Arsenal 2 (Van Persie 78, Arshavin 86) Olympiakos 0
The goals may have taken a while to come, but someone you knew we were always going to break down a Greek side that came for a goalless draw, but were never likely to be good enough to attain it. Sitting back for ninety minutes, chasing the ball against one of the two quickest passing sides in Europe (the other being Barcelona) is exhausting. Some Premiership sides can handle it, but the Greek league is far slower, and it was inevitable they would tire.
And once Van Persie put us ahead after great work from Cesc and Eduardo, just on as a substitute, their spirit was broken. Arshavin added a deserved second with a cheeky backheel, although he was in a clearly offside position.
But the result was deserved – the Greeks caused the occasional scare, but Mannone had only one save to make in contrast with Nikopolidis, who was called into action time and time again to deny Cesc (who had six efforts on the night), Van Persie, Rosicky and Arshavin. Cesc also struck the bar after the move of the night.
The most cohesive performance we’ve seen in a long time included some fine individual displays. It was the first time this season I can remember Cesc and Arshavin really clicking – both were on fire. The defence kept things tight, never giving the opposition a sniff, Van Persie worked hard and deserved his goal, while Song and Diaby held the midfield together.
I do want to give special mention to Rosicky though. While Cesc and Arshavin deservedly get the plaudits, the Czech maestro was on sparkling form on Tuesday, spraying intelligent passes around in a way we all remember from a couple of years ago.
But what I’d completely forgotten about Rosicky while he was away is his tenacity in the tackle. When some players return from injury, a manager would probably be happy to field them when only partially fit, and tell them to play within themselves. I get the impression that Rosicky has no such mode – he is full-blooded in the challenge, a remarkable and admirable trait for someone for whom injury has taken away so much of his career. Welcome back Tomas.
The result puts us in total command of the group – Liege and Alkmaar managed only a point each in their game with each other, so the two games against Alkmaar could see us through. To qualify early would be a massive bonus given that our final two group games are followed by matches with Chelsea and Liverpool.
In other news, Kroenke has bought 80 more shares, another move to inch him towards 30%, but not a purchase that has any real effect at this point. What the future holds is another question.
And of course, Arsene Wenger today becomes our longest serving manager. That deserves a post of its own, so I won’t cover it here.