Olympiakos-Arsenal: Match Preview, Line-up. Ollie or Theo or Both?

Somebody has got to get the goals.  Who will it be?

Of course, Arsenal will be happy wherever the goals come from, seeing as we need at least two and, more likely, three or more.  Two will only suffice if we can also keep a clean sheet.  Better then to go full on attack from the opening kick-off?

Football teams, even if they are attack-minded, are not designed to go for prescribed scorelines.  Still, this is exactly what Arsenal will have to do in Athens on Wednesday night.  How do we do it and how can we put to rest the ghosts of the reverse fixture, perhaps the lowest of the various low-points Arsenal have suffered in this topsy-turvy season?

I don’t really want to rehash that night.  Olympiakos took the lead three times but Arsenal could only equalize twice.  Manager Arsene Wenger was heavily criticized for rotating too many players, much as he had in the earlier loss at Dinamo Zagreb.  Personally, I think a big factor were the two yellow cards Giroud picked up in that earlier match.  Without the big man up top, Arsenal struggled all night to control possession and the match.  We were able to match their breaks with runs of our own and create some sustained pressure for portions of the match, but we also lost focus on multiple occasions and gifted the Greeks soft goals.  Two were from corner-kicks and the final one was almost directly from the kick-off after the Alexis header which leveled the score at 2-2.

We won’t have Alexis in this one but we will have Giroud, which I believe could make a massive difference.  Olympiakos will be content to defend and the big man will have to make his presence felt, shielding the ball and allowing our attacking midfielders chances to work off him.  He also will need to be a commanding presence at set-pieces and occupy multiple defenders.  Ideally he’ll get a bit of protection from the referee but , in the hostile stadium he shouldn’t count on it.  Regardless, it’s a big match for the big fellow, and, as his game goes, I suspect, so will Arsenal’s.

Will Wenger pair Walcott with him from the get go?  Theo is just back from injury and though he looked impressive in a twenty minute cameo vs Sunderland on Saturday I think the manager will hold him in reserve.  Instead, I believe the wide positions will be a reprise of what we saw in that match: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on one side and Joel Campbell on the other.  Campbell, of course, should welcome the chance to return to the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium where he spent the 2013-14 season on loan.

The attackers must take their chances when they come, but the supporting cast must also be on top of their games.  Maintaining pressure through possession has been identified by fullback Hector Bellerin as the key to coming home with the win.  It won’t be easy with a new central midfield pairing of Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey, in for Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla, both of whom recently went out with long-term knee injuries.  That said, Ramsey always has an eye for goal and for timing runs into the box and, the man just ahead of them, Mesut Ozil, has described his form as the best of his career.  Additionally, the group had the Sunderland match on Saturday as a dry-run and they were able to produce a scoreline (3-1) which would suit us if it can be repeated.  In fact, I expect that exact same team to take the pitch in Athens.

Bench: Ospina, Debuchy, Chambers, Gabriel, Gibbs, Iwobi, Walcott

As always, that’s just my best guess.  What do others believe?

It’s a very difficult task but still possible.  It’s been a Champions League group stage that has NOT gone well.  Still, Arsenal could have accepted their fate much earlier and they should be buoyed by the fight they showed in their home win over Group winner Bayern Munich (in round 3 of the competition) not to mention their London domination of Dinamo Zagreb in the most recent round.  It would be an improbable way to get into the round of 16–as we’ve done every year since the tournament moved to the current format– but it might make for the most memorable.

Can we do it?  Will we do it?

I think we can and I believe we will.  What say you, fine fellow Gooners?

Go on, then…

by 17highburyterrace

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11 Responses to Olympiakos-Arsenal: Match Preview, Line-up. Ollie or Theo or Both?

  1. Ab says:

    Hi there HT. I’m with you on this – I think we can, and just about will! It will be fascinating to see how the Greeks approach this match. Normally this is a real strong hold for them – but normally, they don’t have a place in the CL knock out stages to lose if they mess up. So, will they attack as the home side, or sit deep and back themselves to avoid a 2 goal loss? Or will they just be a bit unsure? The last is my bet. And we have to be at them quickly – not recklessly, but aggressively.

    Giroud usually scores when played for 90 min – so say the stats – so he is a pretty good bet for a goal. I think Rambo is too. Can we keep a clean sheet? I doubt it, so more goals will be needed. A late surge from Theo perhaps? If Ramsey scores early, it would not surprise me in the least if he scores again, such is the effect of confidence on his game.

    Manure out tonight. Fingers crossed we can show them how it should be done tomorrow. We haven’t made it easy for ourselves have we – but usually we pick up our performances on such nights, and I’m hopeful we will again tomorrow. COYG!!!!!

  2. TotalArsenal says:

    Great preview, seventeenho, and agreed that Giroud (harsh) red card cost us badly over the first two games. The line up is harder to predict this time. I reckon Wenger will tweak things a bit to get maximum value out of the available players. Part of me believes that he will indeed start with both OG and Theo, as we need goals and they are both calm and focussed in the big games. But another part of me believes that Wenger will need a weapon on the bench and that is either Theo or GIroud, or maybe Campbell, who will feel at home in Athens.

    Not an easy one to predict, but I would go with:
    ———– Cech —————-
    Debuchy—BFG–Koz—-Nacho
    ———FlameRam————–
    Theo——-Ozil———–Campbell
    ———–Giroud——————–

    Wenger will definitely not start with all his key attackers available, so I guess Theo will be on the bench (and then Debuchy will not start either).

    Looking fwd to this one, but Manure’s demise tonight tells us it will be hard to get through.

    CoyG! 🙂

  3. Admir says:

    Nice preview. 🙂

    I reckon Arsene will go with Giroud in the attack and Theo on the right. The Ox has been very poor against Sunderland (and not just there) so Arsene will use his best players available…I guess.

    We have a mountain to climb though. If there was a piece of paper that says: “Arsenal will win all four league matches before 2016 and lose to Olympiacos”, I would sign it in a second.

  4. Shrillex says:

    I think Ollie will start this one alone. Can’t see Theo getting enough space to exploit in this game. And I sincerely hope Gabriel will start this one. Gabby’s pace will be vital to neutralize that threat on the counter from Olympiakos. If we’re still needing goals with 10 mins to go, maybe we can set up a 4312 formation with the Ox and Rambo+Flam in midfield and Ozil behind Theo and Ollie.

  5. Top of the morning, fellas… Here’s a little more background on the opponent, but nothing to make us think it will be easy. http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2015/dec/09/marco-silva-olympiakos-arsenal-champions-league

    Years ago the Ox looked like one of the most exciting prospects in English football and part of that was his ability to get past defenders. (Didn’t he win a pen vs Milan in a big CL match?…) Somehow he needs to resurrect that ability. He’s got so much talent but just seems that little bit off with his decision making and his touches. I don’t know how he can turn it all around, but being part of a heroic effort tonight would be a start. I definitely see him in the first 11, for better or worse.

    If Theo were to start I think it would be in place of Campbell, who, if Olympiakos had wanted him, would most likely be at the club. Surely both will play some sort of role tonight, so, fingers crossed, they’re both ready for good ones.

    IMO, we just need a great and committed performance up and down the squad and a bit of luck–in the form of an early goal (or two) and no bad bounces down at our end. No matter what happens we’ll need more healthy bodies come January to compete in any and all competitions we find ourselves in…

    No TV for me on this one unless I negotiate with my satellite company–which I might try to do just so I can get a high-quality stream… As such, any in match commentary will have to come from others but will be much appreciated… Cheers in advance…

  6. Hey there… Very little traffic here on the site, which gets me down. I don’t have my best computer (this one has a sticky space-bar…) but I might try another “live-blog” for tonight’s match, mostly for my own entertainment… Of course, I will also be hoping to lure others into the comments…

    If you see this, TA, lemme know your thoughts…

  7. Oh, I guess I meant to add that I was quite successful negotiating with the satellite company so I will have the nice high-def telly coverage of the match…

  8. allezkev says:

    Great preview 17’O…

    I’m usually a bit conservative with my line-up ideas, tend to lean towards the obvious.
    So, your XI does it for me mate…
    Although I did wonder about Ramsey back on the right flank with Chambers/Flamini as the holding duo?

    I thought that Walcott looked very sharp against Sunderland.
    So I wondered if AW might have given him a start, but then the Greeks haven’t faced Giroud yet, so that would be a new problem for them…

  9. allezkev says:

    How to approach this game?
    That’s something I’m not at all sure about…

    Two goals in 90 minutes is eminently get’able…
    Keeping a clean sheet in 90 minutes could be problematic…

    We don’t have to go out all guns blazing.
    0-0 at halftime shouldn’t mean the sky is falling in…

    Scoring the winner in the 93rd minute would do for me…
    Yes, a nice, easy, relaxing 93rd minute winning goal.
    Enjoy…. 😃

  10. AwayGunner says:

    Sticky spacebar? Someone’s been watching DB10 highlights..

    Great preview 17, thanks. I have faith that the cream will rise to the top in this one, complete performance, absolutely doable.

    COYG!!

    AG

  11. Both Theo and Ollie start! (Ox to the bench)… Please join me in the comments in the…

    NEW POST

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