Arsenal (3) v Olympiakos (1): pick your lineups

Written by Edward Pitt

March 17, 2021

Arsenal host Olympiakos in the second leg of our round of 16 Europa League tie on Thursday, and they take a massive advantage into that game. Last week, there were some scares along the way but eventually Arsenal came away from Greece with a two goal cushion and three away goals. That being said, we will still need to be at our best in the second leg to ensure our spot in the quarter finals. Here is how I think we should line up. It will be a strong team but certain key assets I think ought to be rested ahead of a huge league game against West Ham this weekend.

LENO: I kind of feel bad for Ryan because he showed up, put in a stellar performance against Villa and then had some slight injury issues. For me, Leno should still start

BELLERIN: Cedric got the nod in the North London Derby, which I think means Bellerin will come in for this one. I probably would agree with that. Cedric deserves his chances to play in the league

HOLDING: He’s made the bench in the last few games but has yet to actually see any game time since his concussion a few weeks ago. On his day I think he is the second best centre back at the club and we need him to rediscover that form for our run in. It would also afford some rest to David Luiz who has played a lot of football recently

GABRIEL: Meanwhile, I don’t think Gabriel needs much rest. He is on good form, but actually hasn’t played an abundance of in the last month or so. He should keep his spot

TIERNEY: He’s the only left back at the club so we kind of don’t have a choice. But either way, KT is just superb isn’t he? The second coming of Gareth Bale was put back in his box by KT on Sunday, and he have Doherty night terrors I’m sure. What a performance. What a leader

CEBALLOS: With three away goals, I think Partey maybe doesn’t need to be risked for this one. Ceballos might not be as tough as Partey but next to Xhaka that shouldn’t matter. He made a mistake last week. The best way to help him forget that is to give him the chance to play himself back into form

XHAKA: Part of me is thinking we should really rest this guy, but I don’t know if he needs it and I certainly doubt he wants it. He is an absolute mainstay for Arsenal right now. He doesn’t do anything fancy, but he does the simple stuff very well

PEPE: It might not even be a choice but even if Saka has recovered from his hamstring issue against Spurs, I’d give him some rest. To be fair, I’m not complaining. Pepe has been improving of late and he deserves a start. I’d actually be very disappointed if we don’t see him start. Pepe on form and with confidence could be the difference from finishing 10th and having no European football next season and finishing higher up and winning the Europa League

SMITH ROWE: It might seem harsh to exclude Odegaard after his derby heroics, but Smith Rowe was arguably just as good if not better in that game. Save Odegaard for the weekend where West Ham are likely to sit with a fair few players behind the ball. I also think we see the best of Pepe when Smith Rowe plays, because Pepe knows he can just lend it to Smith Rowe who then gives it back to him. Smith Rowe pulls off one-two’s better than any other Arsenal player

AUBAMEYANG: He showed up late to the derby and that in fairness is unacceptable. But, I think that will put a fire in his belly. Let him captain the side in this one, play him on the left with KT overlapping and give him the opportunity to fire us into the quarter finals

LACAZETTE: I don’t know if he only started on Sunday because Auba was late or if Arteta was always intending to start him, but I was very happy with his inclusion. He is a natural number 9. When KT is playing, Auba is better on the left. Lacazette is better through the middle and helps bring the likes of Smith Rowe and Pepe into our attacks. If he does leave and we do have to replace him, his replacement will have to be someone who is similarly comfortable with playing with his back to goal

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