Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Arsenal's Champions League Game With Olympiacos Previewed.

Arsenal's league campaign hasn't got off to the best of starts this season, but they have played four cup games so far without losing any of them. Three of those games have been in the Champions League where they have managed two wins and a draw against tough opposition. They will be looking to add another win to that statistic to put them in a strong position in their Champions League group.

Olympiacos lost their first game in the group at home to a Marseille team that are struggling to make an impact in their domestic league. Olympiacos have won their first two league games in Greece so far, but it's a big step up for them to Champions League level. Their record on the road in the Champions League isn't very good, but they did manage to beat Arsenal at home in the group stages two seasons ago.

On that night Arsenal played a weakened team, as they had already won their group and the trip to Greece can be quite grueling. When Olympiacos came to the Emirates in late September 2009 they managed to keep Arsenal scoreless until just over 10 minutes to go. Arsenal managed two goals in the last 12 minutes through Robin Van Persie and Andrey Arshavin to win the game, but they really should have won by more.

The latest injury news from Arsenal isn't very encouraging, as their casualties continue to mount. Jack Wilshere won't play again until February at the earliest, but there are real concerns that his season could be over. Abu Diaby hasn't been seen at all so far this season, but the club have said he should return after the next international break along with Thomas Vermaelen.

The latest players to be added to the injury list are Theo Walcott, Laurent Koscielny and Gervinho. They join Johan Djourou, Sebastien Squillaci and Yossi Benayoun who all have short term injuries and will not be available to play tonight.

It means Arsene Wenger will have to switch things around a little against Olympiacos, and there is always a possibility he will change the formation slightly. The biggest problem will be who plays alongside Per Mertesacker in the centre of defence with only Ignasi Miquel and possibly Alex Song being the candidates. If Song plays it means Arsenal will lose some of their defensive strength in midfield, and I'm not overly confident of his ability and concentration in defence.

It would be asking an awful lot of Miquel to step up to this level, but I think he is capable of playing in this game at least as long as he is fit. I have a feeling Song will get the nod though which should mean Emmanuel Frimpong gets to play the defensive role in midfield. If Wenger goes with a different formation it could see Francis Coquelin play alongside Frimpong in a four-four-two, but I think he will stick with his favoured four-three-three.

The other two midfielders are bound to be both Mikael Arteta and Aaron Ramsey with Robin Van Persie filling the centre forward role. That leaves Andrey Arshavin as one of the wide players, and then Wenger has to decide who plays on the other side. I wouldn't be surprised to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain play, as there are so few other options but I have a feeling Ju Young Park might get to play.

He hasn't played much since his arrival at the club, but Wenger stated that he can play in any of the three attacking roles in the team when he signed him. It's a chance for him to show the Arsenal fans what he can do alongside the strongest team Arsenal have available on the night, unlike his previous appearance against Shrewsbury Town.

The Arsenal bench might have a very young look to it with so many players out injured, and hopefully those injuries won't be added to. I think Chamberlain will be seen at some stage during the game, and I hope to see him running at Olympiacos with the ball and causing them problems. He's a player with real potential and ability, and I'm sure he has a great future at the club.

Despite the glut of injuries  Arsenal have more than enough about them to make things very tough for Olympiacos, and they need to put them away when the chance arises. Olympiacos do not travel well in European football, and as long as Arsenal put them under pressure they will create the chances they need. A win should set Arsenal up nicely going into the international break with the Marseille double-header to come afterwards.

I think Arsenal will win 2-0 with RVP adding to the 100 goals he has scored for the club already. He has been absolutely fantastic since he returned from injury at the start of January, and without him at the moment Arsenal would have a real struggle on their hands. It is vital for them that he stays fit and able to play the north London derby at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

Wenger will again be in the stands tonight, as he sits out the rest of his UEFA ban imposed upon him for making contact with the bench while serving a ban for his reaction to Arsenal's defeat to Barcelona last season. The ban is a joke, as others have done the same thing before and escaped censure and he was told by the UEFA official on the night that he was working within the rules. Hopefully Pat Rice can do as well as he did in charge of the team away to Borussia Dortmund in Arsenal's previous Champions League game.

That's it for today.

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Here's the highlights of Arsenal's 2-0 win over Olympiacos two years ago.

See You Tomorrow.

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