“This side has got its attacking side back and got its mojo back in that respect. Arsenal 3-1 Olympiakos.”
Above quotations were the words of Arsenal legend Charlie Nicholas in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports ahead of the Gunners’ Europa League second-leg tie against Greeks side Olympiakos on Thursday.
Obviously, the Emirates Stadium outfits are currently enjoying a great run of form at the final half of the season having scored eight goals in their last three matches across all competitions. They have equally won all the three matches.
Heading into their second-leg tie against Greeks side, Mikel Arteta’s men have have a goal advantage having defeated their opponent 1-0 in the first leg of the game. The return leg being at the Emirates Stadium, the Gunners are in a favourable position to progress to the next round of the competition owing the sole fact that they would be playing right in front of their own fans.
However, the Greeks Champions are not pushovers as they have shown resurgence in their recent performances in the Greek Super League, and the Gunners must avoid being complacent against them.
Olympiakos couldn’t progress out of Champions League group stage drawn against the likes of Bayern Munich, Tottenham Hotspur and Red Star Belgrade, Pedro Martins’ side, however, are far from a finished side, and they have all it takes to shock the Gunners at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday.
The Gunners’ shaky defence should be ready for a very strong test against the in-form opposition attackers who found the back of the net on nine occasions during their last four League matches.
Judging by Nicholas’ prediction, the Gunners will have a very easy game against their upcoming opponents, but it remains to be seen if the team will prove him right or wrong.
Meanwhile, the former Arsenal player — who is now a football pundit— equally gives a clue on the list of players who should be in Arteta’s starting lineup on Thursday.
According to him, in-form youngster Bukayo Saka is set to reclaim his spot at the left-back position following Sead Kolasinac’s injury against Everton last Sunday.
Aubameyang, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Joe Willock and Alexandre Lacazette are all tipped to start by the Former Gunners star based on their present form for the team.
Surprisingly, Nicholas believes summer signing Pepe should be dropped from the starting XI as he hasn’t done enough to justify his £72m price tag.
He urged the former Manchester City assistant manager to replace the Ivorian with Brazilian youngster Gabriel Martinelli, even if that’s almost an impossible task.
“Joe Willock and Alexandre Lacazette will come in I think. You have to keep Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in for his goals. Will Nicolas Pepe get another run? Probably. Does he deserve it? Probably not. I would probably look at Gabriel Martinelli.”
A goalless draw is enough to see the Gunners progress to the next round of the Europa League competition, while Olympiakos need an outright win without conceding any goal to stand a chance of overcoming Arsenal’s challenge.