Olympiacos Preview: Time to Get Things Back on Track
Today hasn’t began on a great note for me with my BlackBerry acting like Olivier Giroud when he’s one on one with an opposition goalie. It has given me its fair share of problems since I purchased it but this time, my screen is white without any error message. But it’s aii…I’ll live.
In the wake of that horrendous miss that would have salvaged a point for Arsenal, Giroud has come out to defend himself, stating that he made the right choice,
“It was a good pass from Alex (Oxlade-Chamberlain) and I think that I needed to go round the keeper as he came out quickly. If I chipped the ball, the defender could have saved it. So I think I made the right call.”
Whether he made the right call or not, the bloody ball failed to enter the net so it doesn’t matter after all. Arsene Wenger still has the final say on who his center forward is going to be tonight and I certainly won’t mind seeing Theo Walcott getting a run-out there. Gervinho has done pretty well in that pseudo-9 position but he’s better suited on the wings.
After a somewhat disappointing defeat to Chelsea last weekend, Arsenal will have to convince the fans that it was just a glitch with a very good performance tonight against the Greek champions, Olympiacos Piraeus. Last season, goals from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Andre Santos were enough to seal the victory for Wenger’s side at the Emirates but the dead-rubber return leg at Athens was marred with an ankle injury suffered by Andre Santos.
Lukasz Fabianski was between the sticks in that fixture but his night was short-lived when he suffered a nasty injury after a gash from Thomas Vermaelen. Vito Mannone came in his stead and endured a horror outing that night.
Olympiakos took the lead when David Fuster sent a simple through ball that brought out the worst in Squillaci and Djourou as both defenders went for the ball but they ended up guiding the ball to Rafik Djebbour that rounded Fabianski before slotting the ball to an unguarded net. Djebbour, Vassilis Torossidis and Tassos Papazoglou are going to miss tonight’s clash through injury.
Emmanuel Frimpong lost the ball in the midfield and the ball ricocheted towards Arsenal’s danger area. Kevin Mirallas beat Squillaci for pace so Mannone had to take the role of a goalkeeping sweeper but he had to use his head as the ball was outside his box. Fuster hoicked the ball goalward but a backtracking Mannone stunned everyone when he chose to use his feet to attempt to clear the ball when he could have caught the ball easily.
Arsenal was offered a glimmer of hope when Ignasi Miquel flicked the ball into the box towards Marouane Chamakh who cushioned the ball carefully for Yossi Benayoun and the Isreali showed great technique to lash the ball past Megyeri in goal. The Greeks put the game beyond doubt when Francois Modesto was on hand to tuck the ball from four yards after Olof Mellberg’s header hit the bar.
Today’s game offers a different outlook and Arsenal would look to solidify their stronghold in the group with a victory before facing Schalke 04 in a two-legged affair on Matchday 3 and 4.
To team news, Arsenal still has some players in the treatment table, as Abou Diaby is set to be out for three weeks. There are also doubts over the fitness of Mikel Arteta that is believed to have picked up an ankle injury. Arsene Wenger has stated that Diaby’s injury is an opportunity for another player to stake his claim for the first team.
Well, the team isn’t short of options in midfield, with the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Emmanuel Frimpong, Francis Coquelin, the Ox and even Jack Wilshere all capable of deputizing for Diaby but with Arteta is a major doubt, Santi Cazorla will be braced with playing alongside two new midfielders.
In my honest opinion, I’ll pick Francis Coquelin for the holding role and Aaron Ramsey for the box-to-box role. The Welshman hasn’t been on anybody’s good books but the duo of Wilshere and Frimpong aren’t ready yet for first team action. The Ox will be better suited in a position on the wings.
Besides, Wenger has declared that he has no plans of rushing Jack Wilshere straight into action after being out for almost an eternity.
A player that will be sure of his place tonight is the ever-present and impressive Carl Jenkinson. The fullback has been excellent in deputizing for Bacary Sagna and the French defender can’t rest on his laurels any more because Jenko means business this season.
Jenkinson believes that Arsenal can go all the way to win the Champions League because the club’s ambitions are sky-high. With his performances attracting serious attention, the fullback has been contacted by Finland for their World Cup qualifiers but he has stated that international football can wait because he wants to concentrate on his club form.
Don’t you just love this kid?
To my proposed team selection for tonight’s game, I’ll expect Vito Mannone to remain between the sticks as Damian Martinez doesn’t offer stiff competition for the Italian. According to Wenger, Wojciech Szczesny is still three weeks out. In the defense, Per Mertesacker will be drafted back into the squad, following Laurent Koscielny’s antics on Saturday. The remaining trio of Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson and skipper, Thomas Vermaelen, will remain unchanged.
As I’d written earlier, the midfield triumvirate would probably be Francis Coquelin, Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla. In attack, I have a hunch that Wenger might give Olivier Giroud the nod ahead of Theo Walcott to spearhead the forward line, with Lukas Podolski and Gervinho providing support from the flanks.
Enjoy tonight’s game with some Heineken.
Arsenal, please give a befitting birthday gift to my friend, Anayo Nwosu, or @K_Sturna as he’s known on Twitter.
Happy Birthday boss.
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