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7/10 Lacazette goes from Arsenal villain to hero

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Published in Soccer
Thursday, 20 February 2020 14:41

Arsenal will be confident of advancing to the Europa League's last 16 after beating Olympiakos 1-0 in their round-of-32 first leg in Athens on Wednesday. Alexandre Lacazette made up for his early defensive blunders to score a typical poacher's goal with 10 minutes remaining while an adaptable back four of Bukayo Saka, David Luiz, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Shkodran Mustafi recorded the Gunners' third successive clean sheet.

Positives

An incredibly controlled first-half display would've encouraged travelling fans, with Mustafi in particular catching the eye. Bernd Leno backed up his two clean sheets against Burnley and Newcastle by performing confidently in goal, too, while the quick-moving Saka troubled Olympiakos' players on the left.

Negatives

Arsenal wobbled in the opening minutes of the game, and were extremely vulnerable to conceding an early goal as Sokratis settled into the right-back role. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang brightened as the game entered its final 10 minutes, though previously his tendency to play centrally when out of possession aided the hosts' threat to counter on the wing.

7 -- It was a rather flat game in terms of pace and energy from Olympiakos, though the visitors' adaptable back four performed well to register another clean sheet. Mikel Arteta's introduction of Dani Ceballos had a slight impact on the game, while Saka's forward movement proved inspired as he bagged a worthy assist.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Bernd Leno, 9 -- Played a solid role despite Olympiakos rarely threatening the visitors' goal in the first half. Evidently read the game well when venturing away from his goal line to confidently claim loose balls and made several key saves in the second half.

DF Bukayo Saka, 8 -- Brilliantly skillful with his play at times, and while he lacked the delivery of a final ball in the first half, he more than made up for it in the second when making a bursting run into the penalty area before squaring play to Lacazette to score.

DF David Luiz, 7 -- A solid first half defensive performance, but his frustration with Arsenal's midfield players was evident amid a shortage of options. Similarly solid in the second half and fully deserved the clean sheet he got.

DF Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 7 -- At times found life tough in an unfamiliar right-back and wasn't helped by the central Aubameyang; Konstantinos Tsimikas was allowed to control the game for the hosts on the left wing as a result. Solid display just when it was needed.

DF Shkodran Mustafi, 7 -- Similar to his defensive colleagues, rarely put a foot wrong when called upon to shut out the hosts' threat. Excellent diagonal vision, too, to stretch play and allow Aubamenyang some freedom with his movement on the left.

MF Matteo Guendouzi, 6 -- A cheap giveaway of possession in the early minutes almost gifted Olympiakos an early goal. The occasional sloppy touch when under little pressure made him a slight liability.

MF Granit Xhaka, 6 -- Set pieces were a tad inconsistent, they either hit the mark of were way off it. Passing was occasionally off too and picked up another sloppy yellow card to round off a mediocre evening.

MF Joe Willock, 7 -- Possessed great vision in midfield to benefit Lacazette early on and made a couple of eye-catching runs, but his control on the game weakened as time passed and was unsurprisingly subbed in favour of Nicolas Pepe late on.

MF Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 7 -- Tended to drift into the central areas of the pitch when Arsenal were out of possession, and it left them vulnerable on the right. Played a key role in the Gunners' winning goal, though, by chasing a lost cause before feeding play to Saka who teed up Lacazette.

MF Gabriel Martinelli, 6 -- Good vision concerning his link-up play with Lacazette early on, but was extremely short on passes and struggled to link play with those around him before being subbed off shortly before the hour mark.

FW Alexandre Lacazette, 7 -- A dreadful miss from six yards out with 20 minutes on the clock perhaps epitomised his game for the first 80 minutes, but he bagged a typical poacher's goal with 10 minutes remaining before finding space moments later to almost strike a second.

Substitutes

MF Dani Ceballos, 6 -- Deployed in a playmaking role and aided the visitors' threat in the concluding half hour.

MF Nicolas Pepe, N/R -- Replaced Willock for the final 15 minutes.

MF Ainsley Maitland-Niles, N/R -- Only introduced for Sokratis on 90 minutes.

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