Alexandre Lacazette needed his team-mates’ support to bounce back from his goal drought, said Mikel Arteta as the striker grabbed the winner in Arsenal’s Europa League win away to Olympiakos.
He went nine games without a goal before scoring against Newcastle on Sunday, and on Thursday gave Arsenal the upper hand in their last-32 tie. “That confidence and support came from me and his team-mates,” said Arteta. “The way they reacted when he scored, that was a lift.”
The Spanish manager added: “That’s not just a coincidence. It’s something that happens because the energy of the team is putting energy into him as well.”
Arteta was critical of his side’s defensive display, stating that errors could have cost his side. “We should have started better than we did in the first half,” he said. “Defensively we made one or two mistakes positionally that could cost us in difficult situations, and then with the ball we gave a lot of simple balls away.”
The return leg is at Emirates Stadium on Thursday, 27 February. Arsenal’s best period of the match came after Lacazette’s goal, with the previous 81 minutes largely forgettable.
It was a contest that meandered at times on a wet night in Athens. Both sides did enjoy bright spells, but they were brief and infrequent. The Gunners – without Mesut Ozil, missing because of personal reasons – lacked someone to conduct the attack, which at times played like they were meeting each other for the first time.
Perhaps if Arteta slotted Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – the club’s top scorer with 17 goals this season – into the middle of the attack instead of on the right it might have aided Arsenal’s cause.
Instead Lacazette took up that role. The Frenchman had ended his lengthy goal drought against Newcastle last weekend – but that strike came late in stoppage time when the Magpies had given up the ghost shortly after the break.
Despite scoring the winner, the 28-year-old still lacks sharpness and should have scored in the first half when he hooked a shot wide from eight yards after a brilliant cut-back from Gabriel Martinelli.
And in the second half, the France striker went down too easily in the area under the challenge of Ousseynou Ba, when ‘peak Lacazette’ would have taken the ball on and unleashed a shot.
But Arteta persevered with him and he persevered too. With nine minutes remaining Lacazette made it two goals in two games when he tapped in a carefully weighted ball from Bukayo Saka, who was one of the brighter sparks in the Arsenal attack.
Moments after the restart Lacazette, with his tail up, forced a good save from Jose Sa with a firm strike before Sokratis planted a powerful header against the bar. If Olympiakos repeat their display at Emirates Stadium then this one-goal aggregate lead should be enough.
Martinelli experiences frustrating night
In a recent Twitter Q&A, Arsenal striking great Robin van Persie joined Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, Brazilian great Ronaldinho and those within the club among others in hailing the talent of Martinelli.
The Brazilian 18-year-old is fleet of foot and eager to get on the ball, but against Olympiakos he seemed a little lost. He only managed 12 touches in the first half – the fewest of his side – although one of those was that excellent pullback for Lacazette.
He was guilty of misplaced passes and seemed frustrated at times that his team-mates were not reading the game like he was. Arteta replaced him with Dani Ceballos in the 58th minute.
Man of the match – Bernd Leno (Arsenal)
Assist-king Saka – stats
- Olympiakos have won just one of their past 12 knockout stage matches in major European competition (D4 L7).
- Arsenal remain the only Premier League side yet to lose a game in all competitions in 2020 (P9 W5 D4).
- Arsenal are unbeaten in six away European games in all competitions (including qualifiers) for the first time since a run of eight ending in September 2006.
- Saka has registered five assists in the Europa League this season (excluding qualifiers), more than any other player.
- Saka has nine assists to his name in all competitions, more than any other Arsenal player.
Source – BBC News
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