Arsenal – 10th in the Premier League on 37 points. +7 Goal Differential (26 Matches played)
Last 5: DWWLD
Olympiacos – 1st in the Greek Super League on 64 points. +49 Goal Differential (25 matches played)
Last 5 games: WDWLD
Last season’s Round of 32 exit in the Europa League will not only be on the mind of all Arsenal supporters but the players as well, as the Gunners will be seeking revenge as Olympiacos ended Arsenal’s Champions League dreams. A new Europa League competition and a meeting once again against Olympiacos this time in the round of 16.
Since 2017 Arsenal have conceded the most penalties in the Premier League (23), made the most errors leading to a goal (35) and been shown the most red cards (14). Those three stats show what individual errors are leading to on the pitch. Arsenal need to show more composure and have a calmness about their play and that will come throughout this transitional period as Arteta puts a together a consistent squad. The good thing for Arsenal is that their problems are not caused by opponents but themselves, ultimately in control of their own actions coming down to whether or not Arsenal will beat themselves.
Arsenal and Olympiacos have met 10 times across all European competitions having never drawn a match as both sides have won 5 times each. Arsenal have to treat every game in this competition now like it’s a cup final and with a good performance in the first leg the Gunners can set themselves up in a good position when the return leg is played at the Emirates.
Mikel Arteta is going to play his best starting 11 come Thursday with Arsenal’s Champions League dreams on the line and this type of game where the stars come out. The likes or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette always seem to fancy themselves a goal in a big game, while a fully fit Thomas Partey is looking to show just how big of an impact he can make in this side. Bukayo Saka has been excellent since December and is a player that Olympiacos will have to focus on along with Nicolas Pepe who has been a top player in the Europa League. Mikel Arteta has the attacking options to choose from and whomever he selects should reward the managers faith a good performance and a couple away goals to get things going Greece come Thursday.
Predicted Starting Arsenal 11: 4-2-3-1
Leno, Cedric, David Luiz, Pablo Mari, Tierney; Partey, Xhaka; Saka, Odegaard, Pepe; Aubameyang.
Arsenal Team News (Injuries, suspensions, etc.)
Emile Smith Rowe – Questionable. Hip. ESR was substituted just before the half at Leicester City with discomfort. Returned to a full training session and will be assessed ahead of Thursday’s fixture.
Top Scorer (Europa League) –Nicolas Pepe – 3 goals.
Key to Game: Kill the game. Arsenal have had the tendency to allow teams to stay in the game with the Gunners not being clinical enough in the final third and putting games to rest. When Arsenal have failed to take their chances it has come back to haunt them through individual errors or just simple mistakes made but when Arsenal have put together a consistent and complete 90 minutes of play, the real quality and potential of how good this team can be starts to show. Consistency will be key for the Gunners over the two legs but it comes down to the quality in front of goal and putting away chances.
Greek side is going to have confidence headed into Thursday’s tie starting off at home, Olympiacos have a commanding league in the Greek Super League and having fallen out of the Champions League into the Europa League found themselves in a shootout in their round of 32 tie against Dutch side PSV as Olympiacos won 5-4 on aggregate. Olympiacos are going to hope to repeat last years result against the Gunners as they will have the same goal of making the Europa League final.
Players to Watch:
Sokratis – Defender, Former Gunner
Youssef El-Arabi – Forward
Bruma – Forward
Top Scorer (Europa League) – Youssef El-Arabi – 2 Goals.
Predicted Score: 3-1 Arsenal to win