Olimpiacos tonight, Totteringham on Sunday. How do you think we’ll be feeling by the end of the weekend?
With luck, skill and an absence of self-inflicted wounds we could be sitting in the quarter finals of the Europa League and the relishing the sweet taste of derby victory.
The trouble is, there won’t be many Arsenal supporters feeling confident about either of those outcomes.
We could do it, of course. We could play disciplined, organised football with real attacking verve in both games, but with the current version of Arsenal there’s no way of knowing whether or not we will. We’re just as likely to play really well for 80 minutes then have one of our outfield players pick up the ball with his hands, run down the pitch and chuck it in his own net.
First things first, the Greek side will be no pushover this evening. In the round of 32 last season we won in Athens but threw it away in the home leg, so even a solid result tonight doesn’t make us safe.
They’ll have Sokratis playing, by all accounts. I always liked him when he turned out for us. Not the fastest and certainly not particularly suited to the ‘play-out-from-the-back’ fetish that obsesses modern coaches, but he always gave what he could and was never shy of getting stuck in.
Traditionally we have to assume he’ll have a blinder against us tonight but maybe, just for once, the football gods will have a bit of a giggle and make the irony gun point in the opposite direction: perhaps with Big Sok giving away a penalty and getting red carded, or slicing the ball into his own net. We shall see.
Mikel Arteta’s team selection will be made with one (or both) eyes on Sunday’s game, but surely tonight is the priority. European qualification via the Premier League is a dead duck now so the EL is our only chance of a successful end to the season.
As far as I know we have everyone available, so my guess for the starting line-up is:
Bellerin – Luiz – Gabriel – Tierney
Partey – Xhaka
Saka – Odegaard – Smith Rowe
Personally, I would prefer to see:
Cedric – Holding – Gabriel – Tierney
Partey – Elneny
Saka – Smith Rowe – Aubameyang
Fingers crossed that whatever team takes the field can do the job and come home with a win. An away goal or two and a clean sheet would be just the confidence boost needed before entertaining the Spuds.
Totteringham’s fortunes have been up and down like Zebedee this season, sometimes they look amazing and sometimes laughably bad. Unfortunately they seem to have hit form lately and with Bale, Kane and Son in attack they will really test our defence, but we can concern ourselves with that after we’ve got tonight’s business out of the way.
We have the players and the ability to return from our Greek odyssey in triumph if the gods of Olympus smile kindly on us.
Come on you Gunners!