Olympiakos v Arsenal – Is Greece, Arsenal’s Achilles heel?

We’re back to Europa League fixtures this week.

 

After the convincing win against Newcastle, it seems that there is a bit more belief in our chances in this very exciting European competition…but make no mistake, the Greek opponents are not going to roll over and let us go through this round that easily!

Our mission in Greece will be tricky as Olympiakos is unbeaten in 18 matches and currently leads the Greek Super League and is composed of solid players like:- El-Arabi, Hassan, Mor and Valbuena upfront;- Camara, Fortunis in the middle;- Semedo at the back.

El-Arabi is on fire and Valbuena always plays well in European matches but their winger Al Soudani is off injured so they will most likely play in a 4-5-1 against us (see below), which they used against Tottenham and Munich in the Champions’ league group games.

It is not the first time Olympiakos and Arsenal have met each other in Europe. We have previously played against them four times  in the group stage of the Champions League. The first 6 matches ended in home wins and the last 2 in away wins. The last away win was memorable, with Giroud scoring a hat-trick for us to win 3-0 in Greece.

Olympiakos’ record at home, with their very supportive and vocal fans, to English opposition is W7, D4 and L4 including a 2-2 this year against the Spurs. In the knockout phases, they have won 2-0 vs Man Utd in 2014 but lost 3-0 to Utd (Van Persie hat trick) at Old Trafford.

Our record in Greece is not great…W3, D1, L4 but if we win, we will set a new record for an English club by recording 23 wins in the Europa League (surpassing Tottenham by 1) so we better win tonight 🙂

Expected line ups:

Arsenal:

Martinez

Maitland-Niles   Sokratis    Mustafi    Kolasinac

Torreira    Ceballos

Pepe    Willock    Martinelli

Lacazette

 

Olympiakos: Sa – Elabdellaoui, Cisse, Semedo, Tsimikas – Masouras, Camara, Bouchalakis, Fortunis (or Valbuena), Hassan – El-Arabi

I think this game could most likely end up in a 2-2 draw BUT I also feel like we can snatch a win so I am going to back an Arsenal win 2-1 with a goal from Sok and a goal from Laca for us and we concede a goal to either Hassan or El-Arabi.

COYG – we want to celebrate Greek style by breaking plates right after the game!

RC78

55 Responses to Olympiakos v Arsenal – Is Greece, Arsenal’s Achilles heel?

  1. Thank you RC78 for the post. I love it when you do Europa League pre-matches as you know so much about the opposition.

    Also ……. great comments yesterday, sorry I was busy with grandchildren so didn’t get to look again until last night. Seems we all feel the same about Saka and Martinelli and a few have questions about Nketiah which is where I am too.

  2. Sue says:

    Nice one, RC. “We want to celebrate Greek style by breaking plates right after the game” 😂😂 love it, RC! 👍
    Glad it’s match day… and hope we finish off this fab week with a win, although I noticed there haven’t been any draws between us..hmm…an away goal (or 2) will do nicely though.
    Like your line up… only doubt being Torreira…maybe we’ll see Guendouzi?
    COYG

  3. RockyLives says:

    Top stuff RC. As Peaches says, your knowledge of European football is a real asset to this blog.

    I wonder where this game ranks in Arteta’s priorities in relation to Sunday’s EPL match v Everton?

    I suspect he’ll want to face the Toffees with the same starting line-up he sent out against Newcastle, which will mean changes tonight.

    Your line-up looks very plausible RC, although I wonder if Eddie will start, with Laca held back for Sunday.

    I expect Gwen to be on the bench and to get some game time towards the end, assuming he has been behaving himself since Dubai.

  4. Rasp says:

    Great work RC78, very informative, thank you.

    Is it me or has the quality of teams in Europe improved no end? I watched Leipzig against the totts last night and they were really good. Nagelsmann is a good manager. In the past, a fixture like that would have been regarded as relatively easy.

    Similarly I was quite relieved when I saw we’d drawn Oympiacos, but now they seem like formidable opposition … or is that just my pre-match nerves?

    I think patience, shape and control should be our buzz words for the game. A professional performance is required. Don’t give away silly free kicks or over commit to attacking whilst leaving gaps between our midfield and defence for them to exploit. But just to contradict myself. I think we also need to be brave, get the ball out to our wide players early and get behind their defence 😆

  5. Pete the Thirst says:

    Nice one RC78. Lots of speculation about the line up tonight. Don’t think Torreira has travelled.

    The only name I recognise from the opposition is Valbuena. A great player on his day. I think we were linked with him a number of years ago…although there were lots of players Wenger almost signed…

  6. RC78 says:

    El Arabi is the key threat. He is got decent movement, a great shot. We gotta watch him closely.

    As for the line-up, let us see but I do expect Laca to start.

    Dortmund and Leipzig were a real joy to watch – they had movement, intensity and purpose. Leipzig should have won at least 2-0.

    Atalanta were also formidable vs Valencia – same for them, they played with heart and Gasperini is a coach that always plays with an imbalanced team. He is quite a talented coach as well.

    Overall – I think European football is becoming harder to face for EPL clubs except Liverpool and City who also play with a lot of intensity and movement. Spurs were horrid last night, looked like school boys. Olympiakos is not as mobile as the German teams mentioned above but they also play with heart and intensity so we better be strong. I am hoping Torreira can play – if not, we ll have to play Xhaka.

    Sok – Xhaka – Willock – Laca would be our spine

  7. RockyLives says:

    Is it 8pm yet?

    😦

  8. LBG says:

    Thanks RC
    Hope you are very wrong with that defence!!
    What is essential in knockout phase is no more than one against, and ideally an away goal.
    Would be very worried with lack of playing time and pace, with your selection.

  9. Rasp says:

    … only 28,560 seconds to go Rocky ….

  10. GoonerB says:

    Thanks RC, great post with great insight on opposition players that only you can bring. I am convinced you are an international scout and nothing you or anyone else says will change my feelings on this 🙂

    Anyway, I am not sure at all how we will line up tonight, but something Rocky said and something that Fred reported from Arteta on yesterdays post are worth considering.

    Rocky said this:

    “I wonder where this game ranks in Arteta’s priorities in relation to Sunday’s EPL match v Everton?”

    “I suspect he’ll want to face the Toffees with the same starting line-up he sent out against Newcastle, which will mean changes tonight.”

    From yesterday Arteta was reported as saying this (in relation to how he selects who plays):

    “I just do my team selection in regards to how they train, how they play, how they behave and every week it will be different,” he said.

    “One week it will be one reason, one week it will be another reason. It was about the way we trained, the way we live and I want the best players for the game and I select them in relation to what I see on a daily basis.”

    Now I like the idea that players get in on merit for attitude and training application and that our strongest team, by and large, is dictated by this. Will tonight’s selection reflect this concept?

    The other factor on tonight’s selection is as Rocky indicates; where does tonight’s game rank in importance in Arteta’s thinking?

    Were / are the Newcastle game and the forthcoming Everton game of higher importance than the EL and a tricky away tie in Greece? In many bygone seasons the answer would be yes and tonight’s game would have been more rotational with key players rested for the weekend.

    However there is an argument, and one I subscribe to, that in the run of 3 games involving Newcastle, Olympiakos, and Everton, that tonight’s game stands out as the most important.

    This season, everything has been turned on its head and I maintain that our best chance of playing ECL football next season is to win the EL. I am not saying getting in through our league is impossible, but I feel we have a more realistic chance in the EL, and we would have won some silverware to boot.

    Not for me this season looking at this as the game of lesser importance, tonight is more important than last weekends and this weekends game and should be the one prioritised.

    Arteta should pick his strongest possible team for tonight, get the job done, then assess where we are for the weekend in terms of fitness and availability. I think if we approach tonight as the lesser game it could be the first serious error of judgement on our impressive young managers part. I am hoping he goes all out in this competition before all others.

  11. RC78 says:

    Sokratis will play for sure and I think Arteta will continue with Mustafi so the only other option would be for Luiz to ASLO play and then we play in a 343 or 352 set up with:

    EM – Must, Sok, Luiz – AMN, Willock, Xhaka, Kola – Pepe, Laca, Martinelli

  12. LB says:

    Thanks for the read RC

    Just when it looked like it had become easy to guess Arteta’s team selection, he throws us Sunday’s curve ball and now we are all in doubt.

    I am not as convinced as you that Socratis will start and Torreira is a big illness doubt.

    —————–Martinez

    Bellerin, Mustafi, Luiz, Kolasinac

    ——Guendouzi—–Xhaka

    ————–Ceballos

    Pepe, Aubamayang, Martinelli

    Of course he could play Mustafi and Socratis at the back with Luiz in front instead of Guendouzi, but that is probably waaaay too obvious.

  13. Rasp says:

    Does anyone have a scooby what Ozil’s family reasons are for not going to Olympiacos? Is it a Greek/Turkish thing?

  14. Sue says:

    His wife is due to have their baby, Rasp.

  15. Pete the Thirst says:

    Never heard of El Arabi before. A wild guess does his name mean ‘The Arab’?

    Had a quick look at his stats. He’s 33 and a classic journeyman washed up on the shores of Greece.

    Saying that he’ll probably score a hattrick!

  16. RockyLives says:

    Is it 8pm yet?

    😦

  17. LB says:

    No, but it is closer…………… 🙂

  18. RC78 says:

    Pete – before he gave on to the riches of the Middle East, he played in France and was followed by many clubs in Spain, Germany and even England. He is going to be annoying for our defense, I can guarantee you…The good news is that they are missing Al-Soudan so his favourite attacking partners is out.

  19. Aaron says:

    RC78,

    Thanks for the write up.

    Too bad about son, hope the spuds fall into the moaninho abyss when the results go away, and they are going away.

    Now onto more important things.
    This is going to be a difficult task, these guys dropped in from above, have been on a run and scored 2 goals a piece against spuds and munich.

    Am with GoonerB, win this one, as this is possibly our only real opportunity to get back into CL and get some more $ for players.

    On yesterday’s post, Pete that was a great story of how it must have felt to be there, echoed by Rock’s perspective.

    Reminds me of the movie “Rise of the foot soldier.”

    People are nuts for their footy.

    Arteta has a challenge to get this one right with Mesut out- how can he replicate that combination again with Ceballos? Not really possible with this squad, but maybe something close.

    If the Arsenal players and Arteta get a W here, the Arsenal could go on a run.

  20. Rasp says:

    Thanks Sue …. best of luck to Mr & Mrs Ozil …

  21. RockyLives says:

    Any team news?

  22. RockyLives says:

    OK – found it:

    Leno
    Mustafi – Sok – Luiz – Saka
    Guendouzi – Xhaka – Willock
    Martinell – Laca – Aubameyang.

    Subs:
    Ceballos, AMN, Holding, Pepe, Martinez, Nketieh, Kola

    Strong team.

  23. RockyLives says:

    I’d like to see a big night from Willock. Following on from yesterday’s Post, he’s one young player I feel has the potential to make it.

  24. Aaron says:

    Way to go Mikel, bring out your best!

    Above meant Rocky’s…

  25. RockyLives says:

    Sok at RB is a bit weird. Hope he settles into the role after a shaky start.

  26. RockyLives says:

    Oh dear – Sok looking lost at RB.

  27. Rasp says:

    Mustafi is showing a lot more strength these days

  28. RockyLives says:

    Don’t jinx him Rasp 😟

  29. RockyLives says:

    Tidy half after the first 15.

    I’m still a bit nervous about Sok at RB.

    Saka looks dangerous every time he goes forward but he is playing high up the pitch and that saw us get badly caught out on one occasion when he was miles out of position for an Olimpiacos counter.

  30. Aaron says:

    Grew into the game for sure.
    Laca miss from close was a shame, as was Mart’s deflection of Xhaka’s attempt that looked to be going in.

    Guen earning his pay today, foot stamped and achilles raked, fun times for the kid.

    Had a few looks around the edge of their box, and our defense has settled down- thank goodness.

    Let’s see if Mikel can make a few adjustments and the Arsenal can get that away goal and win this game!

  31. RC78 says:

    Half-time report:
    – Gave away an easy chance for the Greeks to score and we looked a bit shaky at the back in the first 15 minutes;
    – Laca missed a glorious chance after some great work from Martinelli
    – Douzi is getting battered
    – Xhaka is walking and Saka is trying too hard
    – Willock and Auba are almost non influential
    – Mustafi having a decent night

    -> If I were to take one player out, it would have to be regretfully Willock. I d bring Ceba or Pepe in for him but I think Arteta will keep the same team to start the second half.

  32. RC78 says:

    @Aaron and Rocky – seems we are all watching the same game 🙂

  33. RockyLives says:

    RC
    Except for Willock 😀
    In my book he’s having a good game

  34. LBG says:

    Take Laca off and play Martinelli and Aubang close together as double strikers

  35. LBG says:

    Bring Ceballos on in No 10 slot and Willock to drop and carry on working.

  36. Aaron says:

    That is the change I was thinking about.

    Let’s go.

  37. What a ball from Mustafi that Auba didn’t give up on ….. brilliant play. 1-0 to the good guys

  38. LBG says:

    What idiot said take Laca off?

  39. RockyLives says:

    Lovely goal! Well done Laca!
    And Saka and Auba and (was it Mustafi with the long pass to Auba?)

  40. RockyLives says:

    LBG 😀

  41. Aaron says:

    LACA!
    Team goal again…

  42. Sue says:

    9 assists for Saka now 👌

  43. RC78 says:

    could have been 2-0…we had a few shaky moments but overall, we were rather solid and come back home with a 1-0 win.

    @Sue – it is time to break some plates 🙂

  44. Aaron says:

    That is a big time WIN.

    Keep that energy flowing to the next tie.

    Stops and starts today, but ugly away wins count just the same.

    Feeling good about the weekend.

  45. RC78 says:

    Leno – 5
    Sok – 6
    Mus – 7
    Luiz – 6.5
    Saka – 7.5
    Douzi – 6
    Xhaka – 6
    Willock – 5
    Martinelli – 6.5
    Laca – 7
    Auba – 7.5

  46. Sue says:

    Hahaha, RC 👍👍

  47. LB says:

    Superb defensive performance with Guendouzi and Xhaka putting in a real shift in front of them. Again Saka was the stand out, I love the way he always finds his man when playing out from the back but of course the moment of the game MOTG was his pass to Lacazette for the tap in, pure class, the cross not the tap in.

    However, again like Sunday against Newcastle he was close to being MOTM but was rightly pipped by Ozil, well the same happened tonight, the MOTM for me was Leno, top, top drawer performance.

    That covers the defensive side but the attacking section left a lot to be desired; playing Aubamayang on the wing for the sake of getting Lacazette in the team is a waste; in fact, I would go further and say he was poor all the way through, does his goal excuse that? Not really, it was a tap in that Auba would have converted and probably scored more.

    The other person who catches it is Willock, I fail to see why people place him so high in that little league of who is most likely to succeed, Guendouzi is miles ahead and climbing.

    Still, that is enough criticism, the tactical changes that Arteta made towards the end of the game were decisive, Pepe now looks like he damn well wants to be brought on rather than going through the motions as seemed to be the case earlier on in the season. Love Martinelli: his close control, his energy his eye for a goal, all good.

    Right, a win away from home with a clean sheet…….GOYRRG

  48. GoonerB says:

    Not pretty but that was a proper professional job at a traditionally tough place to go. It was quite scrappy at times and we had to withstand some pressure but there were massive positives in this performance that could indicate something very important to us moving forwards.

    I love an all out attacking game to watch as much as the next purist, but that commitment and resilience we saw tonight needs to be appreciated and bodes well for us. We know that Arteta is essentially an attack minded coach so the fact that he has made us hard to beat as a first priority impresses me all the more.

    Wenger added flair to steel when he arrived and the result was our most successful period (arguably) ever, but the steel that was in place, that platform and foundation, has to be recognised as being a big key to the successes we had between 1997 and 2005. The flair players could play confident that the solid cover they had behind them, and through the whole team, was in place.

    Are we about to tread a similar pathway where the solid foundations are being laid, with every player knowing their job making us hard to break down, but with an increasing attacking fluidity and incisiveness slowly being added to this solidity over the next couple of years? It feels like that to me, and I for one am excited about this project under our young manager.

    How the hell has he turned players “not good enough” with one foot out the door into players that look bloody decent. I had players that I wanted out, as not being “good enough”, that I am now having serious doubts (in a positive way) about. It is rather stressful to be so conflicted, but at the same time I am really enjoying watching certain players being seemingly reborn like a phoenix from the flames.

    I actually want to give my MOTM to Mustaffi tonight, despite other worthy candidates. There were a couple of “old” bad habit mistakes from him but, from where he has had to come back from, his performance tonight showed massive mental resilience and he was a warrior that shirked no challenge or responsibility

    Artetas record (in all competitions) since taking over is 5 wins, 5 draws and 1 loss. I believe we have 16 goals for and 8 against in that run. What is it someone else pointed out? That we were the only team in the big 5 leagues undefeated in 2020.

    Yes there have been a fair few draws but we know that a couple of those have been so close to being wins, and the Chelsea loss could easily have been a win never mind even a draw. All this after inheriting a team in chaos, with a number of injuries, and bereft of confidence.

    I don’t want to get too carried away because I am sure it will not be all plain sailing and we will have to show patience at times, but am I barking up the wrong tree by feeling that the last few weeks are showing us the early foundations in a project that could become very special?

  49. LBG says:

    RC
    Disbelief and your rating for Leno!!

  50. LBG says:

    “at” your rating.
    First ten to fifteen minutes in defence showed that “bees round a honey pot” tendency we had in Emerytime ( so long ago ), which left attackers with loads of dangerous space.
    Douzi answered his critics. Martinelli is an 18 year old wonderkid. Saka’s assists. Get em signed up long term.

  51. LBG says:

    A stat to smile at….even the great Real Madrid and Totteringham Hotspurs couldnt win in Greece. Another home record smashed by the mighty Gunners!

  52. LBG says:

    Mari burning up the turf in training. Give him a go soonest Mikel.

  53. kelsey says:

    I saw the highlights and was surprised the most likely to score, Martinelli was subbed, unless he was injured.
    It’s a hostile atmosphere over there for sure and the game could have gone either way nevertheless a clean sheet most probably will tip the game for us.
    I don’t know if it’s my imagination but practically ever team we play seem more physical than us but at least Lacazette made up for his earlier glaring miss and though by no means a perfect display we got the result .

  54. RockyLives says:

    New Post…

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