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Arsenal vs Olympiacos: 3 players who will be important to Mikel Arteta's plans | UEFA Europa League 2019-20

Mikel Arteta is taking the Europa League seriously.
Mikel Arteta is taking the Europa League seriously.
Kian Long
ANALYST
Modified 27 Feb 2020, 00:29 IST
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Arsenal host Olympiacos in the Europa League knockout stage on Thursday. The Gunners will head into this fixture with plenty of confidence; not only will they be the home side but they also sit on a nice 1-0 cushion, courtesy Alexandre Lacazette's away goal in Athens.

Mikel Arteta will have fired his players up for this match because he knows how important the Europa League is for Arsenal. It could act as their ticket into the Champions League next season should they fail to qualify through their league finish.

Arsenal have won their last three games, one of which being that game in Athens last week. They have been a real attacking force in these three games too, scoring an impressive eight goals. Consequently, they will be hoping to finish this tie off with a bang.

Mikel Arteta will likely field a strong XI since some players missed out in the fixture against Everton last weekend. The Gunners managed a close 3-2 win but Arteta clearly revealed his intentions by resting a few key players.

With that being said, here are three players that Mikel Arteta will hope to be in top form in this match against Olympiacos...


#1 Alexandre Lacazette

Alexandre Lacazette has been in fine form for Arsenal lately.
Alexandre Lacazette has been in fine form for Arsenal lately.

Alexandre Lacazette is often reliable in the Europa League. He has scored two goals in three group stage starts so he will be hoping to add to his tally.

His goal was virtually a tap-in against the Greek side last time out but it all came courtesy fine movement off the ball. This is Lacazette's main strength and the Olympiacos defence, that seemed resilient heading into the tie, couldn't deal with him in the end.

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Lacazette went through a dry patch to begin 2020 but he is back in form. Although he missed out against Everton, he has a goal in his last two appearances for Arsenal so he will head into this tie full of confidence.

Arteta and the Arsenal fans have put a lot of trust in Lacazette. That said, he will likely be a starter in this match providing he doesn't pick up an injury in the meantime.

#2 Bukayo Saka

A lot of Arsenal
A lot of Arsenal's play has run through Bukayo Saka this season.

Bukayo Saka has been Arsenal's revelation this season and he owes a lot to this competition for the same because he was given the opportunity in it to make a name for himself. Since Sead Kolasinac started the match against Everton and came off early through injury, it is suspected Saka will get another deserved start.

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Saka has provided eight assists across all competitions for Arsenal this season. He has been forced into an unfamiliar position but he has ended up being a better option than the players who often vacate this position for Mikel Arteta.

Saka provided the assist for Lacazette in the reverse fixture. He has made this his stock in trade at full-back, as he likes to play low-drilled crosses that are easy for the incoming attackers to pounce on. He looks composed with the ball at his feet he is improving his defensive traits by the week

Consequently, Arsenal will likely attack down the left-hand side through Saka.

#3 Bernd Leno

Bernd Leno was the best player on the pitch in Athens.
Bernd Leno was the best player on the pitch in Athens.

The most important player on the pitch for the Gunners has been Bernd Leno in recent matches. Particularly in the reverse fixture, Leno put in an exceptional performance to keep a clean sheet away from home and for that reason, he should be given the start against Olympiacos.

Emiliano Martinez was Arsenal's goalkeeper of choice in the group stage but Arteta seems to have come in and favoured Leno in this competition, which is hard to dispute.

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The last thing Arsenal would want is to concede an away goal, especially after all their hard work to get the advantage in Greece. Consequently, Leno will be alert to any danger Arsenal face. He will use his broad frame and long arms to cover much of his net.

Leno is also composed with the ball at his feet, so if Arsenal find themselves with no option but to play out from the back, Leno is the right man for the job. He has been one of Arsenal's players of the season for a reason.

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Published 27 Feb 2020, 00:29 IST
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