“We went without spoken goal, united by a yearning for elevation.” Andrew Greig (Fair Helen)
Two more games before another interlull will deprive us from club football for a fortnight, so let’s enjoy them. A 1-3 win with three precious away goals should be enough but in me saying this, and the team possibly thinking it, lays the only real risk. I don’t think the manager or the players will be complacent but a subconscious lack of application and urgency could still harm us. Olympiacos have to score at least three goals to go through, so they should come out and attack us. We need to score at least two goals to meaningfully add to the aggregate score over the two legs, so we should really go out and attack too. No point in sitting back and inviting pressure without a real desire to turn turnovers and counter-attacks into goals. If I was Mikel I would task the team to take the game to Olympiacos from the start with a deep yearning for elevation: high tempo, intensity, creativity and sharpness up-front for at least 70, when hopefully the job is done.
The problem is that we cannot afford to make too many changes to our midfield, both the deeper laying one and the three players in front of them. At least one of Granit and Thomas needs to play and the same goes for ESR and Odegaard. The latter are fit and young so there should be no problem, but Granit and especially Thomas looked knackered during the last 15 minutes v Spuds and Arteta may have to rest them to avoid fatigue/injury. Partey had been brilliant for 75 minutes but after that he simply imploded with a number of poor passes and tired fouls that almost cost us. I reckon he will be rested/ on the bench tonight. My only worry is Mikel playing both Elneny and Ceballos in deep midfield: a total recipe for disaster.
Saka is the only injury worry but he may still be fit to play. I would rest him or let him play the last twenty minutes or so. Leno had a poor game v Spuds but we got away with it, and I wonder whether Mikel will be tempted to start Ryan instead. I would be. We have the luxury to give our CBs a rest and I would also be tempted to rest Tierney. The match v West Ham is a big one and they have no European involvement and will be rearing to go, so we do need at least five first team players to be equally as fit, I reckon.
This game is crying out for the reemergence of heartbeat in attack, Martinelli. Will we see Pepe-Ode-Emile-Marti – POEM – up-front?!
Anyway, enough of the talking, here is my preferred line-up (the predicted one is beyond me today):