Arsenal could welcome Theo Walcott and Laurent Koscielny back to action in this weekend’s Premier League tie with Sunderland. In spite of this fact, Arsene Wenger must have been pulling his hair out behind closed doors this week, as his injury problems worsened.
Last weekend’s disappointing draw away at Norwich saw Arsenal come away with not only two points less than expected, but also injuries to three key players; Laurent Koscielny, Alexis Sanchez and Santi Carzola. French centreback, Koscielny, could be fit enough to make a return this weekend, and therefore, likely the Champions League tie in Piraeus on Wednesday.
The fate of Alexis Sanchez and Santi Carzola does not bear as much good news for Wenger. Neither player will feature against Thrylos next week. Sanchez’s hamstring injury will see him out of action for around three weeks, Arsenal should expect him just in time for the English Christmas fixture pile-up. Arsenal’s creative Spaniard, Carzola, is expecting to be sidelined by his knee problems for upto a possible four months.
Last weekend’s events are the worst thing that could have happened to this Arsenal side, who until now had been threatening to mount a Premier League title challenge.
Aresene Wenger was already dealing with a lengthy injury list. Theo Walcott (calf), Jack Wilshere (ankle), Tomas Rosicky (knee), Mikel Arteta (calf), Danny Welbeck (knee) and Francis Coquelin (knee) were already not at the manager’s disposal before last week’s additions.
It’s understood that Calum Chambers has been training this week in midfield. Arsene Wenger forced into alternative measures as he makes do with out Coquelin, the heart of his recent midfield. Not having the protection of the frenchman in front of his defence exposes a great vulnerability of the side. Per Mertesacker, while a tremendous defender and current world champion, struggles for pace, and with Koscielny returning from injury, this is why Marco Silva needs to start with the younger legs of Kostas Fortounis attacking through the middle in the number ten role on Wednesday.
Central midfield is a problem area for Wenger. Arteta, Wilshere and Rosicky can’t be counted on by the manager yet. Mesut Özil, Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey are the only recognised players with experience that can be called upon. Ramsey himself has only recently returned from injury and with so much pressure put on these players for the coming games, not only are they risking further injury but at the least the players will be run threadbare by Christmas when some of the other players return.
Arsene Wenger is in a real mess, and much of it is down to his own stubbornness. Fans and pundits alike have been crying out for midfield and defensive reinforcements for seasons. Yet the Frenchman, transfer window after transfer window displays his arrogance and contempt to the fans in not strengthening those areas. This summer saw number one goalkeeper, Petr Cech, the only arrival at The Emirates.
Now is the time for Olympiakos to capitalise on Arsene Wenger’s troubles. Blushes have come his way once this season at the hands of the Greek Champions, after the emphatic win in London sent shockwaves around the island nation. A Greek team came and won on English soil. The British media and pundits have long been arrogant and dismissive all footballing nations other than the true giants of the game.
Even with a squad decimated by injury, having to play away from home, needing to win by two clear goals and having already lost once this season to the side (at closer to full strength I may add) – the general feeling amongst the British pundits is that Arsenal can do this on Wednesday night!
This is Olympiakos’ chance to make history. Not only is a place in the last 16 on offer. This is a chance for Thrylos to fly the flag, not only for the nation of Greece, but for all so called “lesser nations”. The countries that are of a similar size – the likes of Czech Republic, Sweden, Belgium, Portugal and Denmark, the countries that get overlooked and dismissed by the top nations. Thrylos have a genuine chance to exploit Arsenal’s damaged squad and put an impressive double win in the history books. A double win that would hopefully make the likes of the English giants more aware to the quality of football that can be gound around the continent.
This by no means is an assumption that Olympiakos can record an easy win this week, those levels of arrogance are reserved exclusively for the English. Even with the current injury list, Arsenal can still field an impressive starting XI that could match many a top side in Europe, on paper. Koscielny and Walcott have good chances of playing at the Karaiskakis and putting their injury worries behind them. Petr Cech in the Arsenal goal is still one of Europe’s finest goalkeepers, and, Olivier Giroud one of the finest strikers you will find in the Premier League. Aaron Ramsey has recently returned from injury himself, Ramsey is Arsenal’s most dynamic player. Able to play anywhere in the middle of the park, helping out in front of defence or in behind a striker in the number ten role, with a great range of passing and in recent years Ramsey has demonstrated that he is deadly in front of goal. The return to form of Mesut Özil this season should also act as a note of caution to Marco Silva and his side. The ex-Real Madrid star can be a magician on his day, often criticised for his style and apparent lack of interest, but on his day one of the finest attacking midfielders on the planet. Özil has rediscovered that magic this season and already has eleven assists and two goals to his name in the Premier League this season.
Arsenal still possess far too much talent to not be respected. To not pay them the respect they deserve would be dangerous as any one of the mentioned players holds the quality to win a game in an instant. This, however, is a great opportunity for Thrylos against a side that almost picks itself through lack of real choice, and, quite likely the same eleven players that may be fatigued from this weekend’s game against Sunderland.
Olympiakos host Arsenal this Wednesday in the Champions League final Group F match. KO 2145 EET/1945 GMT.