Olympiacos-Arsenal: Arsene Wenger's Kids Brave in 1-0 Loss, Remain Top Guns
Suffering from a long list of injuries and already through as Group Winners, Arsene Wenger sent out the youngest ever team to play a Champions League game.
With an average age of 21 years and 215 days—somewhat higher thanks to the inclusion of captain for the night Mikael Silvestre—Arsenal beat the record held by Ajax who averaged 40 days more.
Polish goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski made his first European appearance of the season in goal.
In front of him was the inexperienced trio of Kerrea Gilbert, Kyle Bartley, and Thomas Cruise who were joined by veteran defender Mikael Silvestre.
The midfield consisted of regular starter Alex Song, regular sub Aaron Ramsey, Fran Merida, and Jack Wilshere.
Up front, Wenger opted for Mexican Carlos Vela and the speed of Theo Walcott.
Arsenal started brightly against their older counterparts who were buoyed on by an ever chanting crowd.
The Greeks only needed a draw to go through to the knockout stages and often it appeared that they had this in mind.
Olympiacos were quite happy to allow Arsenal to have possession and hit on the counter when opportunities arouse.
The Young Guns showed little in the way of fear as they passed about the ball with confidence.
On a couple of occasions neat balls were played into Vela and Walcott who were equally wasteful over the 90 minutes.
However, it was to be Olympiacos who drew first blood as Leonardo got free on the left and easily went by a badly positioned Gilbert before slotting the ball between Fabianski's legs.
Immediately Arsenal had the chance to reply as Ramsey set up Vela who once again hit his shot right at Nikopolidis.
After that, both sides created half-chances without overly threatening.
Young Welsh International Aaron Ramsey was once again Arsenal's man of the match, taking responsibility that belies his tender years.
At times, viewers would be excused for thinking Cesc Fabregas was on the pitch as Ramsey played neat ball after neat ball.
Indeed, he was unlucky to see a header cleared off the line towards the end.
As it was, the game filtered out with the home side getting the result to see them through to the next round.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger can take a big positive from the continued improvement shown by Ramsey in the centre of midfield.
He will also surely send the precocious talent of Jack Wilshere out on loan. The Englishman has bucket loads of talent but needs to add decision making and steel to his game. A spell away from the Emirates in a first team environment will do him wonders.
Despite the defeat, Arsenal enter the draw on Friday, Dec. 18 as group winners.
They will be joined by Bordeaux, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Fiorentina, Barcelona, Sevilla, Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, AC Milan, FC Porto, Lyon, Inter Milan, Stuttgart, Olympiakos.
Next up for Arsenal is the away trip to Liverpool on Sunday where the slightly older Gunners will be returned to the starting lineup.
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