Arsenal welcome Olympiacos to the Emirates for the 2nd leg of their Europa League tie.
The Gunners maintain a 3-1 advantage after the first leg – all 3 being away goals which makes them distinct favourites as Arsenal look to get to the quarter finals.
Olympiacos will have to go for this, but you sense Arsenal will be too strong and the 2nd leg is like the 1st.
The gunners make 5 changes – but it looks an experimental line-up considering the 2-goal cushion.
Ceballos, Elneny & Xhaka start in a 3-man midfield, with Pepe & Smith Rowe on the flanks and Aubameyang back upfront.
Bellerin also comes back in for Cedric, but the rest of the defence is unchanged.
Arsenal will have to be wary of El Arabi, who haunted them in the same competition last year, but you’d expect the Gunners to progress comfortably.
38-year-old former Watford fullback Holebas come into the side – where Olympiacos operate in a back 3.
The 3-man midfield seems experimental – to see if it’s a viable formation with other profiles for the future – or there’s the chance it’s a 4231 with Ceballos at 10.
Arteta would have the aim to cancel out Olympiacos first half – to prevent any scares but the line-up still has the attacking firepower to create many chances and the team/ shape to control the game.
Despite a slow start to the game, Arsenal pressed like always and made life very hard for Olympiacos.
The Gunners dominated the ball but due to the 3 back, they couldn’t penetrate the defence yet.
Smith Rowe had an effort blocked by Sokratis which ricocheted unfortunately, which resulted in both wounded but able to play on.
Pepe, who had been lively so far got in behind 1 on 1 with the keeper after a good Ceballos pass, but was unable to squeeze home or find a teammate.
One route one ball 20 minutes in presented Olympiacos with their first chance – falling to El Arabi who was unable to capitalise after a great save from Leno.
Uncanny of Aubameyang as he sliced a good chance over the bar, disappointing.
A game of few chances so far where there’s been different possession phases – as Olympiacos sustainably do so for the first time in the game.
Possession won’t phase the Gunners however, as they are sat in their 442 shape – very compact and hard to break through.
A very dreary half, which doesn’t change anything with the complexion of the tie and is somewhat expected with the changed line-up.
Aubameyang has been very much off it, Pepe has struggled – got into some very promising positions but haven’t managed to take advantage.
Gabriel however has been colossal and probably the best player on the pitch, Ceballos has been lively – picking out some good passes.
Overall, the score line won’t matter and won’t need to be flattering. So long as the Gunners go through.
The Greek Champions have scored in their last 24 games – so they could still get make it nervy for Arsenal.
Olympiacos started off very quickly – getting in behind on a few occasions and having a headed attempt go just wide.
Arsenal must retain control of this game to avoid any nerves.
El Arabi finds the net off a deflection from Gabriel. Deja vu for the Gunners where it’s not surprising after this poor start.
So sloppy from Ceballos to lose the ball in the middle of the park – which has given Olympiacos a chance in this game.
Partey & Ødeagard will look to be introduced – to regain control in the game.
Arsenal did well just to maintain the ball – to prevent the constant pressure from the Greek side.
There was very little to report in this half – bar Aubameyang having a poor game and missing more big chances.
Pepe’s effort being blocked by his own teammate and Ødegaaard skying a decent chance.
Martinelli came on with 10 minutes left, and has first involvement was setting up Aubameyang, who’s back heel effort couldn’t find the net.
With 10 minutes left to play, Ba was dismissed after elbowing Pepe in his tracks and hitting the ball away. Very unfortunate and arguably harsh, but the Gunners won’t care.
A poor 2nd half but Arsenal go through to the quarters despite losing on the night.
Man of the match:
Gabriel was one of the few players who I thought was good today as always.
Won his duels, cleared danger brilliantly and generally kept things somewhat in the balance.
Ceballos had a good first half, Ødegaard was brilliant second, while Tierney was good but seemed a bit tired – Bellerin also looked pretty good.
There was limited choice for the award however – so from a Gunners point of view I’ll give it to Gabriel.
Leno – 6.5
Bellerin – 7
Gabriel – 8 (MOTM)
Luiz – 6.5
Tierney – 7
Elneny – 6
Xhaka – 6
Ceballos – 6.5
Smith Rowe – 6
Aubameyang – 4
Pepe – 6
Partey – 6
Ødegaard – 7
Martinelli – 7
It’s very hard to really comment on Arteta for this game. He did well to bring on Ødegaard & Partey to regain control.
Despite playing badly, the Gunners still created many chances, the press structure was same as always and were very hard to break through.
Arsenal will just be glad to go through, were unlucky to lose on the night but ultimately won’t care.
What next for Arsenal?
Arsenal face a West Ham side who are highly improved at the London Stadium.
Despite coming off a narrow loss to Man United, the Irons sit in and amongst the CL spaces as they are a surprise contender for the European places.
Arsenal in comparison sit 10th, in a very underwhelming and confusing season.
The game can be found at 3pm this Sunday on Sky Sports where both sides will look for a good final game before the international break.
1-1. West Ham are a really strong, well organised, well balanced side.
The midfield area will be crucial and a very interesting, decisive area for how the game goes.
I think Arsenal will just fall short but will play very well – just won’t take their chances.
Find out on the next article for how the game pans out.
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