Just a quick preview as time is short.
Tonight we play our second group game in the Champions league and we are hosting Olympiacos. After a decent first group game against Dortmund, we lost to Blackburn before notching up a couple of wins. Tonight we need to follow it up with another win just to get the confidence and momentum going.
Games are coming in thick and fast which can only be good for us if we can manage to perform well in them. With our third game in a row at home, we need another good performance if we are to beat them. Although we have won all our games at home this season bar one, we still need to make the Emirates a fortress and that can only be possible by giving nothing to the opposition. Our home record in Europe is also good but that shouldn’t make us complacent. As Ramsey told the Official Matchday Programme:
“We have a good record at home in Europe, and I think we need to approach every game here the same. We need to say ‘this is our home pitch and this is where we are strongest’. Hopefully the win against Bolton will help us do that, and we want to go on an unbeaten run now.”
This game won’t be a walk in the park as Wenger was right when he said there is no such thing as an easy game.
“For me, it is difficult to beat anybody. We have a lot of respect for Olympiacos. I have seen their game against Marseille and they played well. You never win easy in the Champions League – when you give absolutely everything, you have a chance to win. If we have not learned that from 14 consecutive years in the Champions League, then we are really stupid. If you do not prepare properly, then you have no chance.”
While they are pretty good in attack, their defending is questionable (not very different from us). So, today it will be a matter of who best exploits the other team’s weakness. We shouldn’t under estimate them at any cost as RVP said:
“We know that tonight’s match will be a very difficult challenge. I was looking at their record and they have been champions in Greece 13 of the last 15 years. That’s pretty amazing and they will provide a really tough challenge, just like they did a couple of years ago.”
So hopefully the team is prepared to give them a lesson in football.
Injury wise, we are short in plenty of bodies in vital positions. With Gervinho, Walcott and Koscielny joining Vermaelen, Wilshere, Diaby and Squillaci (there are a few others!) on the side lines, we will have to play some young players today.
Among the injured, loss of Wilshere for five months is a big blow. Questions will always be asked as to why we always lose our best players to mysterious injuries for long durations, but I know we will never get to know the answer. It is very easy to blame some one but it won’t do us any good. Whether the fault is with our medical staff, or the way we train or the manager’s, in the end it doen’t matter as we will miss him for more than half an year. I am only hoping that we do see him in five months and he does not suffer the same fate as Vermaelen and Rosicky. We will have to cope without him with the burden falling on lots of young players eventually. Hopefully, we will come out on top!
As far as the team is concerned for today, I will go with Sagna, Mertesacker, Song and Santos at the back. We will have to go with Song as all other centre backs are injured. I shudder just imagining who will we play, if one of Mertesacker and Song get injured.
In the middle, I will keep Arteta and Ramsey and bring in Coquelin, who really impressed me in the Shrewsbury game. Frimpong is also not a bad option. Any one of them will do but personally I would like to see Coquelin tonight. Arteta and Ramsey will have to provide creativity today with Song playing as centre back. Ramsey was excellent in the second half against Bolton so hoping he repeats that same performance.
Upfront, I will go with van Persie, Arshavin and chamberlain as we are missing our regulars. Arshavin, according to Wenger just needs a bit of confidence, so today’s game might be a good opportunity to get some of it back. As for Chamberlin, he was phenomenal in the Carling Cup game, so looking forward to see him dazzle Europe today. As for van Persie, I will play him for at least an hour to get some goals in before substituting him. He will need some rest before the game against Spurs.
Probable starting eleven: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Song, Santos, Arteta, Coquelin, Ramsey, Chamberlain, RVP, Arshavin.
We can always bring on Chamakh, Park and Miyaichi to mix things up.
As for the result, I am confident that we will win this one. The pressure will no doubt be on us but playing at home, we will have the advantage of home crowd. We also need to show consistency and winning this game and next are crucial to really get us back on track.
Looking forward to a sound defensive performance and goals from Van Persie and Chamberlain. Keep your finger crossed!
Enjoy the game!