Wenger furious at officials as Arsenal go down 2-1 in Greece
First Olympiacos goal comes from a corner that should not have been given. But Gunners were weak anyway
Olympiacos 2 Arsenal 1. Twenty-four hours after Arsene Wenger claimed his side were in "fantastic shape", Arsenal threw away a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 to Olympiacos in their final Group B match of the Champions League. The result – coupled with a point for Schalke against Montpellier – means the Gunners have finished second behind the German outfit.
Afterwards Wenger chose not to point the finger at the limp performance of the players, instead blaming the officials for an error in the build-up to the Olympiacos equaliser. That mistake, fumed Wenger, leaves his side in "need of a good Christmas present" when the draw for the last 16 is made on 20 December. Finishing second in the group means Arsenal could be drawn against Barcelona or one of the other big-hitters of the competition.
Forget about the 2-1 scoreline - Olympiacos could have put another two or three past Arsenal despite the fact their players for the most part looked as disinterested as their visitors.
The only plus for Arsenal on another dispiriting evening (they have won just four of their last 13 competitive matches) was the return from injury of Tomas Rosicky (pictured above right). In a starting XI featuring seven changes from the side that lost 2-0 at home to Swansea at the weekend, Rosicky was the standout player and he marked his return with a well-taken goal on 38 minutes.
Yet despite going into the break a goal up, Arsenal showed little desire in the second half to score a second and put the game beyond the reach of their hosts. Instead they allowed the Greeks to gain in confidence, the result being two goals in the space of eight minutes.
The first came from a corner, though replays showed Paulo Machado's initial header that led to the set piece had hit the post and not the hand of Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny before going over the line. From the corner, Giannis Maniatis (pictured above left) rose above the leaden-footed Arsenal defence to head home the equaliser.
It was all Olympiacos now as an Arsenal side containing the likes of Andrey Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh and Sebastien Squillaci was ripped apart. Rafik Djebbour should have made it 2-1 but powered his header wide before Kostas Mitroglou found the Arsenal net with a curling strike.
It was another sorry defeat for the Gunners but, as is becoming his habit, Wenger didn't see it that way, telling reporters: "I believe it was a positive game tonight. We left eight or nine players at home and we had a positive game here."
That might not be how the Arsenal faithful see it, particularly if they do get paired with Barcelona in the next round. In truth, however, it doesn't much matter who the Gunners draw in the last 16 because at the moment they are simply not good enough to progress to the quarter-final.
Wenger can kid himself that his squad is in fantastic shape but anyone who's watched Arsenal in the last couple of months knows there are serious problems at the club.
The Frenchman was still criticising the officials late into the night, furious that a corner had been given and not a goal-kick. "Why didn't the fifth official tell the referee?" he muttered. "It's difficult to understand, I don't want to make a fuss of it but it's difficult to concede a corner when it doesn't go off the goalkeeper."
Poor old Arsene, raging against the dying of the light on another night that was anything but good for the Gunners.