Arsenal Vs Olympiakos: 5 things we learned – Job done

Use your ← → (arrows) to browse

PIRAEUS, GREECE – FEBRUARY 20: Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal celebrates with teammates Bukayo Saka, Dani Ceballos and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after scoring his teams first goal during the UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg match between Olympiacos FC and Arsenal FC at Karaiskakis Stadium on February 20, 2020 in Piraeus, Greece. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Arsenal travelled to Olympiakos on Thursday night to open their Europa League knockout stages. Here are five things we learned from the 1-0 win.

It was not the most deserved victory that Arsenal will ever enjoy, but as they fly back to London, they will sit back and be most content with the result, if not the performance. Mikel Arteta’s side showed grit, character, resilience and heart to squeeze out a 1-0 victory against a formidable Olympiakos. Alexandre Lacazette scored late on in one of the few fluid attacking moves of the match, and the Gunners defended stoutly to take the away-goal lead back to the Emirates.

Listen to the latest episode of the Pain in the Arsenal podcast here! — A Winning Feeling

Here are five things we learned.

Olympiakos’ French midfielder Mathieu Valbuena (R) vies with Arsenal’s Greek defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos (L) and Arsenal’s Brazilian striker Gabriel Martinelli (C) during the UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg football match between Olympiakos and Arsenal at the Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus, near Athens, on February 20, 2020. (Photo by LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / AFP) (Photo by LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP via Getty Images)

5. Why no Ainsley Maitland-Niles?

Arsenal struggled down the right flank throughout. This was especially troubling in the early stages as Mathieu Valbuena ran Sokratis ragged. In fairness to Sokratis, he is no right-back and the agility and balance of Valbuena was always going to cause him strife. Had Mikel Arteta been forced to play Sokratis at right-back with no other options, such problems would have been acceptable, but with Ainsley Maitland-Niles on the bench, Arteta had a perfectly capable player to start in Sokratis’ stead.

Want your voice heard? Join the Pain In The Arsenal team!

Write for us!

Maitland-Niles flourished at right-back when Arteta first came to the club and it seemed as though he was set to challenge Hector Bellerin for the starting berth, even if he still viewed himself as a central midfielder. But once Bellerin proved his fitness and was ushered into the starting XI, Maitland-Niles has nowhere to be seen, even missing out on the squad entirely in last weekend’s win over Newcastle United.

If Arteta felt the need to rest Bellerin, which is quite understandable given the Spaniards’ near return from an ACL tear, why not play Maitland-Niles at right-back, not Sokratis? It makes very little sense. Something, it seems, is going on here.

Use your ← → (arrows) to browse