Olympiacos preview + the Frimpong channel

Winter is stupid. Why do we tolerate it? It’s the John Terry of seasons. And I don’t mean simply because it tries to make everything white.

I had the alarm chill problem this morning. The alarm went off. I stuck my hand out for another 9 minutes of blissful snooze which made me feel the chill in the air which made me want to not get up. Even more than I didn’t want to get up already. So I was forced to snooze three times when I only wanted to snooze once. And this entirely the fault of John Terry winter. One of these days I should figure out how to set the heating so it comes on automatically and warms things up a bit.

Anyway, enough of this cold related grumbling and onto the football tonight. As expected the majority of the team that played against Wigan has been left behind for the game against Olympiacos. Only Vermaelen and Santos from Saturday’s team have made the trip and they may not even start. There are places for youngsters like Yennaris, Miquel and Ozyakup while the likes of Rosicky, Arshavin, Benayoun, Park and Chamakh will be hoping for a chance to show the manager what they can and cannot do.

As I mentioned yesterday, a team with these guys, plus a determined FrimCoq in midfield and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should be one full of endeavour and enthusiasm, and Arsene believes that playing these guys will make the game more competitive. He said:

It is true that some of the players do not play many games but they will be even more motivated to show they deserve to play. I wanted to bring this team because they gave a hard time to Manchester City last week.

This side will be up for it. I would be deeply disappointed if our winning attitude was not right. I will make sure we walk out there with an immense desire to win the game.

And it would be a shame if any player felt this was a game in which they could just go through the motions. Leaving aside the fact we’ve already qualified and that the result makes no difference (on paper) it’s a chance for players to prove themselves – on different levels. For senior guys it’s a way of reminding the manager they’re around and can contribute, for the youngsters an opportunity for them to make the manager think about the end of some of the senior guys.

The bottom line tonight is that if Olympiacos win and Marseille draw or lose then the Greeks will go through to the knock-out stages, so we’re going to face a team that’s more up for it than Pele after a night on his favourite blue tabs. Coupled with the typically intense atmosphere it means we’ll be in for a real test tonight, which is a good thing, I think. A completely dead rubber (no reference to Pele here, folks) would have been far less interesting.

One of the youngsters looking to sieze his chance is Emmanuel Frimpong and he’ll be looking to follow up his display against Man City with another that gives Arsene something to think about. The boss has hinted at a loan, suggesting he needs competitive football to develop further and with Alex Song well established as the defensive lynchpin in the midfield and Francis Coquelin in the mix too you’d wonder if he might get more football elsewhere in the short-term.

So he’s out to prove himself tonight and after suffering a cruciate injury in the pre-season before last he did doubt if he’d have the opportunity at Arsenal again. He said:

I knew I would come back to playing football, but felt I was never going to get my chance at Arsenal again. But in football you cannot predict anything, and I have just carried on from where I left off, and have that chance again. Now I have to keep playing well to force the issue of playing in the team.

He’s certainly a character – which may not be to everybody’s taste offline but then that’s easy to deal with – but there’s no denying he’s got character too. His spat with Nasri carried on from the summer when Frimpong, a real Arsenal boy, took exception to the way Nasri behaved and the way he left the club. Not for him the moment where you clash with sombody and a few moments later shake hands or have a hug and a laugh. And that’s good to see, to be honest.

Wenger says you would like to ‘go to war’ with Frimpong but also that he’ll educate him and teach him how to channel that combative nature of his properly. Let’s be honest, we’ve long called for players with a bit more fight about them and Frimpong is one of those. There’s the potential for him to go be a good player on top of that, but that’s all it is at the moment. He’s only made 11 first team appearances in his career thus far – all of them this season – and with that comes a rawness which will only be sorted with games.

Tonight might convince the manager that those games will be with Arsenal, or it might make his mind up that playing more often elsewhere will do him, and the club, more good in the long-term. Either way I suspect he’s a player we’re going to see a lot more of in the future.

As usual there’ll be live blog coverage of the game so if you’re stuck in work or can’t see the game for any reason you can keep up to date with live text commentary. Also, bet with Paddy Power and get up to a £50 free bet.

Besides all that there’s the small matter of the Arseblog book launch in The Tollington tomorrow night. Check back later on for details of that and details of how you can buy the book if you can’t make the launch, for whatever reason.

And finally for today, you’d like a signed Robin van Persie shirt, wouldn’t you? Well, there’s one up for grabs with thanks to Icons.com – simply click here and answer the rather simple question to enter the competition. The winner will be announced on Friday.

Till later.

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