Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League showdown against Olympiacos, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger revealed that he was intent on making sure that Arsenal qualify from the group stages of the competition (via Arsenal.com). The manager also highlighted the fact that the Gunners have progressed from the group stages for the past 15 seasons in a row, and admitted that the record meant a lot to him.
In an interview with Arsenal Player, Wenger added that the players were aware of what was expected of them, and were fully focused on securing the required result in Greece.
“Personally the record means a lot because it’s important for the club and for the players. I want to win and I want to qualify. For me our job is to win the next game, and do what is requested”, he said.
“There is one positive thing for us – we know exactly what we have to do. We know that we have to go for it from the start. So let’s do that and hopefully we can get through. We know what is expected and we have studied Olympiacos.
“We changed the team completely [against Sunderland] because we’ve lost the core in midfield of Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin in the past two weeks, and we had to find a new balance. We were a bit insecure as well because we had not won last week. I believe [Olympiacos] is a different game psychologically, it’s clear, we just have to go for it.”
During the game against Sunderland, Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey did an acceptable job in the centre of the field; and although the pair will still need some time to gel, Wenger believes that Ramsey in particular will have a massive impact on the upcoming games.
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“Aaron is a player who creates a high number of chances when he plays through the middle and his expected goals when he plays through the middle is quite high, one of the highest in the Premier League,” the manager said.
“So I’m not surprised when he plays through the middle he’s always attracted [to the ball]. He could have scored three against Sunderland. That’s why he was so happy when he scored. In the first half he had a back pass from Nacho when he could have scored, after that he hit the goalkeeper when he could have scored, and then he did.”
With the squad still stretched dangerously thin thanks to injuries, the manager will not have much scope for team rotation ahead of the upcoming game. The return of Theo Walcott offers some slim hope however – his pace could be the key to breaking down the Olympiacos defence. No matter who the manager picks to start, the ultimate goal of the team will be to score at least twice on the night, and ensure our progress for the 16th consecutive season.