After having a November to forget with two losses and two draws, Arsenal started the last month of the year with a bang as they got past a resilient Sunderland side 3-1 at the Emirates on Saturday. With Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla out with injuries, there were many doubts on whether the Gunners will rise up to the occasion.
However, Wenger’s side brushed aside any doubts and beat Sam Allardyce’s Sunderland three goals to one in stunning fashion on a bright Saturday evening at the Emirates stadium. Petr Cech, Aaron Ramsey and Joel Campbell turned out to be our best players and the Czech goalkeeper was deservedly man of the match for his excellent saves throughout the match. The win over Sunderland will surely boost our confidence heading into Wednesday’s Champions League clash against defending Greek champions Olympiakos Piraeus in Greece.
Olympiakos have just lost two games this season both to the mighty FC Bayern Munich in the Champions League. At home, Olympiakos have won seven, lost one and drawn one this season scoring twenty-four goals and conceding just nine goals. Their 38-year old Portuguese manager Marco Silva who is a close associate of Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is enjoying a great time at the Greek club.
With thirteen wins in as many games, Olympiakos are leading the second-placed AEK by 13 points in the Greek league and are flying high at the moment. Greek International attacking midfielder Konstantinos Fourtonis is in the form of his life having scored ten times and assisted eight times in seventeen games this season. He will be Marco Silva’s go to man and Wednesday’s game will also be Costa Rican Joel Campbell’s return to Greece where he spent the 2013-14 season with Olympiacos. Hence, he will be the man to watch out for in two days’ time.
The win over Sunderland took Arsenal to second in the Premier League table only below Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City. Hence, the Sunderland triumph will surely boost the morale of our injury-hit side. Alexis Sanchez and Mikel Arteta will be out for at least three more games. Cazorla joins Francis Coquelin on the long-term injury list, while Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck will be back by the end of December and beginning of January. Tomas Rosicky might return soon as well. Hence, a Champions League knockout progression will surely be an exciting aspect come February.
Wenger’s Champions League knockout stage progression record is also on the line going into Wednesday’s fixture in Greece. Having qualified for the Champions League knockout stage for fifteen consecutive times before this season the thought of a sweet sixteenth might be going on in Wenger’s mind. With players like Joel Campbell, Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey striking form at the right time, the North London club would be favorites to win the game but as always we know that it is difficult to win in Greece considering past records.
The Gunners will need to attack from the very beginning as they need to win by at least two goals or win by scoring three goals or more, while also making sure that they don’t let the opposition capitalize on the counters. Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott are crucial components of our success. It doesn’t matter who starts and who comes in as a substitute, as both of them must be spot on from the beginning. Without Alexis Sanchez all the responsibility will be on the shoulders of Mesut Ozil. He must dictate our game to perfection and not to forget our defense must be calm and composed throughout.
If our back line commits any mistake early on it will be suicidal. The experience of Petr Cech will come to the fore on Wednesday and he will be crucial. Joel Campbell and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain must co-exist well on either wing to come out on top. If we just stick on to the basics without losing our concentration and composure we are very sure of advancing to the Champions League round of 16.
So let us all hope that Wenger deploys his tactics well and the players do their duties to perfection so that we come out on top on an all important Wednesday night.