It was always going to be tough going to Greece last night, but Arsenal can hold their heads high after coming away with a clean sheet and an away goal to hold us in good stead for the return leg.
Mikel Arteta was pleased with the win, but admitted that we did not get the start he wanted. He told Arsenal.com: “It is tough to come to a stadium like this, away in Europe, and get a win and there were a few lessons in the game for us, and some great things for our development as a team. The first 10 to 15 minutes we suffered because we didn’t do the things that we talked about, and didn’t execute the simple things. We had a situation to completely break on them and we kept giving simple balls away. In many moments it did not allow us to have the continuity to travel with the ball and play in the opposition half more.”
But we weathered the storm, and Arteta was pleased with another clean sheet, our third in a row, and very pleased with the team effort. “I was telling them that they have to enjoy defending as well, it is a big part of the game and like tonight, if you give simple balls away, you better run back and get that ball back as quick as possible. They played with a big heart, I saw a lot of big effort and instead of splitting it joins together really quickly. The wide players before used to have different behaviours, now they are tracking back everybody. I think we are doing a lot of work to try to stay as compact as possible in many situations when we don’t have it, and I am pleased with that because it is big part.
“We are really pleased, obviously we talked about turning draws into wins but it doesn’t matter if it’s home or away, we have to do it together, so it is great advert for the team to believe that we can go away and get a result that we got tonight.”
“In the first 10 minutes, maybe I agree with you that we were lucky. Then I think they were very lucky in the last 20 minutes because we could have scored two or three. We hit the bar and then had another few open chances to score. There are different sides to the story in this game.
We were hardly convincing but the home crowd was intimidating to say the least. Arteta was impressed with the Olympiacos supporters effect on the match. “Fantastic. Fantastic. It’s an incredible atmosphere and you should be very proud of what you have here. We have a fantastic atmosphere in the UK but this is at least as good or even better than many stadiums. It does affect you, yes. When the crowd generates energy, football is about emotion and that transmits to the players. You have to build with that. It’s not easy for opponents.”
So we are well poised to progress to the last 16 in a couple of weeks time if we can carry on our defensive improvement. It wasn’t the most exhilarating game, but we did the job and got another clean sheet and you can’t ask for more than that…