Olympiacos preview + pressure and Arsenal injuries

Football, as much as we all love it, can really make you despair at times. The mercenary, money driven ways of some players are what put people off the modern game. That Tevez last night, eh?

What a complete and utter bastard. The reason Beauty and the Beast works is because beneath it all the beast has a heart of gold, or something. If the beast went around the place eating up Beauty’s family and eviscerating her pets that romance would never have happened. Just because you look like a monster doesn’t mean you have to behave like one too.

Anyway, I cannot envisage a situation at Arsenal where a sub would refuse to go on. It just wouldn’t happen. Especially not in a Champions League game. And especially not tonight. Maybe though, that’s because we don’t have any subs.

Out injured for tonight’s game are: Koscielny, Walcott and Gervinho on top of the already injured Djourou, Squillaci, Vermaelen, Wilshere, Benayoun, Diaby and probably a load of others I’ve forgotten about. The dearth of centre-halves means that Alex Song will partner Per Mertesacker at the back which means we’ll have to get our FrimCoq out in midfield. I suspect he’ll go for Frimpong but I think, in a European game where physicality is not quite as important as in the Premier League, I’d quite like to see Coquelin.

With two of the first choice front three out as well it’ll mean a return for Andrei Arshavin, who the boss says works hard in training but just lacks some confidence, and a possible start for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The other options are Ryo Miyaichi or a change of system that would accomodate Marouane Chamakh but I can’t see that happening.

So, I think it’ll be: SZCZ – Sagna – Mertesacker – Song – Gibbs – Frimpong – Arteta – Ramsey – Arshavin – The Ox – van Persie

The manager admits the injuries are a bit of a worry:

You cannot go through the season with nine injuries. Throughout the season, the squad cannot cope with that, certainly not.

Thankfully tonight’s game is at home, against opponents we should beat, and I think we’ll cope all right, but in the longer term having that many players out will mean you’re found wanting at some stage. After the draw in Dortmund it’s important we get three points on the board tonight, not just for our European campaign but to maintain some momentum ahead of Sunday’s trip to that pee-pee infested heck hole.

Arsenal’s reputation in Europe is still strong but Olympiacos know that times have been tough lately. Their keeper says:

Arsenal are always a dangerous team but this season they don’t offer so much fear as in the past. This season you can see that Arsenal are more vulnerable and Olympiakos could win if we play with intelligence.

It’s up to us to offer more fear but you can take nothing for granted with this Arsenal side. The back to back wins over Shrewsbury and Bolton are the first time we’ve done that since Feb 2011 when we beat Wolves and some Spanish outfit you probably haven’t heard of. So if we’re less scary than we were it’s because we cannot produce any kind of consistency. Another win tonight would go some way to achieving that.

If there’s pressure tonight then Mikel Arteta says that’s necessary at a club like Arsenal:

You expect pressure. A club like Arsenal has to be in that situation [at the top in the Premier League and Champions League]. If they are not, it means people are not expecting big enough things. That is what we all want, hopefully it will stay like that and we can respond to it.

Fingers crossed they do that tonight, another solid performance defensively is important too, and you need only look at what happened at Old Trafford last night to realise the old cliché about their being no easy games in Europe is true (for the most part).

Meanwhile, the manager has explained Jack Wilshere’s injury in more detail and defended the way the club have handled it. There has been criticism as another apparently short-term injury has Vermaelened itself into something longer, but Arsene says:

It’s unfair because the club medical staff haven’t made any mistakes on that front. During the period in the protective boot, the fracture he had didn’t heal. Once that was clear, what I’ve been told is that we had to go in quite quickly to repair it and that’s why we decided to do it so quickly.

The current problem is a consequence of an old injury which was aggravated whilst playing for England against Switzerland and maybe it could have all been sorted more quickly. But if criticism is to be handed out it’s only fair to do that with the full facts and none of us have them. What was Jack’s role? Should he have told the medical staff his ankle was bothering him all summer, when he went on holidays etc?

All the same, away from individual cases about which we don’t know everything, Arsenal’s injury record overall does raise some eyebrows. We know the club have been concerned about it enought to make the players wear those GPS bras and the like, and maybe it does warrant some investigation. If that does happen it would need someone to look at another club with similar circumstances (e.g young squad, big pitch, playing in four competitions) to see if their record is better or worse. And if it’s better then try find out why.

A look at the physio room website shows that Man United have more players out injured than us at the moment. This is a Man United who are top of the league and in flying form. So, even if you have injuries, you can cope if your squad is deep enough, or if the quality of your squad can enable you to get through periods when a lot of players are out. Perhaps, instead of slating the medical team – who I’m pretty sure know what they’re doing, what with their years of study and experience and qualifcations – we look to find another way to cope.

Injuries are part and parcel of football. I think we take a very insular look at our own problems which aren’t so different from anyone else’s and maybe use them as an excuse. If only we had X player or Y player. If. If. If. As the saying goes, you win nothing with Ifs.

Right, that’s that. There’ll be live blog coverage later on. If you’re stuck in work or away from a TV you can get live, up to the second text commentary of the game on your computer and/or mobile device. And, as always, if you fancy a flutter, you can sign up with Paddy Power and get up to £50 in a free bet.

Till then.

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