Mikel Arteta told his young players that there will be no hiding place in a fierce atmosphere against Olympiakos on Thursday evening and that he expects to witness a daring performance during a game that will mark Arsenal’s season.
Failure in the Europa League round of 32 is not really an option if Arsenal wants to keep serious hopes of playing football in the Champions League next season, although there is cautious optimism about a recovery in the home form. It means that a strong first-leg performance in Piraeus, in the face of the notoriously fervent support of the leaders of the Greek league, is essential. Much of Arteta’s improvement has been supported by less experienced team members such as Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, so he’s trying to get them forward in a completely different environment.
“It’s part of the process,” said the manager. “You don’t know until you expose them. They may have the best intention, but they must go to a stadium like here and, when they make a mistake or a wrong decision, they have the courage to try again and play again.
“I want to see it in my players, who are 17 or 35 years old. That’s what I expect from them. If they keep trying, they have my full support. If they hide afterwards, I don’t like it. But what I’ve seen so far , every time they play in that field, they are responding very, very well. “
Arteta has suggested that there will be little reason for players to rest, pointing out that Arsenal have played once in the past two and a half weeks. His selection will likely be a mixture of those who started Newcastle’s 4-0 defeat on Sunday and those who lost, the latter group including Martinelli and Alexandre Lacazette. At least one change will be forced by the absence of Mesut Özil, whose wife was close to giving birth on Wednesday night.
Matteo Guendouzi returned to contention, having been omitted by the team on Sunday. The midfielder is believed to have had a disagreement with Arteta during the winter break camp in Dubai, and the manager made it clear that there had been a deviation from the standards he expects. “I only do my team selection and the team about how they train, how they play, how they behave. Every week will be different. A week will be a reason, a week will be another reason.
“It was about the way we train, the way we play, the way we live. I want the best players for the game and I select them based on what I see daily. “
There is a possibility that Guendouzi will start as Lucas Torreira has not made the journey through the disease.
Arteta wants anyone chosen to show their flexibility against Pedro Martins’ team, who frightened Tottenham twice in the Champions League group stage. “When you travel in Europe it’s completely different from the Premier League and we have to adapt and be able to play the type of game the opponent requires. We want to come anywhere in Europe or England with the mentality and attitude to win. To play, play, play – and win. “