Job only half done v Olympiacos

Preview of this evening’s game at the Emirates

Job only half done v Olympiacos

The usual five talking points ahead of tonight’s round of 32 second leg at home to Olympiacos

Rotation, rotation, rotation?
It was interesting to see that only five players began both the first leg against Olympiacos and the home match v Everton, with the latter seeing the stronger line-up. However, of the six that came in for Sunday, four made the trip to Athens. So Arteta is prepared to mix and match for fatigue reasons, although that didn’t stop the side looking a little physically jaded in the second half against Everton, and it should be remembered that Bukayo Saka ended up playing most of that game as well as starting in Athens. So we wait to see what happens this evening, although short-term, the head coach at least has the knowledge that there is no league match on Sunday, Manchester City being otherwise engaged, and League One opposition in the FA Cup on Monday evening. So I think, given the potential importance of the Europa League as the season develops, that we will see a strong team this evening, with most of those that started on Sunday retaining their spots. The rest will get a run-out at Fratton Park.

Beware Greeks bearing… an attacking threat
After an early flurry in Athens, Olympiacos rarely troubled Bernd Leno. That isn’t to say that is going to be the case this evening though. Fortune can be as important in cup games as online casino live dealer games and it should not be forgotten that Olympiacos have scored on their previous three visits to the Emirates, netting three times on the last occasion they were here. They will have a bit of a nothing to lose approach to the game. Sure, they won’t go gung ho from the off, but they are not going to park the bus given their need to score either. Arsenal’s best tactic would be to score in the first half and force the opposition to commit, needing two goals. They can then be picked off at the break. What I don’t really want to see this evening is too much of ‘we hold what we have’, given the delicate nature of the tie. This one’s only halfway done and a one goal lead can be cancelled out in a second.

The left-back dilemma
Will Bukayo Saka be asked to play again? I genuinely fear the danger of the lad being overplayed here and the last thing we want is an injury to a teenager that has effectively become a first choice for many. We won’t be seeing Kolasinac back anytime soon, although there is hope that Kieran Tierney will be back in March. But tonight? Arteta won’t want to move Granit Xhaka, so there could be a case of Ainsley Maitland-Niles to start. It’s hardly ideal, but playing Saka is a risk. He shouldn’t be played again until West Ham the weekend after next. I reckon Arteta will start him though…

Two form teams
Olympiacos beat second placed PAOK last weekend to secure their place at the top of the domestic table. They’d settle for the same scoreline tonight – 1-0 – to give them a 50/50 chance of progress from via a penalty shoot-out. Arsenal have put together a sequence of three wins since their midwinter training camp in Dubai that could be seen as evidence of the methods Mikel Arteta has introduced to the club. Momentum is a wonderful thing, and what will be really interesting is to see how Arsenal react to the end of a good run. In the past, even going back to the days of the Invincibles, the answer is not well. Hopefully we won’t need to find out too soon.

Bums on seats
Over the years, a tendency for season ticket holders not to take their seats for the majority of midweek European matches developed after the move to the Emirates. There is a combination of factors for this – obviously the matches are on TV, much of the competition is played in autumn and winter when frankly it’s not always pleasant to be out and about, and the group stage opposition is often uninspiring, with progress believed to be a given. Downgrading to the Europa League didn’t help that much in this regard either. Tonight’s game does matter and a large supportive home crowd will help the team. I have to admit I’m not optimistic though. I reckon at least one in four seats will be empty, and the majority of the noise will come from the away section. Welcome to Arsenal 2020. Hopefully Mikel Arteta can begin to change that and give people real motivation to attend.

As long as Arsenal don’t do anything suicidal, they should have enough to see themselves through to the round of 16, Lacazette’s late winner in Athens crucial in this regard. Remember a draw will be enough. I expect a cagey game, possibly scoreless by half-time, in spite of my wish for a home goal to settle the nerves. Maybe a goal or two in the second 45 once things open up a bit, but not a high scoring match. I will probably stick a bet on less than 2.5 goals, and Arsenal progress to tomorrow’s draw at UEFA HQ in Nyon.


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  1. Exiled in Pt

    Feb 28, 2020, 9:48 #116572

    Have to say this is the best result for us , can now concentrate on trying to improve the league form and maybe close the gap a little bit . No excuses now blaming Thursday games and lack of rest blah blah . Poor game last night and they paid the price for this crazy obsession of playing it back to the keeper and putting him under constant pressure . We all know what players need to go lets hope MA has a clear picture of what he needs too...

  2. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Feb 28, 2020, 6:38 #116571

    Oh well - thus ended the "new manager bounce"

  3. Cyril

    Feb 28, 2020, 1:55 #116570

    Remember it’s all about ......

  4. John F

    Feb 27, 2020, 23:58 #116569

    So many poor performances tonight with only Mustafi coming out with any credit. Pepe lacks a football brain and should learn to pass the ball rather than keep on trying to take players on. Lacazette was just awful, Ozil offered very little. Auba despite his goal was losing the ball too. often. Bellerin has lost it and needs to move on. Just what were Xhaka and Leno thinking at the end. Arteta should have brought on Martinelli long before he did. There is reason to be optimistic with the young players we have I just hope Arteta does not remain faithful to players that are just not good enough. Tonight's performance reminded me of the last years under Wenger.

  5. Cyril

    Feb 27, 2020, 23:48 #116568

    At what point do we realise. Maybe these charlatans don’t realise what it means to us. I’m dying in pain as an Arsenal boy from Islington. BUT, Ofcourse , these types we employ probably do understand our pain. Crack on lads- You know what your doing !!!

  6. Nicky3336

    Feb 27, 2020, 22:45 #116567

    Am I surprised, NO Do I really care, NO Am I glad we won’t have anymore Thursday/ Sunday shite this season, YES The Gabonese Vardy missed a sitter at the end there which any top striker would have buried and that for me is the boards decision made to cash in on him whilst they can still get a resale on him. Laca is useless this season and on his current form should be shifted too. Give the boy Eddie and Martinelli the rest of the season in the league over him. Ozil produces another piss poor performance and our set piece defending was summed up when Torreria was marking their 6’6 centre back!!! Leno is a great shot stopper but his decision making is shocking, he comes across as rash/ arrogant and sadly on easy street as he has nobody challenging his starting place. We will smash Portsmouth on Monday and all will be right again with the new breed of supporters, so so glad I don’t waste my money going anymore and fortunately get BT Sports for free.