Arsenal put one foot firmly in the quarter-finals of the Europa League with three stunning goals from Martin Odegaard, Gabriel and Mohamed Elneny handing them a 3-1 win over Olympiacos on Thursday.
Mikel Arteta opted to field the same side that drew 1-1 with Burnley in the Premier League with the exception of the back four, where Gabriel Magalhaes and Hector Bellerin came in for Pablo Mari and Calum Chambers.
Just as at Turf Moor, Arsenal started strongly. Not even the lion’s share of possession, the Gunners had all the ball in the early stages with the players, to a man, looking threatening and energised for the clash.
Were it not for a combination of Martin Odegaard assuming the Mesut Ozil mantle of not being able to shoot, Sokratis’ shoulder and a superb save from Jose Sa, they should have had the goal their dominance warranted. It did finally come in the form of a debut strike for Odegaard, who leathered a fierce effort through the hapless Sa.
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4 talking points as Arsenal beat Olympiacos 3-1 in the Europa League last 16 on Thursday
After half-time Arsenal continued to dictate the play, although Dani Ceballos came on shortly after the break and conspired with Bernd Leno to gift Olympiacos a goal.
Losing their grip at this stage and happy to hold on for a draw, Gabriel produced a divine header to put the advantage in the Gunners’ hands once more.
As if those two excellent strikes weren’t enough, Mohamed Elneny wanted to get in on the act with another long-range beauty to, touch wood, settle the tie.
A 3-1 lead heading into the home leg on Thursday is about as good as it could have got. Here are the talking points.
Self-Inflicted Wounds Show No Signs of Healing
It’s as if Arsenal have their shoulder angel and devil constantly in their ears all match: ‘do something good, you have it in you’, ‘do something really stupid, you know you want to’.
Hoping for such errors to have been eradicated for at least 90 minutes, somehow there managed to be even more than previously with three glaring mistakes. Two went unpunished but there was no luck for the third.
Martin Odegaard wanted to try his best and fit in with the lads by producing a hospital ball in the first half, followed by David Luiz being caught in possession shortly after.
However none were as calamitous – albeit only because it was the only one conceded from – than the Leno and Ceballos episode. Firstly, Leno’s pass is a very risky one. Yes, Arteta is asking him to make these decisions, but common sense must prevail at times. This isn’t like Burnley. Yet, even after the pass, Ceballos’ lack of spacial awareness is frightening, and not for the first time.
Arsenal could easily have lost that game 4-0. They could easily have won that game 4-0. They’re allowing dominance to become a burden, which is remarkable since a lack of control was what was so damning earlier this season.
Mistakes are being temporarily swept under the rug only to crawl their way back out when nobody is looking.