Arsenal – Olympiakos FC PreviewBy: Darren_v | September 27th, 2011
Tomorrow the highest level of club football, The European Champions League group stage, comes to Northern London for the 14th consecutive season. Arsenal have been in the Champions League since 1997, and when you realize Arsene Wenger took over the managerial position for the Gunners in October of 1996, and how every gooner nowadays expects Arsenal to be in this stage of the competition, it is an incredible achievement that goes understated much to often. For all the problems and frailties of the Arsenal, and Wenger himself lately, the history is impressive and Wenger deserves the up-most respect no matter what happens in the future, good or bad.
Match Day Two brings Olympiakos FC from Piraeaus, Greece to London. Olympiakos is the most successful club in the history of Greek football, having won 38 domestic titles, 24 Greek Cups, 4 Greek Super Cups, and is one of four clubs that has never been relegated from the first division. Since 1997, Olympiakos has won 13 Greek League titles, only missing the title in 2004 and 2010, while winning five Greeks Cups in the same time period, making them very obviously the most dominant club in Greece for 15 seasons. What is interesting for the club is that despite the unparalleled domestic success, the position of manager is an extremely fickle position.
Since Bajevic was manager for 3 long seasons, Olympiakos has employed 19 managers in a span of 12 years. It’s rather incredible to me that a club can be so successful while having a managerial merry-g0-round as building a solid foundation and a sense of stability is generally thought to be a recipe for success, not constant change at the managerial position. Maybe Arsenal do have it wrong after all these years.
Olympiakos have long been present in European competition, debuting against Milan way back in 1959, and celebrated their 200th game in Europe in 2010 against Bordeaux. Their best European campaign has been advancing to the the quarter-finals, which they have accomplished twice in their history, the first in the 98-99 season where they were beaten by Juventus in the Champions League, and the second in the 92-93 season, losing to Atletico Madrid in the European Cup Winners’ Cup. The Greeks are no stranger to English clubs in Europe by now, as they have played West Ham, Tottenham, Newcastle, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal over the years. But in the 26 matches versus English sides, they have only managed 3 wins which were all home matches, against Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool. The Arsenal game they won was against Wenger’s Carling Cup squad in 2010 when the likes of Tom Cruise, Kyle Bartley Fran Merida and Kerrea Gilbert all started for the London club.
I have to admit when researching the player squad for Olympiakos, there was only one or two names that I even recognized. So I had to do some searching for players and playing style and the always excellent Zonal Marking gives some insight.
From that lineup above, Goalkeeper Pardo is now gone and replaced with Nikos Papadopoulos. From the four defenders, Raul Bravo has departed, and midfielder Riera has also left them, so clearly this is not going to be the lineup seen tomorrow against Arsenal. I would urge you to click on the link to Zonal Marking to get a better idea of how Olympiakos sets up and plays as I geniunely cannot add more to what Michael Cox writes.
Arsenal team new is interesting, but all rather discouraging if I am honest. We all know of the long term injuries to Abou Diaby, Jack Wilshere and Thomas Vermaelen, and there has been no news on Yossi Benayoun’s thigh injury nor Johan Djourou’s hamstring issue so we can assume they are out for this match. Adding to the injury list from the Bolton game is Theo Walcott who’s knee is not 100%, as well as Gervinho and Koscielny. Gervinho has a ‘very, very mild’ hamstring issue and Koscielny is out with an ankle problem from a late Reo-Coker tackle on Saturday. Sebastian Squillaci is not completely fit, but ’should be back in the group’ on Friday or Saturday according to Wenger. And if you were thinking that this will give Ignasi Miquel the start, well you could be wrong. Miquel was scheduled to start for the Reserves yesterday but was withdrawn during warm-up, and there is varying reports about why. Young Guns claims he was taking out of the squad due to injury, while Jeorge Bird simply states that he was a late withdrawal and sat in the stands. Injuries are coming quick and fast for Arsenal, as they always seem to do, and it will be interesting to see how Pat Rice sets the starting lineup and manages the squad while Arsene Wenger will be escorted to the stands by UEFA officials once more, serving his touchline ban. My best guess to see on the pitch tomorrow would be:
Sagna Mertesacker Song Gibbs
Rosicky Van Persie Arshavin
Subs: Flaps, Jenkinson, Santos, Coquelin, Chamberlain, Park, Chamakh
I wonder if Park or Chamberlain might get the start on the wing, but knowing Wenger’s penchant for starting known players (or ‘favorites’ as others would say), I would be surprised if Rosicky doesn’t get the start in this one. Arsenal always do well at home in the Champions League, and despite the weaker lineup, Arsenal should still take the three points in this one. My best guess at the result is an Arsenal win, 3-1.
Come on you Gunners.