Olympiakos 3 Arsenal 1

Ahead of Arsenal’s final Champions League group F clash in Athens there was more than a hint of job done, as the stark reality was that the Gunners had already progressed to the last 16, and with a game to spare. So the trip to Olympiakos represented an opportunity for some of the squad players to lay down a marker for regular senior inclusion, but after this lacklustre loss, and compounded by the Carling Cup exit, Arsene Wenger will survey the ruins of this Athens loss, and conclude what has been evident all along. The squad has talent, but not the depth to survive any injuries which could derail Arsenal’s progression this season.

Rafik Djebbour and David Fuster had given Olympiakos a two goal cushion, and the Greek side were unfortunate not to have put the game out of site. When Yossi Benayoun reduced the arrears on 57 minutes with his first Arsenal Champions League goal, an unlikely point could have been on the cards, but rather than settle a nervy Arsenal side, a lack of maturity and experience was to lead the Greek side to restore their two goal advantage with a minute to go, when Francois Modesto netted. At that stage,their own progression was being celebrated with abandon, until news filtered through of Marseille’s late winner in Dortmund, which meant that the French side prevail as group runners-up. In pure tragic circumstances, both sides suffered, but for Arsenal, a place in Friday weeks draw was already assured.

Further bad news for the Gunners came on the injury front, with Lukasz Fabianski and Andre Santos were stretchered off. Thankfully for Wenger, ready made replacements are available for Saturday’s visit of Everton, where a more familiar and rested side will take to the Emirates pitch. In Athens, Wenger elected to field a young line up in his 200th Champions League game, with only Thomas Vermaelen, Johan Djourou, Andrey Arshavin and Santos from the regular first teamers. Maroune Chamakh continues to be the enigma that he becomes and looks increasingly to be wanting to exit north London. Vital Champions League exposure was gained by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin, but roared on by a passionate home following, Olympiakos sensed the opportunity to continue the Gunners poor record in Greece was there for the taking.

The home side took the lead after they strolled through the Gunners’ defence, and Djebbour rounded Fabianski as he came out. The Pole was replaced by Vito Manonne, and one of his first jobs was to pick the ball out of his net after a blooper of monumental proportions. Fuster found the empty net from range after Manonne tried to head clear, but failed to gain any distance.

Benayoun’s screamer from Chamakh’s chest down gave the Gunners hope, but Modesto took advantage of the Gunners’ inability to clear from a late corner earned Olympiakos the win, if not progression to the last 16. Wenger will take this performance on board, and surely will conclude the need to strengthen in January.