Pre-Match Report

Olympiacos v Arsenal: The Inside Track

By Chris Harris in Athens


"We are up against a side that is at the moment qualified, but they can lose what they have and that can create a fear factor. The best way for us to achieve it is to believe in our quality." - Arsene Wenger


What Arsenal need in Athens is well-rehearsed by now. A 2-0 victory, or a win of any sort if they can muster three or more goals, will take Arsene Wenger's team into the last 16 of the Champions League.

How Arsenal do it is open to conjecture. In cafes and bars from the Greek capital to north London you'll hear talk of "needing an early goal" or "going for it", but history suggests that gung-ho tactics can be kept on ice until things get desperate - if indeed they do.

The Gunners have been here before. They beat Monaco 2-0 in March, causing panic but just falling short of the third goal they needed. And older fans - or anyone with a sense of history - will recall Arsenal beating Liverpool 2-0 in May 1989 to clinch the league title.

Athens '15 is hardly Anfield '89 but there are lessons to be learnt from that dramatic, historic night - chiefly that it doesn't really matter when you score the first goal, as long as you still have enough time to get a second.

Alan Smith struck after 52 minutes on Merseyside while Olivier Giroud broke the deadlock in Monte Carlo just before half-time - so there's no rush tonight.

Wenger knows his history of course and he sees the Monaco tie as the template for tonight's mission.

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"From Monaco especially we can learn from what happened to us," he said. "Overall the game we played in Monaco was very positive, maybe we rushed a little bit in the last 10 minutes and that is what we can learn from the game. I believe we played quite well with the right patience until the last 10 minutes."

Keep a clean sheet, score first, and let fear creep into the minds of the Olympiacos players. That's the plan in Athens. And Wenger is confident that his players can sow sufficient seeds of doubt.

"We are up against a side that is at the moment qualified, but they can lose what they have and that can create a fear factor," he said. "The best way for us to achieve it is to believe in our quality.

"It is not easy for [Olympiacos] to handle. For us it is clear, so let’s say we look at the test in Monaco, I believe that it is the same kind of attitude we want there.


"Before when we have come here we had already qualified, that is not the case now. But this time we know what [we have] to do, which is good as well.

"I believe it is a very exciting task, but very difficult as well. But it is an opportunity as well and we could have gone to Greece without any opportunity so let's take it on a positive front."


Speaking of opportunity, it has certainly knocked for Joel Campbell this season. One of the main beneficiaries of Arsenal's injury problems, the Costa Rica forward has moved from the periphery to the front line.

Saturday's unerring finish against Sunderland underlined Campbell's increasing comfort in the first team, and he should be warmly welcomed by both sets of fans this evening. He spent a successful loan with Olympiacos in 2013/14 - a spell that brought a league title and 11 goals, including a memorable strike against Manchester United in the Champions League.




Joel Campbell

Joel Campbell





“Recently he has shown that when he is confident he can produce the offensive quality and also be reliable with his team attitude," Wenger said.

"He’s a fighter so that’s great for us. I smelt something with him that is very interesting. He’s creative. I could see that but the creativity is linked with the confidence. You open your eyes when you feel really free to take the initiative."

Campbell has the potential to be Arsenal's hero tonight but Wenger will look to his revamped midfield to provide the platform for victory, with Aaron Ramsey reinstated in the centre alongside the sole survivor from Arsenal's run to the 2006 final - Mathieu Flamini.

"Midfield is important in games like this," said Wenger. "Flamini and Ramsey will have to play an important part in a game of this stature but I'm confident that they can and will."


Arsenal's hopes of getting out of the group stage for a 16th consecutive season are hanging by a thread because of their 3-2 defeat to Olympiacos in September.

Opta Facts

Arsenal have lost all three previous Champions League away games against Olympiacos, all of those have taken place on matchday six

The Greek side are currently unbeaten in six home Champions League ties against English opposition; winning five of those games (D1)

Arsenal have never failed to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League since the inception of the new format in 2003/04

Felipe Pardo and Alfreo Finnbogason contributed goals that night, while Argentine playmaker Esteban Cambiasso pulled the strings.

The Greek champions are in rude health - their win at the weekend was their 12th in a row in the league - and they won all three home fixtures in last season's group stage.

Wenger knows the magnitude of the task that faces his team - and the undeniable quality of Arsenal's opponents.

"They look very solid and they made some late results as well against Dinamo Zagreb at home and away and so it is a team who can fight," he said. "They stay resilient when it does not go their way and we have to prepare to fight until the last minute.

"They played well against us because they were well-organised and strong on the counter-attacks and set-pieces. Overall they were a solid unit and you could see that this team is used to dominating their championship."



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