Start Strong Then Rest Players: Olimpiacos Prematch and Predicted Line-up

More of this please

We are very much in pole position in our Round of 16 Europa League tie as we entertain Olimpiacos at the Emirates tonight.

A (mostly) impressive 3-1 win in the away leg has given us a good cushion and makes us strong favourites to progress to the last eight.

Mikel Arteta will be tempted to rest some players who have clocked up a lot of minutes this season, including Saka (who exited the North London Derby early with some muscle concerns), Smith Rowe, Partey and Xhaka.

However, our struggles in the Premier League have made our European campaign of paramount importance and I suspect El Patron will start with a strong team and hope to take players off from early in the second half provided we haven’t run into trouble.

If we do run into trouble, recent form indicates that it will be probably be self-inflicted. That was certainly the case in the first leg of this tie, when a badly chosen pass from Leno was followed by some prime doziness on the part of Ceballos to allow the Greeks to score.

If you recall, we did our best to help out our opponents on two other occasions in that game (one lazy pass from Odegaard and one Luiz blunder in the box) but fortunately we were not punished and we finished the game very strongly.

In general our play has ranged between decent and very, very good since we beat Chelsea in December and most of our dropped points have come from self inflicted wounds.

Still, the win over Totteringham showed that we can get through a tough game without shooting ourselves in the foot. Now we need the same level of focus for this match.

I don’t want to get carried away when there is such a long way to go in the EL but, my goodness, what an end to the season it would be if we clinched that title: a trophy and a berth in next season’s Champions League. It would have a huge transformational effect on our progress.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

According to the club all our players are fit (well done to the medical and physio team!), although Saka will be monitored closely between now and kick-off and seems unlikely to be risked. To be honest the lad needs a break anyway.

I would like to see Martinelli get a start but… there’s Willian… and Arteta seems to love picking Willian despite the fact we can all see that he offers less than pretty much any of the alternatives so…

Here’s the line-up I’m expecting (although I wouldn’t be laying out any money on the accuracy of my prediction for this one):


Bellerin – Holding – Mari – Tierney

Xhaka – Partey

Pepe – Odegaard – Willian


The Greeks were pretty poor for most of the first leg and provided we leave the clown car in the garage we should be on course for a comfortable evening.

Famous last words and all that.

Come On You Gunners!



59 Responses to Start Strong Then Rest Players: Olimpiacos Prematch and Predicted Line-up

  1. LBG says:

    Thanks Rocky
    As a postscript to my debate yesterday, to link with yours, mine, everybody’s wish to see more of Martinelli, there is an interesting comparison with Foden at Manshitty. Pep has been very “protective” of him and asked for patience with a definite future plan in mind for him. Mikel seemed to echo this yesterday with comments on Martinelli. He even suggested Marti has been doing extra, non compulsory work, on his shooting, as the plan may be to make him into a centre forward eventually. (Visions of Thierry). – please dont let Balogun go though, Mikel! – I suppose we will see what we will see.

    In the meantime let’s get a first goal tonight, lock up shop, as you say rest a few, and speculate on quarter and semi final opposition on Friday. COYG.

  2. RA says:

    Good Post, Rocky, thank you.

    LBG linked his postscript to it, and in the same context, I could link my comment on the 16th to that, referring to the treatment of some of our youth team players etc, because it is such a rich and important resource area and it is not clear why Mikel handles some of their careers.

    Of course my comment was ignored, as usual, so this is a sneaky way to link it to such important bloggers so that I can bathe in your reflected glory.
    I thank you!! 😁

  3. RC78 says:

    Great pre-match and fully on board with needing some type of clarity from Arteta regarding our promising youth: Martinelli, Balogun, Azeez as well as Nketiah, RN, Willock and even AMN…

    For tonight, I like your line up Rocky. I would, however,
    – be happy to give Partey a rest and would play El Neny instead
    – play Auba on the left and stick with Laca up front.
    – give a rest to Tierney and Cedric and play Chambers and Bellerin.

    Leno – Bellerin, Holding, Mari, Chambers – Xhaka, El Neny – Pepe, Willian, Auba – Laca

    Pepe, Willian and Auba to score and hope to see Martinelli come in.

  4. fred1266 says:

  5. RC78 says:

    Apparently, Arteta wants to keep him but the deal could be as follows:
    – Pay for the 1 year loan extension (8-9 Mln) and then a buy-out clause fixed at 32 Mln that must be taken up by AFC.

    Let us see

  6. LBG says:

    You have as much chance of being ignored as if you tried to hide from being spotted behind a flag pole!

  7. RC78 says:

    FYI – France’s squad for the upcoming games, just in case it interests you, is out and the most likely starting XI will be:

    Lloris – Pavard, Varane, Kimpembe, Hernandez – Rabiot, Kante, Pogba – Griezmann – Giroud, Mbappe

    Mandanda – Dubois, Zouma, Lenglet, Mendy – Sissoko, Ndombele – Dembele, Lemar, Coman – Martial (or Ben Yedder)

  8. LB says:

    There seems to be something that is slipping under the radar that I want to point out.

    The thought that crossed my mind is: how do you get the best out of Aubamayang?

    And the answer for me is to play Martinelli. What are you taking about LB?

    Look at this attack.

    Martinelli Aubamayang Saka

    The thing that can happen here is that Auba and Martinelli can interchange, both can play number 9 and both are good at coming in from the left.

    Think further, this does not work with Auba and Lacazette — they cannot interchange.

    Aubamayang is wasted by just having him play on the left; he has too much to offer as a number 9, so I come back to the main point of this comment.

    The way to get the best out of Aubamayang is to play Martinelli.

    Ok, disclaimer, this is not a revelation, Arteta has tried to set this up twice before, the most recent went wrong when Martinelli got injured in the warm up and the previous time something happened to Auba but I can’t remember exactly what.

    Up shot — Play them tonight, test it out, it surely is one of the best occasions that will present itself, what with being 3-1 up and all.


  9. Sue says:


  10. RA says:

    All that bumpf from Arteta but Martinelli is still only in the stiffs subs.

    And the dynamic, world class Bellerin is back.

    His link up with Pepe will only cost us two goals. Ludicrous.

    At least Rocky will be happy — Willian is neither in the team or on the subs bench.

  11. Sue says:

    Willian has a tight calf…

  12. LB says:

    Should be enough to win this.

  13. RockyLives says:

    Looks like a solid team. Ceballos should be able to enjoy himself in the No 10 role.

  14. LBG says:

    Hope you are right LB.
    About time Pepe gave us something concrete!

  15. fred1266 says:

    Is he out for the season hopefully

  16. RockyLives says:

    Lots of little ‘almost’ moments let down by the final pass being not quite on target.

    Ceballos looks a long way off Odegaard‘s level so far (not entirely surprising given how little game time he’s had recently).

  17. Aaron says:

    0-0 at half fair, maybe 1-1..
    As observed a bunch of almosts.

    Pepe and Auba giving the ball away a few times up top with plenty of space around.
    Just missing our normal crew for sure.

    Nick a goal and should get AFC over the line.
    Game is begging for Martinelli to get a few minutes.

  18. Rasp says:

    Not the most riveting game so far, but it’s all about controlling the game and getting through I guess. I expect some goals in the second half.

  19. LB says:

    To keep Martinelli happy Arteta must have promised him BIG, VERY BIG next season

  20. RockyLives says:

    We’ve taken a lot of short corners in recent games.

    Every single one of them has been an embarrassment.

  21. RockyLives says:

    Oh dear.

  22. LB says:

    Call for the Cav

  23. Aaron says:

    Here we go, go into shell or man up…

  24. RockyLives says:

    Good – Partey and Odegaard coming on. Hopefully for Ceballos and… ? Probably Elneny, although he’s been OK

  25. Aaron says:

    Mikel is not playing around.
    Lets grab the midfield by the scruff.

  26. RockyLives says:

    Ode has made us look better immediately.

  27. Aaron says:

    Darn, that was a goal for sure.

  28. Aaron says:

    What the hell is Leno doing again??

  29. fred1266 says:

    Told you all Leno is trash

  30. Aaron says:

    Come on bro, put it in the net or pass it to someone who can finish from that close.

  31. Aaron says:

    Come on bro, put it in the net or put it into the net..
    Some opportunities for sure.

  32. LB says:

    So who would have thought that bringing Martinelii on would have made a difference?

  33. VP says:

    extra time now
    The croatians leading 2:0 aggregate is 2:2
    lets hope the spuds get knocked out

  34. LBG says:

    Sorry, Aubang is not worthy of his place.
    Little evidence of the determination and discipline to make this a stroll, which it should have been.
    Thank God for BOdegaard and apart from one aberration, Partey, and sending off.

  35. LB says:

    Let me go one step further — he was shite.

  36. LB says:

    Good fun over in spud land

  37. GoonerB says:

    Could have scored 5 but didn’t but job done and we move on. More interested right now in watching the Spuds currently going out in extra time. Take a bow Orsic. On tonight’s form I’d be sticking some money down to get him to us. Does our resident expert on overseas footy know anything about him……that’s you RC, to avoid confusion 🙂

  38. RC78 says:

    Leno – 5
    Bellerin – 5
    Luiz – 5
    Gabs – 6
    Tierney – 7
    Xhaka – 6
    El Neny – 5
    Pepe – 6
    Ceba – 4
    ESR – 5
    Auba – 4

    A night to forget in terms of the game and the performance…let s focus on the qualification and the facts that Odegaard and Martinelli played well in the little time they had.

    Auba missed 2 sitters and Pepe but I thought Pepe put in more efforts and tried to create a lot more than Auba…

  39. RC78 says:

    GoonerB – never seen Orsic before..I tend to watch the EPL, Ligue 1, Serie A, Liga and Bundesliga and occasionally the Portuguese, Scottish and Dutch Leagues but a lot less than the Big 5. So the Croatian league is not my radar yet 😛

  40. Rasp says:

    Totts losing 3 nil and go out if it stays like that for the next few minutes 😂

  41. RC78 says:

    He does not even seem like a regular international or a real asset in the Croatian league../maybe he is so upset or happy that his coach got sent to prison that he is playing out of his heart…

  42. VP says:

    Totts are out of europa

  43. LB says:

    I think I might have enjoyed that more than our game, Mourinho’s face — priceless.

  44. RockyLives says:

    Spuds out – happy days 😀😀😀

  45. Rasp says:

    That’s it … the totts are out …. all we need now is for city to stuff them in the league cup and Maureen’s record of winning a trophy in his first full season is broken

  46. LB says:

    “Auba missed 2 sitters and Pepe but I thought Pepe put in more efforts and tried to create a lot more than Auba…”

    Agree with this but Pepe and his pathetic first touch were poor again which yes, make Aubamayang even worse.

  47. RC78 says:

    Well well well…Mourinho’s Spurs are struggling but don’t count them out of a Cup Win or Top 4 finish, just yet…but if there is no Cup win or Top 4 finish, Mourinho would have made quite a null impact at Spurs

  48. RC78 says:

    Pepe indeed needs to be better with his first touch but unlike other players at the end of the game, he kept composure, kept the ball, got fouled…

    And there was a comment earlier about Martinelli being the key to Auba’s fortune. I tend to agree and a while back, I had floated the idea of of 4411 with Martinelli and Auba up front, flanked by Saka and Pepe (now maybe ESR?)…that was before Odegaard came to AFC

  49. LB says:


    If Ceballos is not going to be with us next season why on earth aren’t we developing ERS as the number 10 that he obviously is?

    The stupid team selection makes my blood boil.

  50. LB says:


    My point is just because Pepe was better than those around him does not make him good, he isn’t and he was far from composed at the end.

    And the comment you refer to above about Martinelli was written by me.

  51. RC78 says:

    Hi LB – I thought Pepe was rather composed at the end but this is all relative. Pepe is a good player, not yet the great player we expect for 80 Mln. Today the whole team was below average, including him but he, unlike, other players tried to make things happen and (almost) pulled them off.

    Good point about Martinelli-Auba, I think this could be a great partnership up front but I would play them in the center both in a 4411

    As for the team selection, Arteta has been puzzling at times…

  52. Gööner In Exile says:

    I get the feeling I watched the wrong game….should have gone for Spuds.

    Job done tonight nothing more nothing less, doubt Mikel was happy we should have won the game on the clear cut chances we had tonight.

    Whilst a lot has been made of our defensive frailties we are not efficient enough up top needing too many chances to find the back of the net on occasion which eventually highlights defensive mistakes if they lead to goals conceded and defeats. The life of a defender and goalkeeper is always to suffer more for their errors than forwards do for theirs, but Aubameyang had at least two absolute sitters tonight where he tried to make them look good rather than just score.

  53. RockyLives says:

    Only a one in seven chance of drawing a UK team in the next round then.

    So it’ll be us versus Man Utd.

  54. RC78 says:

    The final 8 of the UEFA Europa League:
    Ajax (NED)
    Arsenal (ENG)
    Granada (ESP)
    Dinamo Zagreb (CRO)
    Manchester United (ENG)
    Roma (ITA)
    Slavia Praha (CZE)
    Villarreal (ESP)

    I would be happy to avoid Man Utd because we play them in the EPL but other than that, I am happy to play any of the teams. We could meet Emery or Mkhy for example or Overmars’ team – would be fun but the real fun would be to meet Zagreb and to win, just to add a bit of salt on Spurs’ wounds 😛

  55. RC78 says:

    I d love to see:
    Top Half:
    Grenada – Praha
    Roma – Man Utd

    Bottom Half:
    Ajax – Villareal
    Arsenal – Zagreb

    Then: Grenada – Man Utd ; Arsenal – Ajax
    Final: Man Utd vs Arsenal with Arsenal winning 🙂

  56. LBG says:

    Like LB, even the day after, boiling about team selection ( and didn’t even play Willian!!!)
    Pepe is not a good player. Aubang does not deserve to be tried with Martinelli, and needs to concentrate on his cars.
    Laca is the only one of the old guard I’d keep ( and not with a great deal of conviction). Keep Balogun and make him and Martinelli our central strikers. It’s still yoof, with its guts and drive, for me.

  57. LBG says:

    Pepe = Peter Marinello or Gervinho, but more laid back.

  58. RockyLives says:

    New Post

  59. fred1266 says:

    All English finals again hmm

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