Posted by Barrie on Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Arsenal's Kids Fail to Score

Arsene Wenger fielded a lot of youngsters in his starting lineup for their trip to Olympiakos in the Champions League this evening, where they put on a good performance in terms of confidence and possession, but came away 1-0 losers.

They had already won the group before tonight, and Wenger, as he does fielded a very young side to give them experience on the big stage. When he done this last season, he came under criticism after a 2-0 defeat in Porto where they were overawed and the result saw them finish 2nd in the group. It hurt even more the following weekend when they drew at Middlesbrough in the Premier League.

But little criticism will head the way of the manager after this result. His side showed no fear as they passed the ball around freely and weren't intimidated by the Greek atmosphere. However they were made to pay for not creating many efforts, and not putting any away. Within 2 minutes of the restart, Olympiakos caught Arsenal's defence out as Leonardo raced past Kerrea Gilbert to roll the ball under Lukasz Fabianski for the only goal of the game. Gilbert was caught out on more than one occasion this evening. At the other end, Carlos Vela wasn't 2 one-on-one's as Arsenal failed to test Antonis Nikopolidis in the Olympiakos goal.

Theo Walcott, Mikael Silvestre and Alex Song were the most well-known players in the Arsenal starting lineup (is now the right moment to mention their left back, Tom Cruise?). Song won many a tackle for the Gunners as he does week in, week out. Theo Walcott wasn't as influential as Wenger may have been hoping. He miscontrolled a ball over the top that would have put him through one-on-one, while he didn't create enough goalscoring opportunities as Arsenal struggled in the final third of the field. It was similar to Manchester United when they lost 1-0 to Besiktas two weeks ago. Both Arsenal's and Manchester United's youngsters would have benefited from the experience of this and with the defeats being respectable scorelines it shouldn't have any negative impact on their confidence.

Liverpool were beat 2-1 at home to Fiorentina in this evening's Champions League, finishing 3rd in their group. They are now 7/1 favourites for the Europa League.

Last night Chelsea were held 2-2 at home to APOEL Nicosia in their final Champions League game, finishing as group winners. Manchester United were also group winners as Michael Owen stole the headlines in their 3-1 victory at Wolfsburg. The England international has been the talk of today with his performance, receiving endless praise and perhaps starting to payback those who doubted him at the end of the season. However, bookmakers aren't convinced by this one game performance. Michael Owen is 3/1 to make the England World Cup Squad.

The 16 qualifiers for the Champions League knockout stages are as follows:

Group winners
Manchester United
Real Madrid

Runners up
Bayern Munich
CSKA Moscow
AC Milan
FC Porto
Inter Milan
VfB Stuttgart

Domestic football returns at the weekend, so don't forget to check out our Premier League Tips, with previews going up tomorrow for Saturday's matches.

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