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Arsenal v Olympiakos Europa League

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Arsenal host Olympiakos at the Emirates Stadium this evening for the second leg of their last-32 Europa League tie, with the hosts holding a 1-0 advantage thanks to Alexandre Lacazette’s late strike in the first leg.

The Gunners will be in high-spirits following a run of positive results, more so after three wins on-the-bounce from the last three to now have extended our unbeaten run to 10-matches across all competitions since the turn of the year.

Mikel Arteta can certainly be pleased with how the players have responded to him to have a defined playing style. But he will also be well aware that the hard work only starts now as we head towards the business end of this campaign.

With the Europa still our best route to secure qualification for next season’s Champions League we may go with a strong lineup, especially with a relatively favourable FA Cup tie at League One side Portsmouth on Monday night, to not risk leaving things to chance against the Greek Super League’s finest.

Pedro Martins has already did a lot of tough talking to put the home side on notice and is very confident about his teams chances to overturn the 1-0 deficit: “This is Olympiakos and you will see that in London. I believe in this team […]. I believe we can win at Arsenal.”

Following their loss to Arsenal last Thursday, their only defeat from their last 19 matches in all competitions, they beat PAOK in a top-of-the-table league match over the weekend, to make it four wins from their last five matches in all competitions, and it’s on the back of that they head into London.

However, the visitors got a rep for being poor travellers outside Greece; having lost 10 of their last 11 abroad in European competition, excluding qualifiers. So they will have to do something special if they want to turn this tie around. That being said; the last time they visited the Emirates was on the 29 September 2015 and they ran out 3-2 winners. A similar result would see them advance to the last-16 at our expense.

Team News

Arsenal’s win against Everton came at a cost with Sead Kolašinac forced off the field with a shoulder injury that could keep him out for quite some time. Kieran Tierney is back in training though, but only expected to make his return on Monday night at Fratton Park.

Lacazette stayed on the bench on Sunday against the Toffees, so he should be fresh to lead the attack.

Lucas Torreira and Mesut Özil, who didn’t make the flight to Greece, are both available for selection, as is Sokratis who picked up a knock late in that match.

Prediction

The Gunners will be looking to keep the current momentum going in front of the Emirates faithful and will certainly feel upbeat after last week’s result. Although a slim lead, it will allow them some comfort to dictate the pace of the game, sit a bit deeper than usual to allow the Greeks coming at them, which in turn will give them chances on the break. Certainly a game Granit Xhaka can thrive in with those stunning lobs over the top. Ergo I predict a hard-fought close win for the home side. COYG!

@LaboGoon

34 comments on “Arsenal v Olympiakos Europa League

  1. Good morning all.

    Good detail to get us in the mood Labo, great stuff.

    I thought we did wonderfully well in Greece and again versus Everton with both results effectively sealing the consensus that Mikel has made significant improvements to a somewhat formerly traumatised squad, and that the only likely way forward now is up.

    With all the talk of clubs circling like vultures over PEA, it occurred to me that Arsene’s great early successes were down, in part, to having the huge good fortune to inherit a world class defence on which to build his first great side.

    Arteta has, of course, had to work hard to address, improve and hopefully fix our current defence. However, he himself has had the great good fortune to inherit PEA, a player with an almost Henry-esque presence in front of goal, plus numerous players who have the look of potential greatness about them.

    It IS a bit of a stretch, I know, but I genuinely see welcome parallels with Arsene Wenger – many observers had doubts about the experience of both men at the start of their Arsenal careers. Both men were blessed with a slightly more than half decent squad, with interesting individuals who were barely firing as a team.

    Retaining PEA could well prove integral to Mikel’s early successes; winning through to collecting the Europa Cup could just give Arteta the launch pad to a, dare I say it, Wenger-esque new era for the club.

    So, no pressure for tonight then!

    But again, I’m sure we can do it.

    COYG’s!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Labo and thanks Andrew. I found myself thinking abut Arteta a lot after the Everton game. About the way he conducts himself. Of his insistence on high-standards and hard work. Of his understanding of what it is to be a Premier League player. Of his steeliness, his tactical awareness, his empathy and moments of humour. And of what he has achieved thus far, not just in terms of results, but with performances and of making the fans proud of the club again.
    And I realised that although I have never met him, and most likely never will, he has become someone I admire absolutely, and (not in a gay way) am more than half in love with.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Another great preview LG,
    AA, I think we have to remember the famous back four/five had the writting on the wall before Arsene got there, with fitness and performances dropping the consenses was they were going to be split up and replaced. So it was more of them being given the gift of Arsene rather than him inheriting a ready made defence.
    Tonights game is yet another that we will be guessing the line up. Mikel does seem to know the players already and picks his line ups very efficiently rather than relying on names.
    The training seem to show lots of players and as well as the youth players added only Sead, Callum and Cedric were missing.
    However if we press as we have been and continue the passing and flowing football then we should be alright COYG.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Was listening to some pundit the other day who said that many defensive sides when going 1-0 down early will continue with a defensive approach for a long time – hoping to turn the game into a 10 minute game when they might just nick a goal to secure a point.
    I wouldn’t be that surprised to see something similar this evening.

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  5. Great Preview Labo, thanks. It will be interesting to continue seeing the resurrection of our team. Feeling very confident that we have the skill and strategy to get through the stage. I expect a blend of experience and youth playing from the same sheet. I see a 2-0 with Laça and wonder boy Saka getting us thru!

    COYG!

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  6. That XI is replete with firepower.

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  7. BT really sucks.

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  8. As does Pearce

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  9. Making heavy weather of this. Think we should be ok now in ET.

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  10. Leno needs to be dropped just for that brain fart at the end.

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  11. Doesn’t get any more painful than that. Disastrous. This game sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Auba misses from 2 yards.

    I didn’t think away goals scored during extra time were counted. Ridiculous.

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  13. We were too sluggish for most of the match.

    Mikel should have made charges earlier. Especially Martinelli. He had a good impact when he came on.

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  14. What a shame. Absolutely gifted them that. It happens . Big regroup needed now.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Imagine the emotional whiplash Auba must be feeling.

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  16. Leno could have claimed both. Crosses for their goals.

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  17. Maximum cruelty. Xhaka’s pass a few inches more to left or right maybe Leno can clear first time. Or if he could have anticipated danger maybe bust gut to get in position for Leno to pass back to him down by left corner.

    But of course, main trouble was that first touch from Leno. Didn’t look like it even left an angle to put out for a throw. So it was either allow kick to be blocked, try a Cruyff turn or similar madness, or what he did. He looked relaxed as it came to him.

    Suspect teams who go back to keeper to play long, or who generally don’t like to take risks playing out, much better drilled in those scenarios, and maybe put it to keeper’s left there.

    Course all that was just one part of it. There was how close Martinelli came to making foul on crosser, Luiz leaving it. All together and bang, horrible.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Let’s face it.

    We were for many years a mediocre mid table team with the only very occasional success until Graham and then Wenger both made us believe we could be better

    That is all over and we are now reverting to type.

    The football world is different and we are incapable of going with it.

    The ride in the future will have longer troughs and fewer highs.

    We will just have to get used to it.

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  19. Let’s face it.

    We were for many years a mediocre mid table team with the only very occasional success until Graham and then Wenger both made us believe we could be better

    That is all over and we are now reverting to type.

    The football world is different and we are incapable of going with it.

    The ride in the future will have longer troughs and fewer highs.

    We will just have to get used to it.

    It will be easier for us older supporters who. Have been there before.

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  20. jigsol

    Understand some heavy gloom. Certainly feeling it myself. But think you’ve gone too far there. One horrendous result can’t dynamite all reasons for optimism Arteta provided to date, surely.

    Certainly a very bitter blow to say goodbye to CL hopes (I had us at about 1/4 chance beforehand, which looks slightly generous now), with all nasty financial implications of that. But prior to tonight Arteta has restored a lot of hope in me.

    I expect that’ll return quickly, in spite of this damaging result. I believe in him. Think he has good ideas about players and the game, and is an impressive character.

    That, combined with having some good players, and some excellent young talent, means there is real reason to hope we continue to get better, and good times could be ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Did we finish 2nd in group by way, and is that what meant playing 2nd leg at home, which, tonight, sure felt like and proved a disadvantage?

    If so, good news is we can blame that bloody Emery for it?

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  22. (First comment from a french Arsenal fan on Positively: so guys, please pardon my mistakes, if any)
    A frustrating result! Olympiakos absolutely needed a goal and yet quite played with the bus parked and a few counters. Not a very glorious football but alas effective ! Meanwhile our boys played a rather positive football but unfortunately, tonight, it looked like each player was just a little bit below what they are usually capable of and we were a bit ineffective.

    Finally, am I the only one that could see two strange refereeing decisions?
    – A hand in the box at the end of an outstretched arm intercepting a ball and bouncing it. And … nothing?
    – A yellow card given to a Greek “last defender” with a foul preventing Saka (or was it Pepe?) from entering the box… Shouldn’t it have been a red?

    Really sad and unfair night. Hopefully it won’t affect team spirit too much for the rest of the season.

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  23. Well, what can be said about that. Some would say, the less the better.
    Firstly, the players were clearly tired, very tired. Some , I would put as running on empty in terms of elite sportsmen. I suspect going from the reportedly poor fitness levels under emery to Artetas desired fitness levels, without a pre season is going to cause some damage, which seems to currently include losing a player to a fairly major injury most games.
    Secondly, This was one of those games where virtually everything, every bounce, 50/50, most decisions (the ref allowed them to barge us off the ball, including at the start of the decisive goal), little touches, the ball running just too far away, every little thing went against us. Even after Aubas goal, myself and people around me had a sense of foreboding. If anyone was going to throw this away, it would be us, via a set piece, last minute. So very Arsenal.
    If that sounds like excuses, it isn’t, we were poor, but a team that is cream crackered, possibly some still traumatised by emery’s reign and the boards lack of urgency in ending it ,isn’t going to easily recover when things go against it, Liverpool, at the moment we are not. There were signs of what was coming against Everton, then, a gargantuan effort saved the day, today, they didn’t have the gas, albeit against limited opposition.
    How you take this poor showing depends on what you expect from the season, after what we have been through, and were we have fallen to, I personally expect very little, for now. Arteta is at pains to tell us we are a very long way from where we should be, Freddie said similar. Arteta cleverly buying himself time, perhaps , but I suspect he is also being honest, and perhaps trying to bring a little realism to certain board members who want ECL football, and want it now, (in some cases ignoring their own part in the clubs little stint away from the CL) . Emery has hinted at the board needing to be realistic.
    Arteta cannot fix what is wrong this season, he can just make a start, do his best and see where that gets him. If he is going to come good, we will start to see that next season. A cliche but anything g this season is a bonus. That said, I think Arteta got a few things wrong today, Martinelli for starters.
    Oh, and Me Arteta, sort out the problem of set pieces as well, by next game if you will. That has been going on for rather a long time, and has proved very costly. Then, we might stop losing to your Crystal Palace’s, Sheff Utds, Southamptons, and teams I won’t even mention from days past, teams who are in lower divisions now, and the lot of limited journeyman cloggers happy to sit a few big lumps at the back and hit us on the break today, getting pretty lucky in the process.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Jigsol, if you are correct, that is truly a damning indictment on those running the club.
    With the stadium, a London location, reserves built up, we should have been primed to do well.
    I am more optimistic, but believe true improvement is going to take time. I think those running the club have made big mistakes, dithering on emery’s sacking ranking high amongst them.
    Just hoping those running the club have finally made the right choice in the likes of Arteta and Edu, and will back them

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  25. I’m so disappointed because that defeat was self-inflicted! I don’t know what we were playing at in the first half, strolling around the pitch passing the ball sideways and backwards with no sense of urgency. I’m not going to pick out any particular players as they were all sub-par tonight and we got what we were asking for in the end. I intend to forget about that pathetic performance because at least we can now focus solely on the PL and try to get some more points on the board in the hopes of salvaging something from this season.

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  26. Mandy, may be some faultiness in me analysing it this way, but felt like for them to win a lot of thing needed to go wrong for us.

    Getting someone so far from a homer ref being one. That last man decision going the way it did, with VAR either not advising looking again, when it seemed so merited, or the ref insisting he was sure, if advised to look (they can do that if feel their view was sufficient and convinced they’re right).

    Handball also seemed right on the line. Probably, by a small distance, the right call for me, but considering how UEFA did handballs last year, and fact again VAR could so easily have asked ref to use monitor..our luck was out.

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  27. Then a great deal of our own doing. The weak tackle, when it looked like other player stood no chance of winning it, for the first corner (by guy with legitimate excuse of being wary of knee). Luiz by looks of it not doing his scanning job correctly (had one v quick look left, but not in direction of big guy who scored). The 2nd one. fractional all the way. Had it come to Xhaka slightly differently he would have had option to send it up line. Had it come to Leno differently could have gone first time, or on left at least ensured throw only. had his touch been better…

    Then Martinelli so close to making foul, but deciding against, perfect cross, Luiz again probably hadn’t scanned, left it…disaster. So much had to go wrong, and did.

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  28. Ultimate in captain hindsight, and probably hypocrisy, but did we also play the odds wrong and pay massive price for it.

    That 1 goal lead from away, which now feels like the most dangerous result in universe, did it mean our best option would have been to go with maximum intensity at start.

    I expect we knew they would always sit deep, wait and hope, everything geared to staying in it as late as possible, an earlier goal a huge bonus, but the main aim to be in it towards end and see if could get something then. We likely opted for patience, keep moving ball, don’t get caught on break.

    Ah, easy to say now, and hypocrisy is if we did otherwise and got caught on break I would surely question that. But advantage of going faster from start is that ought to get temperature up earlier, have lots of time to turn around if get caught earlier in game.

    As you can prob tell, not taking this one well. Was truly brutal evening.

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  29. It certainly was, I was behind one of the goals , so haven’t seen some of these incidents/ decisions yet, but what I did see, the ref did us no favours at all, but when do they ever and the club don’t seem willing or able to do much about it.
    A lot of it , as mentioned, self inflicted, a lot of it fine margins consistently going against us, still think a lot was tiredness, and right at the last kick, down to an amazing striker we have, for now, who has the ability to score stunners and miss sitters!
    We were probably 5-10% off in that game, that’s more than enough when things go against you.
    Yes, agree, that was brutal, but that applies pretty much to this season, and indeed virtually the whole Wenger transition mess, Ivan getting his way then dealing a delayed dithering departure and the ensuing power vacuum, Raul, Emery, Arturo Canales and other agents behind the scenes stalking prey, losing Sven, no DoF for ages at a time we needed one, the refereeing, mid season managerial changes, injuries, painfully slow decisions at board level, you name it, we have had it, nobody gets out of such mismanagement behind the scenes lightly I am afraid.
    It seems these owners are highly dependant on a good team running the club, as they lack knowledge in some areas by their own admission, let’s hope in Arteta Edu and others at least, they have found that. This club needs rebuilding and restoring, there are some green shoots, but there will also be nights like last night for a while.
    All That said, I do think tiredness was the main factor!

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Totally agree with everything Mandy. I think that Keown is being a bit harsh however but facing March without European football is a new low.
    It was never going to be a quick fix.

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  31. I have no sympathy with the tired story.

    The players have just had a 2 week break.

    I cannot accept that professional players paid tens of thousands a week can be tired because they have to play 2 90.minute games 5 days apart.

    If they cannot cope with that then they are in the wrong profession.

    How is it possible that it should take 77 minutes before they managed a shot on target?

    We are seeing a rapid descent into mediocrity before our very eyes.

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  32. I have no sympathy with the tired story.

    The players have just had a 2 week break.

    I cannot accept that professional players paid tens of thousands a week can be tired because they have to play 2 90.minute games 5 days apart.

    If they cannot cope with that then they are in the wrong profession.

    Tiredness is bot a valid excuse.

    How is it possible that it should take 77 minutes before they managed a shot on target?

    We are seeing a rapid descent into mediocrity before our very eyes.

    Like

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