Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side face Olympiacos in the Champions League on Tuesday, so to find out more we asked tactical expert Michael Cox for his view.
Although Arsenal have already qualified for the knockout stage of the Champions League, Arsène Wenger’s side could still finish top of the group - possibly meaning a favourable draw in the next round - so they have something to play for in Athens.
On the other hand, Olympiacos are guaranteed a spot on the Europa League. They can’t finish in the top two, nor can Montpellier overtake them for third position, so Leonardo Jardim has license to experiment.
Olympiacos aren’t a side based around ball retention. They’ve averaged just 39 per cent of possession so far in the Champions League - only three of the 32 group stage sides have seen less of the ball.
However, at home against an inexperienced Arsenal side, they might dominate the ball more than expected. Jardim has used midfielder Paulo Machado on the right of his front three in the Champions League recently. He moves deep and offers another passing option, allowing centre forward Kostantinos Mitroglou and the left-sided Djamel Abdoun to operate higher up the pitch.
In midfield, Francois Modesto sits deep while Giannis Maniatis plays an energetic box-to-box role. The identity of Jardim’s third midfielder will hint at his desired strategy. Leandro Greco is another willing runner, while 36-year-old Ariel Ibagaza lacks mobility these days but can still play fine passes, while the use of David Fuster would suggest more attacking ambition.
Arsenal might be able to exploit Olympiacos on the break, particularly in the channels. Full backs Vasilias Torosidis and Jose Holebas are both very attack-minded at home, and will often play in advance of the central midfielders, stretching the play.
If Arsenal can win the ball in midfield and attack with pace, Olympiacos will struggle to get organised into a good defensive shape - although Modesto will remain in a position in front of the defence, trying to stop counter-attacks.
TASOS ZACHARIADES, LONDON GREEK RADIO
Both teams will be chasing victory for different reasons. Arsenal will want to finish top of the group, while Olympiacos want to finish as strongly as they can ahead of their Europa League campaign. It’s going to be a good match. Olympiacos will have to be wary not to underestimate Arsenal’s weakened side. It’s always exciting for Greek fans when an English side like Arsenal come to Greece.
Olympiacos have a few players who could cause problems, so it’s hard to really pick one out. They are in good form domestically, and are already 10 points clear at the top of the Greek Super League. They’ll be full of confidence for Tuesday night.
They will have to reshuffle their defence as they are without Jose Holebas. But bearing in mind that Arsenal have rested a few players, I think it will be an even match. I can see it being a draw.Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 4 Dec 2012