Wednesday, 31 October 2012

5 great Arsenal performances at Old Trafford

As Saturday's mammoth fixture comes around yet again, here are 5 of Arsenal's key victories in Manchesters's "Theatre of dreams." These games between Wenger and Fergie's teams have often produced season-defining moments, and have regularly been the seen the top two teams in the country lock horns in fierce encounters.

Despite Arsenal not winning at Old Trafford since 2006, throughout the Wenger regime there have been amazing victories there, that have spurred us onto title winning campaigns. It is very interesting to note that in the three seasons that Arsenal have won the league under the Frenchman, Arsene's side haven't lost in Manchester.

14 March 1998: Manchester United 0 – 1 Arsenal 

Arsenal visited Old Trafford towards the end of Wenger's first full season as Arsenal manager. The game was a gargantuan affair, with the sides locked in a confrontation, ready to decide the destination of the seasons Premier League title.The Gunners, looking for their first title since 199,1 were trailing their rivals by 9 points, but crucially had 3 games in hand. In the end the game was not a classic, but the Arsenal victory rellied upon solid defensive impetus, and characterised the winning mentality that had appeaered around the club.

Manninger Dixon Adams Keown WinterburnParlour Petit Vieira Overmars Bergkamp Wreh

Subs: Garde, Anelka

The side had to rely on the young, inexperienced goal-keeper in Manninger to produce another impressive display, whilst the classic back four  superbly controlled proceedings, successfully nullifying the threat of Beckham, Sheringham and Cole.

Arsenal outplayed an understrength United team throughout the game, with Bergkamp and Overmars continuing their amazing end of season form. In the end, the Gunners had to wait till the 80th minute for the goal, as a long ball from keown was flicked on by Bergkamp, and again by Anelka to the onrushing Overmars, anticipating the playwell. He headed the ball forwards into his path, before slotting the ball through Schmeichel's legs into the far corner of the net, sparking amazing celebrations from the Arsenal end.

The game was a pivotal moment, and spurred Arsenal on to claim their first league title under their new French manager, playing delightful football in the process. This match gave the whole side the belief they needed, convincing them that they were the best in the country. The leaders in the Arsenal side particularly stood out, with Adams and Keown commanding the side from the heart of defence, and the soon to be world cup winning duo of Vieira and Petit dominating the midfield throughout the 90 minutes.The game came right in the middle of an 18 match unbeaten run, and Arsenal's inspired run of form continued as they overhauled United to win the title with two games to spare as well as then completing the Double.

8 May 2002: Manchester United 0 – 1 Arsenal

It was to be another amazing game at Old Trafford that led to Arsenal's second double four years later. Just four days after clinching the FA cup, the Gunners traveled to Old Trafford, needing to win to guarantee the league.

Lauren Keown Campbell Cole
Parlour Vieira Edu Ljungberg
Wiltord Kanu

Subs: Jeffers, Wright

Despite an aggressive assault by United in the opening minutes, Arsenal held strong to deny their opponents, maintaining their unbeaten away form and inflicting the 6th home defeat of the season for United. The physical barrage should have led to cards for United players, as the clearly tried to disrupt the fluid passing and rhythm built by this amazing Arsenal side.

Without key players in Bergkamp, Adams and Henry, they still played some amazing football, but did still rely on some rearguard action to make sure of the win. The physical battles on the field created an amazing atmosphere, but only one sides fans were cheering in the 55th minute.

Mikael Silvestre carelessly gifted possession to Wiltord, who found Freddie Ljungberg on a trademark run from midfield. Ljungberg, the man on form, beat Blanc before forcing a fine save from Barthez, but Wiltord was on hand to steer home a composed finish. Causing pandemonium among the Arsenal faithful.

As Manchester United went for broke, the Gunner held firm, and showed the resilience that compliments their silky style, and demonstrated exactly why they were worthy champions. Despite the few nerves among the Arsenal fans, the players were in a mood of calm command, and closed out the game with ease.

After the game, as the players celebrated winning the league on the pitch of their rivals, Vieira showed his passion for the club, saying "I've proved the club means a lot to me - I hope I have given the club back what it deserves".

The rest is history. ‘We won the League, in Manchester, we won the League in Manchester, we won the League at Old Trafford, we won the League in Manchester.'

21 September 2003 Manchester United 0 - 0 Arsenal

The original "Battle of Old Trafford" epitomised the hatred that had developed between the two sides, as tempers flared throughout, and famously after, the memorable fixture. The match was nothing less than a battle, as the tackles flew in from both sides, producing a hostile atmosphere at Old Trafford. But in the end the game finished goalless as the 10 man Gunners were able to bring back a vital point to Highbury.

Lauren Keown Toure Cole
Parlour Vieira Gilberton Ljungberg
Bergkamp Henry

Sub: Edu

Arsene decided to leave out wingers Pires and Wiltord in favour of Parlour and Ljungberg, who were able to add some steel to the Arsenal midfield. The tactic worked, as Arsenal successfully subdued United attacks throughout the game in a disciplined defensive display. The flair was still there, provided mainly by Henry and Bergkamp, but chances were few and far between.

The game was never a classic in terms of entertainment, with both sides lacking their usual attacking ambition in the late summer heat. United's main threat came from free kicks given away by Arsenal, whilst frankly Arsenal produced next to nothing in terms of attempts on goal.

The game was brought to life in the 80th minute, as recently booked Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira was shown a second yellow card for a kick aimed at Van Nistelrooy, who completely exaggerated the "contact". As United pressed forward, the Gunners, who were without Sol Campbell after the death of his father, stood firm.

That is until the 90th minute, where Forlan was "fouled" and up stepped Van Nistelrooy to take the all important penalty. But the Dutchman crashed the shot against the crossbar, and Arsenal's unbeaten run remained in tact, as they went on to complete the season undefeated.

The match is famous for the post match fracas, where several Arsenal players confronted their United counterparts, and in particuler Van Nistelrooy, who was struck in the neck by Keown and pushed by Lauren. These actions led to Arsenal receiving numerous charges of improper conduct, as well as a a £175,000 fine, the largest ever given to a club by the FA. Whilst Lauren, Martin Keown, Patrick Vieira and Ray Parlour were all suspended for between one and four matches for their actions during and after the match. 

The fighting at the end proved that no-one could mess with Arsenal that season, and highlighted that despite the loss of Adams, Bould, Dixon and Winterburn, Arsenal still could not be bullied. It encapsulated the strength shown by Arsenal all season, as the defeated teams with technical brilliance as well as a strong resilience as they became the first team in over 100 years to unbeaten through a league season.

16 February 2003 Manchester United 0 - 2 Arsenal (F.A Cup)

Later on in that same season, the sides met in the F.A Cup, where Arsenal were able to breeze past Manchester United into the last eight, striking a significant psychological blow for the remainder of the season by doing so without their strongest side.

Lauren, Keown, Campbell, Cole
Parlour, Vieira, Edu, Pires
Jeffers, Wiltord

Subs: van Bronckhorst, Henry, Toure

Arsenal completely dominated the game, showing the style their football could produce in that memorable season, and brushed past an almost full strength United side with consummate ease. A bitter day for United was highlighted by a glaring miss by Ryan Giggs in the first half, which gave the Arsenal the momentum they needed to go on and win the game.

As ever, the tie was full of aggressive tackling, and the game opened in explosive fashion - with three bookings inside the first seven minutes. After another United foul, the Brazilian Edu saw his 25-yard free kick deflect of Beckham's head and loop over Barthez into the goal, giving Arsenal the all important lead.

Edu then turned creator following the half time interval, by slotting through a delicate pass to Wiltord, who evaded Wes Brown before side-footing past Barthez.

Arsenal were able to snuff out any United fight back and comfortably strolled into the last 8, with a resolute and stylish performance synonymous of Champions. It was yet another clear indicator that they were the greatest team in the country, and demonstrated the "invincible" air that surrounded the club that year. The second string side highlighted the strength in depth at Wenger's disposal and was yet another memorable performance, and a memorable win.

After the game, the Arsenal manager said, 'Vieira and Edu dominated the game, we were in control from the first minute to the last, the whole of our midfield did very well, in my opinion.'

17 September 2006 Manchester United 0 - 1 Arsenal

Arsenal's last victory at Old Trafford came back in 2006, where Arsenal completed the double over Manchester United with two famous wins. The sides met at the end of September, with United still unbeaten as Arsenal claimed their first win of the season.

Eboue Djourou Toure Gallas
Rosicky Ljungberg Gilberto Fabregas Hleb

With Henry out injured, and Arsenal starting the season in a disappointing manner, Wenger tried to sort things out by starting with 5 across the midfield, remembering the gruesome midfield battles that had previously happened when these two sides met.

Despite United seemingly running away with thing at the start of the season, Arsenal were by far the better team from start to finish, as United - who were without a League title for 3 years now - failed to really ever get going.

Fabregas was superb for Arsenal and combined well with a strong Adebayor throughout the game. It was the Spanish magician who created the goal too, nicking the ball form Ronaldo and going on a delicate, twisting run, before slotting in the Togolese striker who finished well past Kuszczak.

Arsenal's management of the ball was sublime at times and their five-man midfield made it difficult for United to pick their way through, in a display reminiscent of their glorious European Run the season before.

Yet even with the continued dominance, at times it looked like Arsenal were not going to get the win they deserved. In the opening minutes, the debutant kepper, Kuszczak hauled down Adebayor, giving Arsenal a penalty. Yet the young Polish keeper redeemed himself, as Gilberto slipped as he struck the penalty allowing Kuszczak to atone for his error.

Arsenal kept streaming forward in attacking waves throughout the game, with the slick passing easily cutting through United's defence. That they had to wait till the 85th minute of the game to strike the winner shows just how strong United are; even when they're not at their best, it's still hard to beat them.

Unfortunately, the impressive performance was not emblematic of Arsenal's season, as they went on to produce some miserable displays such as losing at Sheffield United and 4-1 at Anfield. The Gunners could not keep up the pace in the title race, and finished in fourth place, 21 points off the Champions, Manchester United.

As the sides are about to face off yet again, it promises to be an enthralling encounter, especially following the 8-2 battering dished out by United to Arsenal last year. The Arsenal defence still has some signs of weakness, as illustrated in their 7-5 victory over Reading yesterday and the indifferent start made to the season by Wenger's side.

The rivalry may well have lost its bite in recent years, with Chelsea and then City emerging as title rivals for United, as Arsenal languished in 3rd or 4th place, but this season there is an added drama to proceedings as Van Persie prepares to face his former club or the first time since leaving this summer.

With Arsenal needing to avoid defeat to keep alive any hopes of winning the league this season, and Manchester United looking to make up on losing ground through to disappointing defeats earlier in the season, the game may well be a classic, and hopefully Arsenal can take some inspiration from these 5 heroic performances by Arsenal sides at Old Trafford.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Awful scenes overshadow great performance by Young lions.

England's deserved victory clouded by post match scenes that created a "Battle of Belgrade".

After a gruelling 2 leg victory against a strong Serbian side, takin the under21 side to the European Championships in Israel next year, the England players were subjected to very hostile conditions.

After Wickham scored the only goal in the 94th minute the stadium descended into chaos. Missiles were raining down on the pitch as the England players celebrated.

Some fans made their way onto the pitch, but it was altercations between Serbian officials and players that started things off, with punches being thrown.

Danny Rose was clearly affected by something, "One or two racist incidents" according to manager Stuart Pearce, and preceded to kick a ball into the crowd, and was given a red card. As he made his way to the tunnel the abuse is said to have increased, according to ESPN.

As the England staff tried to get the squad into the changing room, more violent scenes erupted around the tunnel, and England coach Steve Wigley appeared to be attacked by a member of the Serbian staff.

There is surely more to follow on the incident, and the unacceptable racist abuse that the black England players were subjected to.

UEFA has to deal with this incident in a proper way, instead of brushing the issue under the carpet as they have done with meaningless fines. Rose's reaction is easily understandable given the abuse, and hostility he was subjected to, so giving him a red card and suspension for his reaction is stupid. In effect he has even sent off for being racially abused.

After the match, Stuart Pearce confirmed an accusation of racist abuse has been submitted by the FA. It's now all down to UEFA. The latest news is that Police have cordoned off England's dressing room.

What's sad is that this issue has yet again raised its ugly head, and overshadowed an excellent defensive display by England. More news to follow certainly.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Start of the transfer rumours - Lopez & Zaha

As the winter weather edges closer, it feels as if its been months since this international break first started. I can't remember the last Arsenal game, and the lack of proper news is really starting to get to me. What's interesting is that many of the papers have run out of well thought out stories and have turned their attentions to the upcoming transfer window, and the infamous war-chest is being dragged out by Ivan.

Instead of yesteryears links with numerous defenders every window, these days we're linked with strikers. And not just strikers but wingers too. A bit like what Walcott is, and its probably because of the haziness surrounding his contract situation that there are so many names being branded about.

Over the weekend, we were linked with Athletico striker Lopez, who managed an impressive 19 goals last term. The 24 year old is a pacy attacker, and has made leaps ad bounds since his transfer to Atletico Madrid last summer. His excellent form earned him a senior call up, as well as a place in their Olympics squad. With the financial issues surrounding the Madrid club right now, and his own contract issues to deal with, we may be able to pick up another Spanish international at real bargain value here.

Also there have been loose links with Abel Hernandez of Palermo, Isco of Malaga and even the fiery Colombian striker Radamel Falcao. That last one is surely taken with a pinch of salt, and highlights that the papers may just be putting two and two together and coming up with 5, or in this case 9.

A possible addition may be Crystal Palace and under 21 prospect Wilfred Zaha, who has really stepped up his game this season. The 19 year old has been closely monitored by many of the countries' top clubs since his debut in the 09/10 season, and subsequent breakthrough the year later.

He has some very raw, yet extraordinary talent, with that great mixture of pace and skill that any manager would give their left arm for. And this season he has added an end product. 4 goals in his last two games is no mean feat, and was rewarded with an under 21 call up. With the price tag being around £10 million, Arsene is certainly no stranger to that kind of deal, with similar prices spent on Theo and Alex. But does Zaha have the talent of that The Ox does? Or is he more Connor Wickham than Victor Moses. I suppose we'll see.

More to follow soon.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Nigel Winterburn - Arsenal's greatest left back.

Yet another member of the famous back five that was created by George Graham, Nigel Winterburn is clearly the public choice, as Arsenal's greatest ever left back, gaining 60% of the vote.

In 1987 Arsenal paid Wimbledon £350,000 and Winterburn went to Highbury, as Nigel was given a formidable task in replacing Kenny Samson. Samson was an Arsenal legend, and Nigel was still a young, inexperienced player. But Winterburn became part of the defence that transformed Arsenal from a club consigned to history, to a club capable of regularly winning titles.

In his first season, Winterburn deputised at an unfamiliar right back position, and put in a steady shift down the right hand side. Despite his solid start he was involved in perhaps one of the most embarrassing moments of Arsenal's history, where he missed a penalty as staunch favourites Arsenal lost 3-2 to Luton Town in the League Cup final.

Next season, Winterburn was able to slot back into his preferred left back position and he truly became one of the best defenders in the league. With Graham's hard-line training ground approach creating a solid defensive unit able to challenge for the league. Nigel's was able to draw on his time as a member of the Wimbledon "crazy gang", and used his excellent positioning and tough tackling throughout the season, as Arsenal won the 1989 league title, winning the final game against title rivals Liverpool at Anfield. Nigel highlighted his set-piece abilities too in that game, supplying the assist for Alan Smith's goal in the 2-0 victory.

Arsenal, and Winterburn, repeated this feat two year later, with one of the greatest defensive records in league title history. The side conceded 18 goals and only lost 1 match all season. Despite Graham's side losing its consistency to challenge for League success in the mid 90's, the side was still able to rise to the occasion in the cups. Nigel added to his already growing pile of silverware with two domestic cups in 1993, as well as the Cup Winners Cup in 1994.

Winterburn was consistently a member of Arsenal's defence throughout the 90's, spreading his winning mentality throughout the side. Yet when Arsene Wenger arrived at Arsenal in 1996, he was able to rejuvenate Nigel's career. He won his first League and Cup double in 1998, after forging a successful partnership on the left flank with Dutchman Marc Overmars. And even found himself on the score-sheet  a rare occurrence in the defender's career, in a key match against Chelsea.

In 2000, Winterburn joined West Ham, and Arsene Wenger hailed his impact on the club during his 13 years, saying: "Nigel is a consummate professional and to lose a player who has dedicated 13 years of outstanding service to this club is a great loss. Nigel has shown remarkable commitment to us, [he] is a special character and I have to say that I, and undoubtedly the fans, did not want him to leave."

Despite being a regular for on of the greatest side in the country, Nigel was consistently overlooked by England managers and his measly 2 caps should have definitely been added to. The unit created consisting of Adams, Bould, Dixon and Nigel, with Keown and O'Leary beforehand was as good a defence seen at the club, and saw it in one of its most successful periods. Speaking about the rest of this defence, Nigel noted their winning mentality and commitment to the club, saying "There is a tradition that comes with playing for Arsenal and that always drove me on to play my very best. The like of Tony Adams, Steve Bould and Lee Dixon were winners who knew what it meant to play for the club, knew what it took to be successful."

Winterburn made 584 appearances for Arsenal in his 13 years, winning 7 trophies during his time at the club. He was a consistent, devoted member of the club and never let us down. He was voted number 32, in Arsenal's poll of greatest ever players, and managed to get the left back position in the greatest XI. He is Arsenal's greatest left back.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Giroud can be a top Arsenal striker

It's been a tough few months for Giroud. Since he started his Arsenal career among much fanfare and expectation, he has hardly set the world alight with his first few performances.

Tasked with picking up the mantle after Van Persie's exit, the Frenchman has clearly felt the weight on the world on his shoulders, as his form has dropped to a standard nowhere near the level he has set himself.

A nervous start against Sunderland set the tone. A late burst as a substitute and he could have won Arsenal the game, but he fluffed his chance. More high profile misses have followed against Stoke, Liverpool, and most recently Chelsea. Even when he did grab his first goal for the club against a poor League one side in Coventry, he missed a few opportunities, and a penalty. It was almost like one step forward two steps back, in terms of the 26 year old's confidence. His form hasn't just been poor for Arsenal though, a poor performance for Les Bleus last month led to Olivier being booed off the field in front of the home fans.

You could argue that he hasn't ha many clear-cut chances, but such was the standard of finishing he has set in recent yeas, he would definitely have expected to have put away those chances. After-all this is a man whose 25 goals and 9 assists fired Montpellier to the title last year, and he even challenged Benzema for a place in the French line up this summer.

But it hasn't been completely doom and gloom for the £12 million man. His flick on for Ramsey on Wednesday was his 3rd assist for the club this season, making him the highest goal creator at the club. He also gave a glimpse of his finishing talents with a cute, deft finish against Coventry.

But what has been most impressive is his movement. Despite Gervinho impressing in his cameo roles up front for the Gunners, when Giroud comes on, there is a stark difference. A presence in the box. A proper striker. His movement has helped him create multiple chances for Arsenal teammates, and he really does seek to have an eye for goal, in the way that Chamakh never really did.

The Moroccan tended to play with his back to goal, whilst Giroud definitely know where the goal is. Look at the goal scoring records respectively. Marouane has never scored more than 16 goals a season in all competitions, whilst Giroud has been top scorer in France.

What is key is that he has yet to get a proper run in the side. If he can get some games under his belt than he will have the chance to be a top Arsenal striker. He has scored goals before, and will do again. I would play him against West Ham for his height and ability in the air.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Do Arsenal need extra midfielder?

So added to the misery of any defeat against Chelsea was the fact that Diaby limped off after quarter of an hour with yet another injury. It is the tall Frenchman's second injury already this season, and he really does look anywhere near being able to get over his injury woes.

Yet without Diaby in the side, which giving his track record is not something you'd bet on, Arsenal need more strength. This is recognised by Arsene who recently said that "We don’t have many physical players," 

This has become a common theme surrounding the Arsenal side in the last few years, as other side try and take advantage of the fact that we are seen as too weak. The last time we won the league we had Vieira and Gilberto destroying other teams height and strength wise, with able back up from Campbell and Lauren behind them. But even Thierry, Bergkamp and Pires were known for giving out as good as they got on the field.

Whilst its silly to compare our side to that team, as it will undoubtedly come up short, we may be wise in trying to add some bite to the side. Without Diaby, who regularly struggles with his perennial injuries, we are likely to field a central midfield with its tallest player being 5ft 8in, and even the manager is realising that not signing a stand in for Diaby is something of a risk.

It's foolish to doubt the quality or Arteta (5ft8), Cazorla (5ft6) and Wilshere (5ft7). Attacking wise there are not many midfield's in the world with such technique, vision and ability. Even defensively, Arteta had slotted into a deeper role seemlessly this season, which was highlighted by Arsene too. The manager said "Mikel Arteta has shown he can be a great defensive midfield player. He was outstanding in that area against Chelsea."

 Similarly, Jack's style of play cleverly combines an effervescent English desire of pace and power with technique and skill that could see him slot into a Spanish or Italian team with ease. Even Cazorla, our little Spanish midfield maestro has deceptive strength and will not be bullied. He also is schooled in quick pressing up the pitch which certainly helps out the rest of the side defensively.

However, especially since we are yet to see these three feature together, can we really rely on these players to not get physically dominated by teams. Even Barcelona like to have the strong Busquets shepherding the midfield, and Song will give them the physical presence they need to replace the outgoing Keita. And that's in the Spanish League, which is not known for its physicality.

The challenges laid out by Stoke and Allardyce's West Ham could dominate our small midfield and stifle their creative talents. Even Yaya Toure's physical presence is relied upon by City. This was partly shown on Saturday against Chelsea, and even the first half of the Olympiacos game. Cazorla's creativity was stifled by the packed midfield of Ramires, Oscar and Mikel, and he drifted all over the pitch in an attempt to make an influence on the game, and this meant he was not in the right areas to cause to most damage to the opposition. Furthermore Steve Bould picked up on the same problem in last night's game, declaring that "they set the 4-1-4-1 with the big fella sat in front of the back four. Santi couldn't get on the ball in the first half and we tried to correct that at half-time, and I thought we improved."

What is the biggest challenge though is from set pieces. We have already conceded from 3 set pieces this season which is pretty awful. Plus the goal last night was a goal that we did not like to see. Noone closing down the cross, and no real challenge for the header in the box. The team evidently needs to work on them more, as we are basically giving away goals. Every Premier League side boats tall, powerful headers of the ball and for us, without Diaby we are quite small which was epitomised by the fact that after taking off Diaby, we had Chamberlain marking the  Chelsea centre-back David Luiz. Surely a mismatch there...

With Wenger admitting that "it was a gamble" not to buy a stand in for the languid Diaby - who has been excellent this season - then is it right that he is making that gamble? With so much excess cash in the bank, as illustrated by the excellent financial results for this year, surely we could have splashed out on someone to slot in. Losing Song hasn't been such an emphatic loss as many predicted, and arguably we are a better side without the Cameroonian international, but now we have lost Diaby's height we may be about to discover that things aren't so rosy.

In defence of not buying any physical replacement, Arsene did state that he "was calculating as well that Wilshere was coming back, Francis Coquelin is here but was sick and Emmanuel Frimpong is back. Tomas Rosicky is coming back so we have many midfield players." We also have Aaron Ramsey who seems to have put behind his bad form of last season and is showing some great form. However, none of them bar Frimpong, have that physical stature we are craving. And Frimpong, whilst impressive can be quite erratic and does need to learn and develop more of his game before getting near the first team. Coquelin has been very impressive in his first team action this season, and certainly has a fan of his work in Wenger. But he is still very young and has a lot to learn. He may well be given the chance in coming weeks, and certainly needs to take that chance with both hands.

It strikes me as a peculiar gamble to take from Wenger in not buying a recognised stand in, when the stakes this season are so high. But hopefully it will pay off, Arsene did say that "We’ll see overall if it was a good or bad decision at the end of the season."

Let's hope he's right. West Ham away will be a massive challenge for us, especially with them flying high in the table right now. Allardyce loves the physical challenge of the game, and with Andy Carroll set to be fit for Saturday's game, we are definitely going to be bombarded with balls in the box.

Having Mertesacker back fit will be a big boost, if he can recover form his illness, but we may still need more power across the team. Wenger's close pursuit of M'Vila hints that he may have liked to sign someone in that role, but eventually that come to nothing.

I hope his gamble is right, and if not that he rectify's the problem in January.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Arsenal seal victory over gallant Greeks

Tonight was an important match. We had to bounce back form the very disapointing result at the weekend, and we had to show we were not the frail Arsenal of old, but a side that was strong enough to mount a challenge for the title.

I suppose you cant really say we were that impressive, but in these Champions League fixtures, it is all about the result. Getting three points on the board is a massive plus, and puts us in a very comfortable position.

Truth be told, we were slightly sluggish in the first half. Bould afterwards explained that we had taken a lot out of ourselves at the weekend, and that somewhat explains the lacklustre display. The man covering for the banned Arsene Wenger said: "We kicked the game off not too badly, but then we looked a little nervous, maybe the result from the weekend drained us a little bit."

Yet that shouldn't take anything away from the Greek champions. Despite their awful record in Europe, and especially in England, Olympiacos gave an excellent account of themselves. They were very well organised in defence, under the stewardship of new manager Leonardo Jardim, and despite not having at least 5 key members of their first team they matched Arsenal in almost every department. They also retained possession well and were "technically very sound" as Bould said in his post match interview.

Up front, instead of the dynamic freescoring Djebbour, they had an equally exciting forward in Mitroglou. He made some great runs and scored a brilliant headed goal, and just generally he caused the Arsenal defence a lot of problems.

Their midfield was also great at closing the team down and smothering our midfielders, especially Cazorla. This was recognised by Bould who said "Santi  couldn't get on the ball in the first half and we tried to correct that at half-time, and I thought we improved."

Vermaelen and Koscielny were reunited, in an unexpected twist following their poor performance together on Saturday. But with Mertesacker out with an illness, they may be in line to start this weekend. Together they were yet again in unimpressive. Koscielny was arguably luck to stay on the pitch, after a dodgy challenge early on, whilst Vermaelen carried on his usual form of giving away free kicks on the edge of the box. They were also very sloppy in possession, along with Mannone and the main threat to the Arsenal goal came from defensive mistakes.

Yet in the second half the defence was much stronger, and easily held off a late charge from the Greek side. Hopefully they can continue that second half form if they are to play against the Hammer on Saturday.

In midfield, Ramsey was not selected, but Coquelin partnered Arteta and together they generally coped well in a packed midfield, and shielded the defence well. However they were at time susceptible for giving the ball away in dangerous areas.

Cazorla was his enthusiastic self and was at the centre of Arsenal attacks, but it was Gervinho who was the main man. The Ivorian is a slight enigma, due to his unpredictability. Nobody knows what he is about to do next, probably least of all him, and he can really cause opposition defences problems. He scored a decent goal in the end of the first half and earned an assist for Podolski's finish. Afterwards the skipper discussed his upturn in form, saying "He's doing great. For me he had a great pre-season as well. In the matches he is scoring a lot of goals. He's quick and he's quite busy, so I'm happy for him."

As we started to control the match in the second half, we could quickly slice through the defence, but the second goal was again slightly fortunate. Gervinho played a one-two off an Olympiacos defender in the box, before passing to Podolski who turned well and played it through a defenders legs and off the keeper into the goal. It was a powerful strike from the German, but the 'keeper should definitely have done better and it is easy to see why Roy Carroll has started in every league game so far from them.

It was good for Podolski to grab a goal, as his performances in the City and Chelsea games were not at the standard that he had set himself. In those games he cut himself an isolated figure, and struggled to get into the games and truly dominate, which resulted in him being substituted. Tonight he grabbed a goal, which will give him a great confidence boost to take into the game on Saturday.

In the second half, we started to keep the ball more successfully, which is absolutely vital in European games, and finished the match with 57% possession. However it was no plain sailing. The Greeks made a lot of attacking substitutions and we did drop quite deep for the last ten minutes, in a similar situation to last year where managed to hang on for the 2-1 victory.

This year though, in the 94th minute Mannone's goal-kick was flicked on by substitute Giroud to fellow sub Aaron Ramsey who charged into the box and finished beautifully, chipping the ball over the keeper into the net. A goal Giroud would have loved.

Onto the Frenchman who would probably have been disappointed not to start the game. When he did come on eventually,he did threaten the Greek defence. He got his assist and was overall unlucky yo get on the score-sheet after a shot was blocked. For me, he needs a run of games to get into form and then the goals will come. Whilst there are comparisons to Chamakh, he has much better movement than the Moroccan and hopefully his finishing can come back to him.

I wouldn't be surprised to see him start the game at the weekend, to help with the aerial threat that will undoubtedly arise form any Sam Allardyce side. Yet given the form of Gervinho, Wenger will have a choice to make there.

To conclude we are in an excellent position after two matches. In his post-match interview, Vermaelen said "I think it gives us a lot of confidence, six out of six and that's really important," which excellently sums it up. Schalke and Montpellier shared the spoils tonight in the other clash, so we are comfortably in first place ahead of the double header against the Germans.

We have to take the positives from this game, which were mainly in the second half, and use them in Saturday's fixture against an impressive West Ham side. We need to put together an unbeaten run now and start putting three points on the board. I feel that in October, with us facing West Ham (a) Norwich (a) Schalke^ (h) QPR (h) and Reading* (a), that we can win every game and probably should expect to win every fixture this month if we want to challenge for the title.

Let's start with 3 points on Saturday though!

^ Champions League Fixture
* Capital One Cup Fixture

Scouting Report: The Olympiacos Threat

So what to expect from our rivals tonight? Well compared to many teams across Europe we are probably best inclined to know about Olympiacos. This is the third time we have been in the group stage of the Champions League with them in recent years, with the home side prevailing on each occasion.

Wenger has stressed the importance of home form in the Champions League, saying:

“The Champions League is simple - you need one away win and three home wins. We have done the first part of the job, now the second part is to be strong at home. It is only a big advantage to have an away win if you are efficient at home. That is what is at stake for us." 

Arsenal have certainly showed that consistency since their move to the Emirates. The Gunners have only suffered 1 defeat in 38 home games in the Champions League, and that was the 2009 semi final defeat against Manchester United the eventual winners.

Coupled with the scintillating Arsenal home form, Olympiacos are known for being poor travellers and have only won three of their 56 away Champions League matches. They also have a wretched record in England, losing all 10 European away games here. Yet they certainly cannot be underestimated.

Despite making a poor start to the group, with a 1-0 defeat at home to Schalke, Olympiacos have European pedigree and experience and will relish the chance to get some points on the board. Arsene Wenger illustrated the fact that they should not be underestimated, saying that "They are highly motivated to know they have to give everything to make it through, [they] are already in a position where their backs are to the wall because they have lost at home and in this Champions League when you lose at home it is very difficult,"

But what threat do the Greek Champions pose?

Well after winning their 39th League title, the Greek champions split with their coach, and sold some of their star players - most notably Kevin Mirallas to Everton. But Valverde's replacement, the ex-Braga manager Leonardo Jardim is a talented manager and has a 100% record in the league so far, with Olympiacos storming to the top of the league after 5 victories.

At Braga Leonardo Jardim worker wonders, challenging the trinity of Porto, and the Lisbon based clubs Benfica and Sporting for the European places. He even claimed a club record 15 win streak in the process. The Portugese manager, Jardim, sets his side up in an attacking 4231 formation with experienced defensive minded midfielders in the 2 covering for forward thinking fullbacks. 

The key danger man is definitely the Algerian Rafik Djebbour, who has notched up 25 goals in only 35 appearances since joining Olympiacos in 2011. The 6ft 1in frame gives Djebbour a powerful physique which he combines with his pace to case a major threat to teams. He likes to drift out from the centre of the pitch, and makes clever runs in-between defenders. On his day his finishing is electric from any angle, and Arsenal's defence will face a stern test from the French born Algerian.

The Mirallas replacements are another Algerian Abdoum, who is a direct winger and Paulo Machado who signed for 2.7 million euros, and looks to cut in from the left and uses his pace and dribbling skills. Representing their main threats to our side, it will be key for Gibbs and Jenkinson to concentrate and be supported by midfielders around them so as to be left left isolated. But given how well the coped with Hazard and Mata last weekend, and Silva and Aguero the weekend before, I'm sure they'll be up for the test.

In midfield, the 35 years old Argentine playmaker Ariel Ibagaza has been defying his age and producing some stunning performances in recent years, winning two title in Greece. He is technically very gifted and got an assist at the Emirates last year, so we should know his threat. He will be key for Olympiacos getting any result, as he will try and help them keep the ball and use their possession well.

A recognisable figure should be Roy Carroll, the ex-United goalkeeper, who has started every league game so far. He has had many games against Arsenal, and has forged a successful career for himself since leaving United.

In terms of our players, Cazorla will be monitored closely by the two holding midfielders, in particularly Frenchman Modesto, but he should be able to still find space and opportunities to create chances, whilst Podolski and the other wide players will certainly be keen on exploiting the gaps left behind by the attacking full backs. Up front, it seems Giroud will get a chance to start and will be relishing the chance to face the Olympiacos centre-backs. Overall they provide no great test, with a solid partnership yet to be found by the new manager. Siovas, Papazoglou and Manolas are hardly established players in Europe, and Arsenal should have more than enough to trouble the defence.

With Arteta facing a late fitness test, it remains to be seen whether he will feature, and Coquelin may get his chance in the starting eleven. Without our experienced Spaniard carrying out his defensive duties, Coquelin and the midfield around him will have to focus on runs from deep, which play a key part of Olympiacos' game.

Overall, Olympiacos will pose a threat to our defence through their tricky forwards, and the confidence gained from their domestic form. But, at the Emirates, and with a strong expected line-up, Arsenal should be able to prevail by a couple of goals.

Olympiacos Preview - Time to bounce back

Great teams all suffer defeat, and what separates them from average teams is the way they react to those defeats.

The Chelsea game hurt, and I guess I'm not the only one who's been pretty down since we slumped to our first defeat of the season on Saturday. And whilst its easy to sit in confinement replaying Giroud's late miss over and over again in our minds, and just generally feeling sorry for ourselves, it would probably be better for us to move on.

The good thing about this stage of the season is that the games do come thick and fast, so there is definitely an opportunity to immediately bounce back, and coincidentally put ourselves in a very promising position to qualify from our group. Olympiacos are notorious for their lack of success on their travels, and we should definitely expect three points form tonight's game. Arsene has reiterated the squads desire " to put things right." and also the fact that winning your home fixtures in the Champions League is absolutely vital “The Champions League is simple - you need one away win and three home wins. We have done the first part of the job, now the second part is to be strong at home."

Whilst it would be nice to bring in a number of fresh faces, we should undoubtedly try an start as good a team as possible, and the expected  line up is this: Mannone Jenkinson Mertesacker Vermaelen Gibbs Ramsey Coquelin Cazorla Gervinho Podolski Giroud.

Starting at the back, Szczesny remains out injured, so Mannone will yet again deputise in goal. Whilst in defence, it seems certain that Mertesacker will be back in the first team, after missing the Chelsea game as part of a tactical gamble. A gamble that sadly for Wenger did not pay off. Mertesacker seems an integral cog in our defence this season, giving a calming presence to the rest of the team. Koscielny was poor on Saturday and has taken much of the blame for the defeat, but we must remember he was our best defender last season and is still a quality player. But right now he will have to earn his place due to the form and partnership of our other defenders.

In midfield we are encountering something of a slight crisis. Arteta is suffering from a slight niggle, and will probably be rested, and Diaby suffered yet another injury at the Weekend, adding to his perennial injury problems, and will be out for a couple of weeks. Yet waiting in the wings are more than adequate replacements. Ramsey is really starting to show some great form that he hasn't seen since before that trip to Stoke, and deserves the chance to start next to Cazorla in the central of midfield. This will certainly take away some of the creative burden which has evidently weighed heavily on his shoulders in matches last season, where he was seen as the man who was picking up the mantle from Cesc, which is too much expectation for someone so young, and in his first full season since returning from a career threatening injury. 

The Diaby injury has been heavily analysed, with the evident lack of a replacement with his physical capabilities. Possibly contributing to the two goals lost from set pieces at the weekend. Yet the Frenchman's injury certainly gives his fellow countryman Coquelin a great chance to step into the first team frame.

Up front, whilst Arshavin has been included in the first team squad he is still quite a way off the first team, which highlights the quality we have in attacking positions. Giroud is crying out for a start and an important goal which can properly kick start his Arsenal career. Speaking of his £12 million signing Wenger described how low in confidence he truly is: "He is upset. I told him not to worry but you can say what you want. A striker who doesn't score, doesn't really listen to you. They run it through their minds over and over again."

A goal and a good performance will certainly help Giroud, and Arsenal. After-all we need a proper striker this season, Gervinho may be able to do a shift in some games but ideally we need someone better. Giroud has shown that he has the movement to become a top forward, but he needs to back that up with ruthless finishing, and goals.

A good performance will probably benefit Podolski as well, who made an extremely impressive start to his Arsenal career against Liverpool, Southampton and Montpellier, but in recent games against City and Chelsea has failed to take charge of the game and found himself substituted. Tonight if he can bag a few goals or assists will help maintain his overall positive start to his career.

Fellow German Serge Gnabry has also found hiself involved in the first team squad, and whilst I doubt he'll be able to get much involvement in terms of playing time, the whole atmosphere of a big Champions League game will certainly be something for the young German to savour. He has real talent and is expected to feature for the first team at some stage this year.

Lastly, It in interesting to note that today's clash comes almost exactly a year on from our last game with Olympiacos at the Emirates. Last year Santos and Chamberlain put in impressive games for us, both scoring their first Arsenal goal and European goal respectively. That game came third in a run of 14 games where we only lost once, winning eleven times. If we can put a run like that together following tonight's game we will be in a great position to properly mount a challenge for the league.

Here's to the three points!