the biggest transfer fee and salary outlay in the club’s history. He was excellent once again in the Greek cauldron, setting the tempo with his exquisite passing, as he maintained a patch of the deepest purple. His reverse pass to set Aaron Ramsey rampaging down the left channel to lay on the opener for Giroud was out of the very top drawer and could have been executed by only a few players on the planet. In addition to his matchless goal creating, the German has also weighed in with five goals this season. Wenger must wrap him up in cotton wool and regulate his game time appropriately.