Nicolas Pepe was the only positive as Arsenal just about progressed to the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals despite a 1-0 loss to Olympiacos on Thursday.
A drab first half saw chances come few and far between, but Arsenal really should have been in the front, with Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang failing to convert promising openings. On the other end, Bernd Leno made a big save to deny Youssef El-Arabi for Olympiacos’ only opportunity before the interval.
El-Arabi, though, would go on to make amends for the earlier miss less than five minutes into the second half, as he scored from close range to set up a nervy final 40 minutes for Arsenal. However, the Gunners engineered the better openings, only to miss them all, as Olympiacos claimed a narrow 1-0 win.
Arsenal’s hopes were also boosted when Ousseynou Ba was sent off for seeing two yellow cards in quick succession late on, as they grabbed a 3-2 aggregate win to book their place in the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Mikel Arteta’s men.
Bernd Leno: 6/10
A big reason why Arsenal were never put under the pump, Leno made a big save to deny Youssef El-Arabi in the first half. However, he could not have done much to deny the Olympiacos striker in the second half, with the shot being deflected.
Hector Bellerin: 5/10
Back in the starting lineup, this was a sub-par display by Bellerin, who just could not get things clicking with Nicolas Pepe in the final third. There were not too many moments when he was troubled defensively, with the Spaniard making 6 clearances while winning 5 duels. But, going forward, he has to do better than just make up the numbers.
David Luiz: 4/10
After a solid display in the first leg last week, this was Luiz reverting to type. The veteran defender was one of those at fault when El-Arabi charged through on goal before being denied by Leno in the first half. Worse still, he afforded the Olympiacos striker too much space to aim his shot on goal for the only strike of the match. Has to do better there.
Gabriel Magalhaes: 6/10
One of the better defenders on the night for Arsenal, Gabriel did not do much wrong apart from one or two instances, including when El-Arabi was sent through on goal in the first half. Otherwise, the Brazilian was up for the physical battle and defended astutely. Will be gutted to have seen the ball deflect off of him for the Olympiacos goal.
Kieran Tierney: 6/10
Once again, Tierney carried a great deal of threat when bombing down the left flank. This time around, though, the end product did not match his zeal as he only completed one cross all game. Off the ball, though, the Scottish international put in the hard yards, winning 5 duels in addition to making as many as 6 clearances.
Mohamed Elneny: 6/10
Handed a rare start, Elneny was a solid customer in the middle of the park and ensured Arsenal did not get overpowered at any stage of the game. The Egyptian international was also careful with his usage of the ball, misplacing just 4 of the 41 passes he played. Won a couple of ground duels while also making a clearance and an interception each.
Granit Xhaka: 6/10
A solid enough performance by Xhaka, who once again did not shy away from his defensive responsibilities, particularly when he had to cover ground for Tierney. On the ball, he was efficient with his utilisation, completing 86 percent of his attempted passes. Does look in need of a rest, though.
Nicolas Pepe: 7/10
The brightest spark for Arsenal on the night, Pepe caused Jose Holebas a lot of problems on his flank. Looked to get into dangerous areas, but his finishing was lacking as he missed a couple of fine chances, although for one, he was blocked by his own teammate. Decent enough, but can do even better.
Dani Ceballos: 6/10
— Arsenal Presser (@ArsenalPresser) March 18, 2021
Strangely deployed in the no. 10 role, Ceballos enjoyed a solid first half, wherein he created the best chance in the opening 45 minutes, only for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to fluff his lines. Ceballos, though, was culpable for the goal that Olympiacos scored, just like last week, as he lost the ball in the lead-up to El-Arabi’s strike.
Emile Smith Rowe: 5/10
Not the best of performances by Smith Rowe, who flitted in and out of the game on Thursday. The young playmaker does not really revel in the left-wing slot as much as he does through the middle, although Martin Odegaard’s form means he has to start settling in this position.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 4/10
The Player to Watch in our preview was back in the starting lineup after sitting out the game versus Tottenham last weekend. However, while Aubameyang offered a lot of threat with his movement, his finishing was sorely lacking on the night, with the Arsenal captain missing as many as three big chances. Fortunately for him, it did not matter in the end, but he really needs to pull his socks up.
Thomas Partey: 6/10
A no-nonsense display by Partey, who ensured that he never lost the ball cheaply, completing 96 percent of his passes while typically being a rock off the ball.
Martin Odegaard: 6/10
On for Ceballos, Odegaard offered a lot of creativity and seemed to be continuing his good run of form. However, while the Norwegian created a couple of chances, he also missed one opportunity to put the tie to bed. Nevertheless, he did a good enough job to take the tie away from Olympiacos.
Gabriel Martinelli: N/A
On for Smith Rowe, Martinelli was a bundle of energy during his cameo and should have been rewarded with an assist, only for Aubameyang to miss the chance he created.
Calum Chambers: N/A
A late introduction, Chambers helped see the game out.