Arsenal don’t have a particularly good record at Olympiacos, where the Gunners must win (probably by two goals) to qualify from the Champions League group stage on Wednesday night.
Having lost 3-2 to the Greek champions at the Emirates Stadium back in September, Arsène Wenger and his side know they have to match or better that Olympiacos victory this time around.
The Frenchman has taken three Arsenal sides to Greece to face Olympiacos on the final matchday of the Champions League group stage, and lost on all three occasions. But – trust me – they don’t count.
Already qualified and guaranteed to finish top of the group, the game meant nothing to Arsenal. Meanwhile, sitting three points ahead of Standard Liege, Olympiacos had to win to confirm their place in the knockout rounds.
Each of Thomas Cruise, Kerrea Gilbert, Kyle Bartley, and Fran Merida were making their first ever Champions League starts (only Gilbert had previously featured as a sub) and never played in the competition for Arsenal again.
Arsenal XI (with age): Fabianski (24); Gilbert (22), Bartley (18), Silvestre (32), Cruise (18); Ramsey (18), Song (22), Wilshere (17); Walcott (20), Vela (20), Merida (19).
Subs used: Sunu (18) for Wilshere.
Another must-win game for Olympiacos, another dead rubber for Arsenal. 11 points from the opening five games saw the Gunners through as group leaders and Wenger rotated once again.
The 3-1 defeat was in no small part down to Vito Mannone, who had a night to forget in goal after replacing the injured Lukasz Fabianski.
Johan Djourou at right-back, Andre Santos at left-back, Emmanuel Frimpong and an unflourished Francis Coquelin in midfield with Marouane Chamakh up front. Some worrying times.
The game was just five years ago but only three of the 18 squad members (Coquelin, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tomas Rosicky) remain at the club. A weird mix of ageing squad players and youth players crammed into the wrong positions meant this was never going to end well.
Arsenal XI: Fabianski (26); Djourou (23), Squillaci (30), Vermaelen (25), Santos (27); Coquelin (19), Frimpong (18); Oxlade-Chamberlain (17), Arshavin (29), Benayoun (30); Chamakh (26).
Subs used: Mannone (22) for Fabianski, Miquel (18) for Santos, Rosicky (30) for Coquelin.
Olympiacos away memories <3 pic.twitter.com/vIpJSJrfkd
— HM (@hmafc) December 7, 2015
Arsenal, Olympiacos, a French side and a German side were all in the same group yet again. The result? Arsenal were through after five games. Again.
This time around neither side had anything to play for (though the Gunners could have won the group with all three points) so Arsène Wenger rested players.
Jernade Meade started and was replaced by Martin Angha, the bench looked a little like a Kindergarten, and the team saw the use of generally unwanted squad members.
Losing 2-1 (after taking the lead through Tomas Rosicky), Arsenal got closer to a win in Greece than on the previous two attempts, but not close enough.
Along with the debutants, Sebastian Squillaci and Marouane Chamakh played their last ever games for Arsenal. This was Squillaci’s only first team appearance of the entire season.
Arsenal XI: Szczesny (22); Jenkinson (20), Squillaci (31), Vermaelen (26), Meade (20); Coquelin (20), Ramsey (21); Oxlade-Chamberlain (18), Rosicky (31), Gervinho (25); Chamakh (27).
Subs used: Arshavin (30) for Rosicky, Angha (18) for Meade.
Well, who knows? One thing is for sure: this one actually matters, and Wenger’s selection will reflect that.