I hope that whatever team is chosen tonight, we see more energy and urgency than our last outing in this competition, because anything other than a win against Olympiakos would be nothing short of a disaster.
It’s only now, as we reach game week 2 of the Champions League, that we realise the importance of an opening day victory. Not only does it set you up nicely to take on the rest of the group, but it immediately alleviates any added pressure you might get for the second round of fixtures.
After tonight Arsenal have a double header against Bayern. That’s going to be a tough game and although we know we can get victories against ze Germans, the naturally pessimistic side of my brain has looked at the other two opponents in our group and thought that we could get to at least ten points without even worrying about picking up results home or away against Munich.
However, that opening day defeat has scuppered any hopes of that buffer, so the pressure is truly on the team. A draw or defeat against Olympiakos would be nothing short of disasterous. It would send us in to a double header against the hardest team in the group probably needing at least four points from those games, which I’m not sure is possible, so I suspect that only a win tonight will be good enough in the long run to see us out of the group stages.
So there’s not really a lot of ‘wiggle room’ for the team, which leads me to think that we’ll hardly see any rotation for tonight’s match up. In will come Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscienly and Monreal. In midfield he’ll definitely opt for Cazorla to return from suspension at the weekend, but the decision will need to be made as to whether Le Coq gets the nod having sat out the last week. I’m just thankful he’s back within such a short period of time. Having said that, my natural instinct as an Arsenal fan is to hope that Arsène rests him tonight for fear of any kind of break down to occur. If the club are relying on Coquelin to tell them that he’s ok, I’d urge caution, especially after seeing Wilson break down for Bournemouth at the weekend due to a knee injury after trying to carry on. Players just want to play and rarely think of the long-term effects of exacerbating an injury further, so I hope Francis is given the once, twice and thrice over by the medical team before tonight.
If he doesn’t play, I’d like us to approach the game with a little bit more of an aggressive attitude, playing Ramsey alongside Cazorla. I could be wrong, but I don’t think Olympiakos will have a go at Arsenal – they have the very recent example of Leicester to see why teams don’t do that – and will sit deeper to protect a draw and hope to hit on the counter, so I think the need for a defensive midfielder is less on an evening like tonight’s. Rambo will not sit and win balls, but he will be an effective attacking outlet going forward and has the engine to at least get back and give Olympiakos enough bodies to have to get through when they do venture forward. That will hopefully be enough of a deterrent but will also give another attacking midfielder to overload the Olympiakos defence.
The front four will no doubt be similar to the weekend and I don’t think we’ll not see Alexis, Özil and Theo up top for the suspended Giroud. The main question will be around who plays wide right. If Coquelin starts then it will be Ramsey, if the formation is shuffled as I’ve suggested, it may be the Ox.
Whoever plays though, the intensity needs to be there from the start. We don’t have the luxury of being able to shrug off any lethargy in a team performance tonight. We need to score and do so quick to bring Olympiakos out, which would then make the game more open and hopefully the quality of our attacking play will shine through.
It’s a shame Giroud is suspended, because I’d fancy him to have a good game if he was available, because Theo will be playing amongst some quite deep-lying centre halves and he won’t get the same freedom of space he was afforded last weekend. Let’s just hope he keeps up his scoring form.
There’s very little I know about our opponents style tonight, I’m afraid, other than a few of the players in their team. Maniatis, Cambiasso and Brown Ideye (last season of West Brom) are the main attractions it seems, but how they have approached their unbeaten domestic form I’m not sure. Much like Dinamo Zagreb that will probably give them confidence to an extent, but on our home turf it should not be as intimidating as it would be if we were in Greece.
All eyes have to be on tonight and not on the big game on Sunday against United. We need to start our Champions League season now and nothing short of three points will do.
Come on you reds!5