It seems as though neither Olympiacos or Arsenal ever really seem to have the home advantage over the other one.
Following on from their emphatic 1-3 win last Thursday and a fantastic 2-1 win in the North London Derby, Arsenal entered their second-leg tie with Olympiacos in the driver’s seat and full of confidence.
Following captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s benching against Tottenham, the Gabon striker was recalled to the starting XI along with Mohamed Elneny, Dani Ceballos and Nicolas Pépé.
Arsenal started well, controlling the game and dictating possession, but try as they might, they just didn’t seem capable of scoring.
The Gunners’ first chance came in the form of Nicolas Pépé, who skipped around José Sá and rather than squaring the ball to the completley unmarked Aubameyang, Pépé instead went for goal and his deflected effort rolled out disappointingly for a corner.
Another chance went begging not long after when Aubameyang, fed by Dani Ceballos, managed to squeeze past former Gunner Sokratis Papastathopoulos, only to blaze his effort over from six-yards.
Half-time came and went and Arsenal seemed to take their foot off the proverbial gas. Dani Ceballos ran himself into a blind alley and was soon dispossessed, this left Giorgos Masouras to run unencumbered through midfield and feed Youssef El-Arabi, who is so often the thorn in the side of the Arsenal team whenever the two sides meet and the Moroccan took aim in the penalty area and his effort smashed off Gabriel Magalhães into the back of the net.
It was a poor bot of defending from Arsenal. Both Elneny and Ceballos had committed themselves unnecessarily forward and left Granit Xhaka totally exposed with no help around him. The deflection may have been lucky but Arsenal’s defending seemed to deserve it.
Another chance went begging for Arsenal in the second-half when Aubameyang had the entire pitch to himself, running forward with no defender capable of catching him, Aubameyang used his trademark dink over the goalkeeper, only for it too drift far wide. It was a disappointing effort from a striker capable of so much more.
The final-whistle blew on a very tepid Arsenal performance. Though Arsenal are safely through to the next round of the Europa League, it was nevertheless an unacceptable performance.
There were bright sparks however. Gabriel Martinelli was finally given the chance to shine and the Brazilian seemed to take it. Though he failed to score, his energy was infectious and seemed to elevate the players around him. He also laid off another chance for Aubameyang who squandered it.
For Aubameyang, Arsenal fans will hope that their captain was merely struggling from routine rustiness following his stint on the bench on Sunday, however, that doesn’t make it easier to watch him squander a hat-trick of chances.
Arsenal are into the Quarter-Finals now, and are perhaps spared their blushes by Tottenham’s humiliating exit, but they will need to perform at a much higher standard than they did last night if they want to go all the way and win the competition.
1.) Bernd Leno
2.) Héctor Bellerín (Chambers 82′)
23.) David Luiz
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
3.) Kieran Tierney
25.) Mohamed Elneny (Partey 57′)
34.) Granit Xhaka
8.) Dani Ceballos (Ødegaard 57′)
32.) Emile Smith Rowe (Martinelli 81′)
19.) Nicolas Pépé
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c)
33.) Maty Ryan
53.) Arthur Okonkwo
16.) Rob Holding
21.) Calum Chambera
22.) Pablo Marí
17.) Cédric Soares
18.) Thomas Partey
11.) Martin Ødegaard
24.) Reiss Nelson
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
30.) Eddie Nketiah
9.) Alexandre Lacazette
1.) José Sá
24.) Ousseynou Ba 🔴
15.) Sokratis Papastathopoulos
25.) José Holebas
14.) Thanasis Androutsos (Randjelović 62′)
6.) Yann M’Vila
4.) Mady Camara
45.) Oleg Reabciuk (Lala 84′)
19.) Giorgos Masouras (Bruma 63′)
11.) Youssef El-Arabi
7.) Kostas Fortounis (c) (Bouchalakis 84′)
88.) Konstantinos Tzolakis
44.) Ilias Karargyris
21.) Mohamed Dräger
5.) Andreas Bouchalakis
17.) Marios Vrousai
97.) Lazar Randjelović
90.) Vasilis Sourlis
72.) Kenny Lala