Football Features

“He flew through the air like Brazilian Superman” – Winners & Losers as Arsenal stun Olympiakos with three tremendous away goals

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:22, 11 March 2021

In an exciting night of football, Arsenal beat Olympiakos 1-3 in Athens thanks to three stunning strikes.

Who were the winners and losers from the Gunners’ Europa League win?

Winner: Gabriel

Gabriel Magalhaes is an absolutely incredible player. A really solid young defender; he had team high for clearances (3) and blocks (2) tonight and he, for the most part, marshaled the Arsenal back line as well as one can next to David Luiz.

But he also, effectively, won the game for Arsenal. With the score at 1-1 the Gunners were being battered a bit, but when Willian sent over a short corner Gabriel had a run up and just took off. The Brazilian flew about four yards horizontally in the air before he even touched the ball, and when he did? He guided the ball perfectly back across goal into the back of the net.

A stunning, storming header that turned the game, turned the tie and may just have turned Arsenal’s season. Gabriel flew through the air like a Brazilian Superman, carrying the hopes and dreams of Arsenal FC on his broad shoulders.

Loser: Dani Ceballos

It’s a bit harsh to say that Dani Ceballos came on and bravely wrestled control of the game… from Arsenal.

It’s harsh but it’s accurate.

For 55 minutes Arsenal were the better side and Thomas Partey was great in the middle of the park. Then to keep him fit for this weekend’s North London derby, they subbed him for Dani Ceballos. And instantly the calm control they had disappeared.

Olympiakos rose into the game, and then Ceballos made a sloppy pass which was intercepted and ended up giving the ball away where the Greek side then bagged their equaliser. It was a ridiculous error, and the second in as many games from the sorry Spaniard.

Loser: Bernd Leno

However all the blame cannot lie on Ceballos as, frankly, what else could he have done with the pass Bernd Leno gave him? The German was standing well out of his goal to take part in the passing, and that’s fair. But when he received the pass from Gabriel there were three obvious passing options: back out wide left to Gabriel, out wide right to Hector Bellerin, or even hoofing it long.

Yet Leno played it down the middle to Ceballos who already have one man closing in on him from behind and another from in front. Ceballos didn’t react well but he was played into an almost impossible situation by a goalkeeper who doesn’t seem suited to play passing football under pressure, which isn’t ideal as that’s kind of Mikel Arteta’s thing.

“It’s about identifying when we can do it, and how we have to do it,” said Arteta post-match. And although he didn’t single out Leno for criticism you can sense the frustration with the German’s decision-making. That’s nine games in a row without a clean sheet, which, as Arteta said: “you cannot sustain that at this level.”

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Winner: Martin Odegaard

Martin Odegaard has endured a mixed start to his Arsenal career. He’s obviously happy to have found a stage where he can play every single week but it’s not been 100% smooth sailing in North London as he’s run into Arsenal and their laughable inconsistency.

Still, tonight he got everything off to a fantastic start (after missing a great chances in the opening minutes) by absolutely unleashing a rocket of a shot. Much like Leo Messi in Paris the night before, this usually deft playmaker got sick of playing it softly softly and just smacked fire out the ball. And if this goal is any indication it’s something he should do more often!!

Winner: Mohamed Elneny

It’s been a strange season for Mohamed Elneny. He spent last season out on loan and no one expected he would play this season yet he has in fact played quite a lot, emerging as a trusted midfielder for Mikel Arteta to the point where you wouldn’t be surprised if he started ahead of Dani Ceballos at the weekend were Thomas Partey unable to play for whatever reason.

Tonight he came off the bench in what looked like a time-killing change but ended up all but winning Arsenal the tie with a simply stunning long-range strike. Pushing forward into space Elneny absolutely rocketed the ball towards goal, a strike that started out centrally but was always curving away from the despairing dive of José Sa before slamming into the inside of the net. Just amazing.

Loser: Arsenal fans

Okay, you’re probably wondering how the Arsenal fans are losers when the Gunners won away from home in Europe? They scored first, endured a rough spell but fought back to win comfortably. They head home for the second-leg with three away goals in his back pocket and not even they can screw this up from here.

But that’s just it: Arsenal could definitely screw this up from here. And their fans will now head into that second-leg with hope, and hope is just the worst. Moreover they will probably be thinking they have a chance against Spurs now, and they will surely dominate the ball against their local rivals because of the confidence they gained from tonight; only to get ripped apart on the break by Spurs.

As a fan, hope is what gets you. And this result gives Arsenal hope.