Arsenal v. Olympiakos – Preview & LiveBlog!By: Perry | October 3rd, 2012
Well, now that we’ve moved on (kind of) from the Chelsea defeat, we have our eyes set on the UCL today. We face a determined Olympiakos side who are as usual at the top of their table in the Greek league and are 100% to boot. With the Greek side losing to Schalke in the first match of the group stage, they are playing catch up and will feel they need to get something out of this game if they have any serious ambition in the UCL.
We were pretty fortunate to come away with a 2-1 away win against Montpellier a fortnight ago after much maligned performance and the squad will want to put on a more convincing display in front of the capacity home crowd.
The man we need watch is a Spaniard by the name of Jose Holebas. Olympiakos narrowly won their last match after David Fuster headed in from a Jose Holebas free-kick to seal the 1 nil win. With Arsenal conceding our last three goals from set-plays, including two against on Saturday, we’ll need to be especially weary of Holebas’ dangerous deliveries into the box. Definitely expect Olympiakos to test our defensive resolve with long balls and free kicks every time they are given an opportunity, while the Greek side will definitely have plenty of men behind the ball while we are in possession.
I truly hope Giroud gets the nod to start because we need his size to not only help with our own set pieces (seriously, does anyone have statistics on our percentage converted from corners and offensive free kicks?) and to defend Olympiakos’ threatening set pieces. Being it is a Champions League game at home, it will be interesting to see whether Wenger sticks to Gervinho as the center forward, or maybe brings in Giroud from the start to give the Frenchman a better chance of finding the back of the net, and also give the our boys a physical presence from the get go.
On paper, we are a world of a better team, but we cannot forget our last meeting with this club in December of last year. We lost 3-1 with our only goal coming from Benayoun. We can’t disrespect our opponent here as in our last 3 meetings with the Greeks, we’ve only won once and lost twice. However, on our side is the fact that we’ve never lost to Greek opposition in Europe at home, so I’ll take that for what it is, not to mention we are extremely strong at home in the UCL historically speaking. We have to treat this match as if it is a knockout match so that we can ensure the 3 points and be able to rotate in our fringe/squad/older players for the last two matches.
Injury wise, we all know Diaby will be out for this one after his self-inflicted thigh injury. Sagna and Rosicky still out, and Wilshere and Frimps still a bit out from a return. Our real concern today will be whether Arteta is fit for this match. Apparently he picked up an ankle injury and was set to be tested this morning. Even if Arteta might be a big miss, Coquelin could fill in nicely in the deeper defensive midfield role.
In the defense, Carl Jenkinson and Gibbs are automatic starters, while Wenger has another vital decision to make about his central defensive partnership. Koscielny might have scored the equalizer against City, but the there is no doubt that he was at fault for all three recent goals conceded from set pieces. Per Mertesacker has had a stellar start to the season, and I think it’s very possible the BFG comes in to partner with el Capitan.
My best guess at the starting lineup will be as follows (will update as lineups are released):
Mannone; Jenkinson, Koscielny/Per Mer, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Arteta/Coquelin, Ramsey, Cazorla; Walcott, Podolski; Giroud
***UPDATE*** LINEUPS ARE IN:
Starting: Mannone; Jenkinson, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Coquelin, Cazorla, Arteta; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho, Podolski
Subs: Shea, Santos, Djourou, Arshavin, Ramsey, Walcott, Giroud.
My score prediction: 2-1 Arsenal after a very hard fought match.
My MOTM prediction: None other than Cazorla, I think he’ll once again pull the attacking strings.
Chat you all in the LiveBlog, match starts at 2:45 EST!