Don’t be fooled or deceived, the tie against Olympiakos isn’t a formality and although there are obvious defensive frailties in the hosts, this needs Arsenal to deliver their A game, nothing else will do.
Failure to do so will result in the worst possible outcome and no one wants a repeat of the nervy Benfica 2nd leg.
No excuse here, Mikel Arteta has to field an attack minded team and that means Saka, Tierney, Aubameyang and possibly Pepe but Saka must go right which means Pepe on the left and Aubameyang in the middle.
If Smith Rowe is available then he must start in a slightly advanced position with Partey and Xhaka forming a shield but whilst supporting the forwards.
Partey is due for a performance bordering on a master class and I’d even go as far as a goal.
This is his stage snd he could actually boss Olympiakos into submission over a full 90 minutes but he will also be needed to mop up as well as orchestrate.
Aubameyang has to show his class and seize on every mistake if the gunners are to get a hold on this tie.
If Saka isn’t completely exhausted it, I’m sure he’ll be there, goals will certainly be easier to achieve if he is, yet you do worry that Arsenal are always worth a calamitous five minutes.
In defence it’s Mari and Luiz for me, not that Gabriel isn’t good, he is but these two could bring their calm and experience to the proceedings even though many will say the Brazilian has an error in him.
Olympiakos need to know that they are in a game, they need to feel uncomfortable and vulnerable and Arsenal have to strangle the life out of this game in a full bloodied first half with tight lines but in a high press.
The second half could present problems if Arsenal allow their hosts to get a foothold in this extremely important game and a loss of focus will change the entire completion of the proceedings.
I’m confident but wary, Arsenal need to score goals and three should do the job. I’m optimistic and feel like this is ours to lose.
Predicted Arsenal Side vs Olympiakos :
Leno, Bellerin, Luiz, Mari, Tierney, Xhaka, Partey, Smith Rowe/ Odegaard, Saka, Aubameyang, Pepe/Martinelli.