It’s a Coq and Bull Story – Coquelin and Oxlade return to Bully Greeks

We face Olympiacos in the 2nd game of the group stages and, needless to say, this game is a must-win:

“You have to win your home games if you want to qualify from the group stage, it is simple as that. We cannot afford to drop points now against anyone at home.”

While I have my reservations about our ability to do just that with Bayern in the group, right now Bayern is not our biggest problem, simply because it’s not them we face next.


We drew Olympiacos three times in the last five years or so. What’s interesting, is that out of the six encounters Arsenal have won only three – all three at home. I seem to vaguely recall the away matches being dead rubber games, though.

Olympiacos aren’t particularly successful at playing English teams away from home – their record of 12 losses in 12 games with 37 goals conceded and 3 scored show just that. However, as we found out the hard way, complacency can be punished by any team at this level, so there shouldn’t be any complacency when we don on the red-and-white.

Team news update

Apart from our usual trio (which will be out for three more months), we will have two further midfielders out, which exacerbates our midfield selection problems. Those two are Mathieu Flamini (hamstring) and Mikel Arteta (who is rumoured to have suffered a dead leg):

“Both have slight muscular problems, but I think Flamini has a scan today (Monday) and Arteta certainly as well.

They are not big injuries. It is a question of days.”

We also have Olivier Giroud’s suspension to deal with, lest you forgot. However, we’ll have Gabriel back and chomping at the bit, while Francis Coquelin also should make it:

“He has been back since yesterday and I will have to see how he responds to two days of training, but he looks alright.”

Coquelin in Training (Courtesy of Metro)

Coquelin in Training (Courtesy of Metro)

With Giroud out, I suspect Iwobi will make the bench, while Gabriel and Coquelin will replace Arteta and Flamini respectively.

Squad and approach

“The game (against Manchester United) will not interfere with that at all. It is more the games we played before that could have an influence. Some players had two tough games at Tottenham and at Leicester, where they were a high level physically. I will have to analyse that today and make my decisions.”

It’s understandable United game shouldn’t affect our selection too much, seeing as we play both them and Olympiacos at home and seeing as there are five days between the games, but the line Wenger dropped on previous matches affecting his selection is interesting.

The only players who played a lot of minutes in both games are Mertesacker and Ramsey, Alexis to a lesser extent. I’m pretty sure Arsene won’t even consider giving Sanchez a rest (as won’t the Chilean himself), especially after his hat-trick heroics.

However, I’m not so sure about the other two. Mertesacker played two full games straight after coming back from injury, so I won’t be surprised to see Gabriel return to the starting line-up. As for Ramsey, the Welshman completed 90 minutes against Tottenham, while also completing close to 70 against Leicester. That, and Oxlade’s presence at the press conference give me the feeling Ox is due a start on the right.

Ox at Press Conference yesterday (Couttesy of Getty/Stuart MacFarlane)

Ox at Press Conference yesterday (Courtesy of Getty/Stuart MacFarlane)

Beyond that I can see Wenger making only one further change: Ospina for Cech. Yes, I do know we don’t have a tradition of rotating keepers for the Champions League, however, we might well have parted ways with this tradition against Zagreb. On top of that, I’m pretty sure Ospina will leave if he is not first-choice at the end of the season. So I’m sure Wenger will give the Colombian all the chances to impress.

Predicted line-up: Ospina – Bellerin – Gabriel – (ain’t nobody like) Koscielny – Monreal – Coquelin – Cazorla – Ozil – Alexis – Oxlade – Walcott

As for the approach, well, I think Wenger hit the nail on the head:

“What changes more (at home) is the attitude of our opponent. We always try to play and go forward. At home we face maybe a different kind of problem, teams regroup in front of their box and you need to be penetrative with your passing, with your movement, and clinical with your finishing.”

I’m pretty sure it will be the case of “We attack – they defend” and all will boil down to how well we take our chances. If we make the most of them, we should have too much for the Greek champions.

The verdict

This is the game which is a bit different to the previous ones in a sense we won’t have a lot of options on the bench and will most likely have to win it with whoever starts. If we presume I guessed the squad right, Ramsey will be the only guy who can realistically make an impact from the bench.

To be honest I’m a bit stunned it’s our midfield that’s skating on thin ice in terms of injuries right now. It looked the very-well stocked at the start of the campaign, but long-term injuries to Wilshere and Rosicky changed the picture a bit. Throw in the fact Arteta, Flamini and Coquelin are all nursing different knocks and there you have it. We are not in crisis just yet, however, we seem to be treading a fine line. Fingers crossed we won’t have to worry about out walking wounded come Tuesday 9:30 p.m.

Finally, a bit of extra reading for you. First article is from Tim Stillman, in which he speculates on whether we can learn to play without a natural DM (might we try this out against Olympiacos?) and the second is a quite brilliant write-up from Daniel Cowan on the underlying reason for Mourinho’s classless midweek comments on Wenger. Check them both out, well worth your time.

Right, back with a review.

Come on you Gunners!


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