The Carling Cup campaign might be over but the youth experiment continues. I don’t know about others, but I really enjoy these games. The expectations from these games are not really low but different. Once you take out the importance of the result from a game, the sheer pleasure from the football increase manifold.
It’s a gamble as well. A poor result can adversely affect the confidence of the youngsters. I am sure Arsene can handle this pressure but it might not be so easy for the players, especially if someone is unfortunate enough to make a blunder. On the bright side, it gives them an opportunity to experience a fanatical atmosphere and helps them grow as individuals. This might be a crude way to put it, but such games can separate the wheat from the chaff.
I don’t know how to classify the players in this game. For instance, Song is just 22, but is nearing a hundred appearances for Arsenal. Theo, 20, has already crossed that milestone. Do we call these players young or do we call them experienced!? Of course, there are some rookies in the squad like our very own Tom Cruise who is likely to get his first start. The only real veteran is Silvestre and we have to give him some credit for maintaining his focus and motivation for such games.
Olympiakos needed a heroic effort from their keeper at the Emirates. If we can work Nikopolidis half as much, this game will be a success from our point of view. The Greek champions, though unbeaten at home this year, have only scored three goals in the competition so far. Hopefully our young defence will be able to keep them at bay.
The hosts need a point to go through and I will be surprised if they throw caution to the wind. I think Olympiakos will try to contain us. It would certainly be easier for them to hold a youthful Arsenal side rather than outscore us.
My hopes from the game are quite straightforward,
- None of our players pick up an injury, especially the likes of Song, Ramsey, Walcott and Vela
- The youngsters don’t get overawed and enjoy themselves on the pitch
- Everyone puts in an honest shift
The team is likely to be,
Fabianski; Gilbert, Song, Silvestre, Cruise; Merida, Eastmond, Ramsey; Wilshere, Vela, JET;
I think it would be better to keep Theo on the bench as he has had too many injuries while making comebacks. It also gives us an option later in the game.
Here’s to some unadulterated pleasure