The Gunners have the advantage as the Round of 16 concludes
After going five matches without a win against Spurs, Mikel Arteta notched another important milestone in his young managerial career at Arsenal.
It also marked the third straight time Lacazette scored in the home North London Derby, just the third player to do that in the Premier League era (along with Freddie Ljungberg and Emmanuel Adebayor).
The win moved the Gunners within four points of Tottenham, but still ten points back of the Champions League positions.
Now Arsenal must refocus after that emotional high and ensure a 3-1 advantage over Olympiacos isn’t wasted.
The draw for the quarterfinals will be held on Friday, March 19th. But before we begin thinking about who we might get in the next round, we need to take care of Olympiacos. Will a two-goal lead, away goal advantage, should Arteta rotate at the start?
Left Out: Bukayo Saka (unknown injury status)
By now you may know that I’m a big fan of rotation, especially when we get to either of the Cup competitions or have a lot of factors in our favor, such as Thursday. At home, in between two league matches which are also in London, a very favorable scoreline, and with another big Premier League match coming up on Sunday against West Ham. As such I’ve made seven changes heading into the second leg.
Additionally, as everyone knows by now, Aubameyang was correctly left out of the starting XI against Tottenham for reportedly another late arrival. And as Aaron pointed out, that needs to be the end of that story – move on. The positive is that now Arteta can use a rested Auba from the start to ensure Arsenal sees out this tie.
Pepe was left out of the last three starting XIs, with his last coming in his strong performance in the win over Leicester City. With the opponent needing goals, there should be more space in behind the Olympiacos backline than the first leg and a perfect chance for Pepe to return. Arteta’s belief that Willian would eventually break out of his rut proved the correct move, as he now leads the team with seven assists. He and Smith Rowe can provide the creativity and when needed defensive support to allow Pepe to drift further forward with Aubameyang.
In the midfield, I’d let Elneny pair with Ceballos, but Arteta is likely to take a more risk-averse approach and use either one of them with Xhaka who rarely sits.
Besides Tierney, Arsenal can fully rotate the backline, a great sign of the squad’s current form and fitness. Hector Bellerin returns at right-back after Cedric continues to impress this season (recently called into the Portuguese National Team once again).
Gabriel and Luiz had solid matches in the first leg and the North London Derby, but Pablo Mari and Rob Holding can more than suffice to see off this round of the Europa League. At the moment, Arsenal has four capable centerbacks, plus Dino Mavropanos who is impressing in the Bundesliga at Stuttgart.
If somehow Olympiacos close the gap in the first half, Mikel has the likes of Lacazette, Odegaard, Partey, Gabriel, and Cedric to call upon. But if Arsenal can maintain or extend that lead it would be nice to see another run out in the second half for Martinelli, Nketiah, or potentially Nelson, all of who have been left wanting lately.
Bukayo Saka left Sunday’s match at halftime with an apparent hamstring injury. We should find out the extent of that injury Wednesday or Thursday, but he was out of Arsenal’s training session on Tuesday. His potential absence may make way for Reiss Nelson to feature once again after recently playing for the U23s.
Arsenal – 2
Olympiacos – 0