Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain gave a man-of-the-match performance as Arsenal held on to secure their first win of the 2011/12 Champions League campaign.
Chamberlain put Arsenal after only 8 minutes (his second goal in his two starts for the club) with another goal coming 10 minutes later from Brazilian left-back André Santos. Olympiakos pulled one back from a short-corner, and could maybe have come away with a draw – Mikel Arteta cleared the ball off the line in the first-half, and Szczesny made several good saves, but in the end the Greek champions did not do enough to rescue a point.
Chamberlain’s goal involved a fantastic run as he cut across the box from the right flank, passed several players and eventually nutmegged a defender with a calm and cool finish at the far post. His movement was fantastic all evening, and he was a constant threat for the hour that he was on the pitch. His goal sees him enter the history books as the youngest Englishman to score in the Champions League, and as Arsenal’s second-youngest ever goalscorer (behind Cesc Fabregas). Santos also had a good game. He is a typical Brazilian wing-back – a sufficient defender and a natural attacker. His goal also involved a good run into the box and a bit of luck as he tapped in a loose ball (after a pass for Chamakh was blocked by the defender) at the near-post.
The Olympiakos goal was a terrible goal to concede. The team was caught off-guard by a short corner and simply did not mark properly or track the run of David Fuster. There wasn’t a lot Szczesny could do. It was just another unnecessary goal he has conceded because the defenders in front of him can’t defend set pieces.
Robin van Persie was on the bench (presumably to get some rest ahead of the Spurs game on Sunday) and Maroune Chamakh started only his second Arsenal game in as long as I can remember. As per usual Chamakh wasted several opportunities (most notable in the 25th minute when Andrei Arshavin put him through on goal) and generally looked disinterested; he showed exactly why he doesn’t normally start. In my opinion, Chamakh is just a goal-hanger waiting for the ball to drop to his feet for a simple tap-in. He makes few runs and does not really get involved in any of the build-up play – often a waste of space.
Following the game, Pat Rice, who acted as manager while Wenger watched from the stand due to his touchline ban, spoke of AOC’s fantastic performance and tipped the winger to challenge Theo Walcott for a place in Arsenal’s starting XI:
“He has a big, big challenge to now get in front of Theo. It all bodes well for England anyway.
“From Arsenal supporters’ point of view, they are going to be seeing a lot of this boy.
“I know that Theo is a very strong-willed guy as well and he won’t give in easy.
“Alex can go inside, he can go outside, he’s got that injection of pace and I think what he needs now is to be consistent in his play.
“I am sure that is something he will be working on because he’s certainly not a stupid boy.
“He has good people around him and they are telling him all the right things.
“Alex is very friendly with Theo and no doubt he will give him the benefit of his experience as well.”
Both players are graduates of the Southampton academy and they are apparently friends, so it will be interesting to see how this one plays out. It is unlikely that Chamberlain will start against Spurs if either Walcott or Gervinho pass late fitness tests, but you can expect him to come off the bench at some point.
Player ratings to follow