Arsenal head to Greece for an epic battle in the mightiest of all competitions, ‘The Champions of 5th & 6th Place League.’
Mikel Arteta wants a trophy. This might present the path of least resistance when you consider we’re 10th in the league in the worst form since history began. It’ll still be hard, but we’ve had a fair amount of joy progressing in this tier of Europe over the past couple of season, so there’s no reason to think we’ll not be giving it a good go this evening.
The biggest challenge we will face is our own complacency. Even I’m complacent. It’s embarrassing. But we’ve been here before, we’ve taken losses and draws against some pretty smelly opposition we’ve not given enough respect to. I’m thinking Graham Potter’s Ostersunds a couple of seasons back as the standout.
Mikel is starting to have a fullish squad to pick from. He’ll have Mari in contention this evening. The Spaniard might find himself a place on the bench. We also have Nelson back in the mixer… and, Matteo. The bad boy with the big hair appears to have earned forgiveness and that’s great news. The manager didn’t shy away from why he was dropped.
‘I want the best players for the game and I select them in relation to what I see on a daily basis.’
It’s clear. It’s consistent. He delivers on his word if you fail him. The positive so far is he doesn’t hold grudges. Do the work and you’ll earn an opportunity again. I don’t think it’s a surprise it’s the younger chaps with the issues, they are pushing boundaries to see how far they can flex those rules. Not very far it would seem.
The Greek team are top of their league after two seasons in the relative wilderness for side that has monopolised trophies over the last decade in Greece. Sokratis has been a key source of ‘DON’T FUCK IT UP’ advice to the backroom team. This from Arteta.
‘He knows everything about Olympiacos, about the country, about the type of fans that we are going to find here. I’ve been very aware from the games that I’ve watched about them and their passion, their quality and the atmosphere that we are going to have to be playing in tomorrow. So yes, it’s a difficult trip away from home and we’re going to expect a tough game and we’ve prepared for the game knowing that it’s going to be a difficult challenge.’
I think the atmosphere is a key advantage for the Greeks. They’ll know that we’re drunks when we’re on the road, we are there to be had, easily rattled, quick to drop out heads. I’d imagine the key focus for Arsenal is going to be about solidity again. Come back to London with an easy job. Best way to ensure that is a focused defensive performance. We certainly aren’t going into a heavy rotation per the manager.
‘We’ve had a break of 15 days and we’ve played just one game. So tomorrow I’m going to put out a team that I think is the best to play. Then the rest of the games will take care of themselves. You cannot control that sometimes you are thinking about resting somebody and in training he gets a little issue or he gets sick. So tomorrow we are going to put out the team that we think is the best to play Olympiacos and the rest of the teams and games will follow.’
One eye will have to be on Sunday because Everton don’t have a game tonight and they will have had over a week to prepare against us, so super fresh legs and minds. Interestingly, the backroom team have elected to sleep the night in Greece versus making the sprint back home. I would assume that is to ensure two nights of rest don’t get ruined and the players can do some sort of warm down tomorrow.
There’s a good piece in The Athletic about Arsenal being in the top 2 for tactical fouls. I know it’s a bit grim, but I still love it. We’ve not been a team of dark arts for 20 odd years. That we’re moving into the modern era with a win at all costs mentality makes me happy, it has to work first, but at least we’re thinking about it.
Big game. See you in the comments. x