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The ancient port city of Piraeus was named Porto Leone first by the Venetians because of a landmark sculpture of a Lion at the Piraeus harbor – the statue was later transported to Venice by the conquering Venetian navy after they besieged and pillaged Athens in the war against the Ottoman Empire. The statue was sculpted around the 4th century BC and by that time Piraeus was already an old port of great economic and military importance for Athens, and according to Thucydides even officially proclaimed to be a part of greater Athens. Over the course of few millennia the city has seen spectacular rise and fall – ravaged by wars and rebuilt multiple times, being nearly depopulated to now becoming the one of busiest ports in Europe. 

As far as the references to antiquity are concerned, it is safe to say that no football club comes even close to Olympiacos, or to pay respect to their full name, Olympiacos C.F.P — Olympiakós Sýndesmos Filáthlon Peiraiós — Olympic Club of Fans of Piraeus. Not only do they have the classical laurel wreath on their logo and the noble sentiments of the Olympian ideals of sports in their name, the club being founded in Piraeus, the port city gets its rightful place in the club’s official name as well. It must be said that since being formed in 1925 they have truly lived up to the Olympian ideals of sporting excellence: by far the most successful club in Greek football with 45 league titles and six invincible seasons in the domestic league. The recent addition of four stars on their logo indicate the 40 league titles. The fans love to call their club Thrylos (legend) and rightfully proud of their astounding domestic record. 

In recent years we have formed a habit of playing against these Greek legends in the European competitions. Last season’s very Arsenal-esque Seppuku act in ‘the round of 32’ of the Europa League is best left unremembered.  But before that we had played against them in Champions League group stages for four seasons in quick succession: 2009/10, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2015/16. In the last of those occasions, we had lost the home leg 2-3 but then won away at Piraeus 3-0 courtesy a Giroud hattrick, including a gem of an assist from our Costa Rican journeyman Joel Campbell.

However, our overall record away at Olympiacos is not at all convincing: 0-1 loss in 2009/2010, 1-3 loss in 2011/2012, and 1-2 loss in 2012/13. Last season in the Europa League we had of course, won away 1-0 in the first leg before we Arsenalized ourselves at home. 

Given our current league standing, and our impressive skills at manufacturing novel ways of throwing away points — despite an upturn in performance and result since the festive period – the Europa League remains the much likelier route to get back to Champions League. Last year’s successful run to the FA cup victory can act both as an inspiration and blueprint for the team to progress through this competition. 

With the North London Derby at the weekend sandwiched between the two legs of this crucial tie against Olympiacos, Mikel will need to rotate and balance his squad to optimize individual and collective performances. Olympiacos is currently sitting at the top of the Greek Super League, with a 16 points lead over the runners-up Aris and AEK Athens, so they can definitely afford to put complete focus on these two matches and take their weekend league match relatively lightly. 

Olympiacos is managed by Pedro Martins who was also the manager in their ties against us last season. They generally shape up in either a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 formations with focus on overloading through the middle with the fullbacks providing width on the flanks. They also use a rapid switch of flanks very effectively to create 1v1 situations where tricky dribblers like Mathieu Valbuena becomes particularly dangerous. Their fullbacks and wingers are very adept at delivering high quality crosses into the box for strikers like El-Arabi to attack. 

At the base of Olympiacos’ midfield the familiar face of Yann M’Vila – who at one point of time was consistently being linked with us – reads the game well and plays the key organizer role. And of course, at the center of their defense we have ex-Arsenal Sokratis Papastathopoulos, or Papa to us Arsenal supporters. In his stint with us he might not have become the defensive lynchpin that many of us had hoped for when he had joined us from Dortmund, but he is a fierce competitor and well capable of using his strength and experience to marshal the back four efficiently. I am sure he will relish the challenge of facing against his old friend Aubameyang. 

The tactics to overload the flanks using the fullbacks makes Olympiacos vulnerable against rapid counterattacks, and I think we will be better served opting for speed and penetration down the wings even at the expense of a bit of technical security, especially given the value of away goals. I would keep Saka (who still looked a bit fatigued away at Burnley) and Emile Smith-Rowe rested and fresh for the weekend derby, and Willian and Lacazette too earning a break to contribute to the weekend where a much more tactical approach focusing on technical security will be key. My preferred starting line-up against Olympiacos will be     


Cedric – Luiz – Mari – Tierney

Partey – Ceballos

Pépé – Ødegaard– Martinelli 


However, I think Arteta will be a little bit more cautious and will put his faith in players he has been using more:


Cedric – Luiz – Mari – Tierney

Partey – Xhaka

Pépé – Ødegaard– Saka


We should try to play on the front foot from the beginning and getting an early goal to then create a perfect set-up for subsequent counter-attacks will be ideal. I am going with a bold prediction of 3-1 win for us.

Come on Arsenal!

79 Drinks to “Of Lions and Legends”

  1. 1
    bt8 says:

    But can Thucydides score us a goal? 😉

  2. 2
    Bathgooner says:

    Thucydides is the mutts, mate. No problemo.

  3. 3
    bt8 says:

    Thanks for the top drawer preview Doctor F. I wouldn’t mind seeing us isolate Aubameyang against Sokratis on a break or two just to see who can win that foot race. Also, Shouldn’t El-Arabi be a bit old at 34 years of age to be scoring 18 goals in 22 appearances as his transfermarkt profile says he has? All shall be revealed I suppose.

  4. 4
    North Bank Ned says:

    Your predicted scoreline is indeed bold, Dr F., but I would take it in a heartbeat.
    I am guessing Arteta will set up not to lose and that your seasoned side will be closer to the mark than your fleet-footed one, but with Willian in place of Saka.

  5. 5
    Trev says:

    Great preview, Dr F,

    I like your first team but agree with Ned that we’ll probably see something more conservative. Surely Xhaka must be due a rest at some stage – pleeasse !

    Someone must have written his name on the team sheet in indelible ink.

  6. 6
    TTG says:

    Great preview Dr.F. On the night we lost to Olympiakos just over a year ago I was hosting a conference at which we were being warned about a Covid pandemic and missed the game .Overreaction I thought . I saw the previous Olympiacos home game where Ospina threw the ball into his net and well remember the Giroud hat-trick in Athens .
    I too like your preferred side but you missed the contractual rule that you aren’t allowed to start in Europe without Xhaka and he will play .He appears impervious to injury . It might be a game that suits him tomorrow . I think Lacazette may play centrally with Auba wide and Pepe may get the nod although Arteta may feel Willian may provide more defensive coverage. I sense we will get an away goal but lose 2-1 . But we will recover the tie next week .

  7. 7
    Bathgooner says:

    A most enjoyable preview Dr F. I think your second team will be closer to our starting 11 as I am inclined to agree with MA8 that Xhaka, notwithstanding Saturday’s mistake, provides more defensive security than our other midfield options.

    It would be delightful if PEA could match Giroud’s hat trick but I can’t see it. A 3-1 win in Athens would be even more delightful but I can’t see that either though I have a sneaking suspicion that we will come away with a win.

  8. 8
    North Bank Ned says:

    I ran a quick and dirty simulation of an expanded CL using the Swiss model with the Dutch system and the 36 clubs with the highest UEFA coefficients, and wouldn’t you know it, we ended up meeting Olympiacos in Matchweek 4.

  9. 9
    Osakamatt says:

    A fine preview of a tricky game
    Dr F. We’ve a run of four tricky
    games coming up and guessing
    who MA will pick is er….tricky.
    But I like us for this one and will
    go for a 4-1 win with an Auba

  10. 10
    Osakamatt says:

    Some good thoughts on the CL
    format in the previous post.
    Reducing the number of dead
    matches in the group stages will
    be a challenge although the
    current format has set quite a
    low bar for actual progress in that
    regard. The only certainty is of
    course that however it’s done
    people will complain 😉

  11. 11
    bt8 says:

    Hat-tricky much to be preferred over the regular tricky, but I have a feeling the regular tricky is a bit more realistic. Good thing we’ve got that tricky vengeance motivator working.

  12. 12
    North Bank Ned says:

    OM@10: one of the advantages of the Swiss model is that it eliminates a lot of dead rubber matches that you get in round robins. With only the top eight teams certain to go through to the last 16 and another 16 competing for the eight playoff spots, the majority of clubs will be fighting for something right to the end. Also because for each round the pairings pit clubs with similar records against each other, clubs move up and down the overall league table far more than they do with the existing format in which the groups are seeded so you pretty much know from the get go who will qualify.

  13. 13
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Thanks everyone for the kind words!
    About BBC panel mocking Laca’s scream, one of them later had the good sense to realize their own vaudeville act was stupid and reached out to Laca … Wrighty says Laca was gracious about it …

    Ian Wright reveals conversation with Alexandre Lacazette after he mocked Arsenal striker on Match of the Day

  14. 14
    Osakamatt says:

    I liked the way he slipped in a
    mention of Kane. Personally I’ve
    got no problem with it – players
    do it (ours too), it’s ridiculous and
    if you do ridiculous stuff then people
    are going to take the piss.

  15. 15
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Lovely preview Doc. There will be few previews in the Goonerverse this week with such erudition and quality. Very well played.

    I’m excited about the next week. Three big games. I hope we get off to a good start.

  16. 16
    TTG says:

    I got a bit worried when the very respectable Ned said he was doing a quick and dirty simulation with a Swiss model. Then I saw it was about the Champions League ! I worked in Switzerland regularly for thirty years and never met a Swiss model . But I did make a Swiss roll 😀😀

  17. 17
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    OM @14.

    I thought it was a nothing story

    “Bloke screams loudly after tackle”.

    Next up the incredible exclusive “Not all players who fall over are actually hurt!”

    But I did notice that more seemed to be made of it than the countless times other players do it. Consistency would be nice.
    * sighs *

    I was also reminded that I don’t like Dyche. He winds me up. With his team. And his words. And his face.

  18. 18
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Partey did an interview on .com where every time most players would have used the word ‘teammates’ he just said ‘mates’. I dunno why but it really made me smile.

    Although I hope he doesn’t become too good mates with any of his midfield partners- as I’d happily jettison the lot of them in the summer!

  19. 19
    Countryman100 says:

    Did you get my email Ned?

  20. 20
    Bathgooner says:

    I thought it unsurprising that Lineker and the MotD team on the BBC singled out Lacazette for the ‘scream of the season’ despite the increased frequency with which we have heard screams (as well as profanities) in televised matches due to the absence of spectators. I am glad that Wrighty has apologised to Laca for the unnecessary victimisation though as Steve T and GSD suggest, if you indulge in such a scream and then hop to your feet seconds later you can expect to be mocked by some people. Having said that, anyone who has been kicked on a football pitch will probably have experienced episodes of instant severe pain that settles very quickly.

    I suspect such screams have gone on for years but have been difficult, if not impossible, to hear when in a stadium or watching on TV with the formerly usual crowd noise. However, I wonder if, having previously been kicked from pillar to post in that game without the referee awarding any free kicks, Laca decided to let him know that he was suffering yet another assault from a Burnley troglodyte.

  21. 21
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@16: Nurse!

    How do you make a Swiss roll?

    Push him down an Alp.

    I’ll get my coat…

  22. 22
    Esso says:

    Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin, Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney, Xhaka, Partey, Odegaard, Willian, Saka, Auba

    Subs: Ryan, Hein, Holding, Cedric, Chambers, Mari, Elneny, Ceballos, Pepe, Smith Rowe, Martinelli, Lacazette

  23. 23
    North Bank Ned says:

    Pretty much Arteta’s first XI, save for ESR.

    A lot of defenders on the bench, but no Nketiah or Balogun.

  24. 24
    TTG says:

    I’m feeling a wave of confidence wash over me . Or it may be our sprinkler system !

  25. 25
    Esso says:

    Keeping Pepe’s powder dry for Sunday then.

  26. 26
    bt8 says:

    Unai Emery’s Villareal take their first leg with a comfortable win over Dynamo Kyiv, and he looks happy about it.

  27. 27
    Countryman100 says:

    Come on you Gunnerrsss!

  28. 28
    Countryman100 says:

    What a save.

  29. 29
    ksn says:

    Another fine pre match write up Dr.F. Two evenly matched teams with the main threats for us coming from their wing backs who have pace and good passing skills, their main creator Valbuena and El Arabi their striker.
    Fine start for us with Odegaard missing a decent chance and Auba bringing out a good save from their goalie. I hope we improve our shooting as the match progresses.

  30. 30
    OsakaMatt says:

    Good first 20 but should be ahead.

  31. 31
    ksn says:

    Odegaard shoots and scores!!!!

  32. 32
    Steve T says:

    I was just about to say that we need to be more clinical….

    Great hit. Now to capitalise. No Burnley type performances.

  33. 33
    ksn says:

    He almost did a Xhaka earlier and passed to their forward near our penalty area but we escaped.
    He has more than made up for it with this thunderbolt.

  34. 34
    ksn says:

    Luiz does a Xhaka now but Olympiacos spurn the chance. We do seem tohave a death wish.

  35. 35
    OsakaMatt says:

    Deserved lead from a cracking shot

  36. 36
    Steve T says:

    What was I saying about reverting to Burnley type performances?????

    Will we ever learn?

  37. 37
    OsakaMatt says:

    Yeah, let’s hope we can save ourselves from ourselves 😃

  38. 38
    ksn says:

    We have an away goal at half time thanks to Odegaard’s thunderbolt but we need to tighten up and not concede silly goals. Apart from the mis passing once each by Odegaard and Luiz which could have easily led to them scoring, we have looked assured so far (touch wood).

  39. 39
    Steve T says:

    Decent enough first 45 but at times, oh so Arsenal. The fucking about at the back drives me up the wall. 1 nil up could easily have been 3 nil up.

    Nothing silly, and let’s be a tad more clinical. How

  40. 40
    OsakaMatt says:

    Game there to be taken I think, stay focused and
    keep feeding Auba.

  41. 41
    Countryman100 says:

    Odegaard absolutely twats it in. Take a bow son. Calamity Luiz almost gives it away at t’other end.

  42. 42
    OsakaMatt says:

    2 subs for them and a bit more urgency

  43. 43
    ksn says:

    Ceballos on for Partey.

  44. 44
    ksn says:

    Ceballos loses the ball and Arabi scores. Get Ceballos off the squad. Third straight fuck up.

  45. 45
    OsakaMatt says:

    Dani for Thomas – pushing for a 2nd I hope

  46. 46
    OsakaMatt says:

    Fuck, I turned away for a second to post

  47. 47
    Steve T says:


    Words fail me. Another ridiculously schoolboy error. Mickey A needs to get a grip of this shit.

    I so wish there had been crowds allowed at games some time ago. I am 100% confident that their reaction throughout the season would have seen an end to this bollocks.

  48. 48
    Steve T says:

    Ridiculous error followed by the normal rabbit in the headlights, rudderless, fucked if I know what to do period.

    Get a grip lads!!!!

  49. 49
    ksn says:

    Gabriel!!!!! 1-2.

  50. 50
    OsakaMatt says:

    Get in!!

  51. 51
    ksn says:

    VAR checking if the goal stays. It does and we take the lead.
    Elneny on for Willian.

  52. 52
    Steve T says:

    Does anyone know what is actually going on???!

  53. 53
    ksn says:

    ESR on for Odegaard and Pepe on for Saka.

  54. 54
    ksn says:

    Elneny makes it 1-3 with his right footed thunderbolt!!!!

  55. 55
    OsakaMatt says:


  56. 56
    OsakaMatt says:

    Master sub 😀😀

  57. 57
    ksn says:

    We had become very tentative as Steve T said but the last two goals looks to have them demoralised a bit.

  58. 58
    Steve T says:

    Great header. Great strike.

  59. 59
    ksn says:

    Laca is the last sub with Auba taken off.

  60. 60
    ksn says:

    Five added minutes to play out.

  61. 61
    OsakaMatt says:

    Managed to get a grip in the end and have a deserved win.
    Great result. As forecast by Dr F too

  62. 62
    Countryman100 says:

    Really enjoyed the header from Gabriel. Sagna like. ‘Ave it!

  63. 63
    Countryman100 says:

    Wel done Dr F!

  64. 64
    ksn says:

    That is that. It was actually one sided till we decided to give them a chance to make it interesting. A win and three away goals, what more can one ask for? Fewer mistakes of the type Xhaka, Luiz and Ceballos specialise in, for one. Well done boys.

  65. 65
    North Bank Ned says:

    It should have been a clean sheet and at least a 2-0 cushion at the half. I said before the game that I would take Dr F.’s 3-1 in a heartbeat, so I will.

  66. 66
    ksn says:

    Leno has to take some blame for the pass to Ceballos which he gave away under pressure near our box and they scored. I don’t know why we are bent on hara kiri.

  67. 67
    ksn says:

    Great prediction, Dr.F. Congratulations.

  68. 68
    TTG says:

    Great prediction Dr F !
    We’ve conceded seven goals this year from unforced errors. There is a fine side there but game management is a real issue .

  69. 69
    Steve T says:

    Good result. One major league, totally ridiculous and totally avoidable error away from being a great result.

  70. 70
    scruzgooner says:

    fine call on the game score, faustus, and a fine piece on the hosts. and the throwing away of goals. i’m curious to know how many points we’ve lost from crap like we saw today.

    still, 3 away goals and a win, and three beautiful goals at that. mo’s has to be the pick of the litter, with mø’s and gabriel’s coming in really a hair’s breadth behind. i’d like to see more from them like that, especially mø, considering he’s in the esr role and needs to play like it.

    bring on the scum!

  71. 71
    TTG says:

    I make it that defensive mistakes have cost us eight league points in 2021. That’s a huge amount and if we’d not given that many away we’d be very close to a CL place

  72. 72
    Bathgooner says:

    Congratulations Dr F on calling the result and ksn @64 for a susccinct summary with a key footnote @66.

    We can’t be unhappy with a 3-1 away win in Europe but we really must cut out the suicidal passing. 99% on Leno this time.

    MA8 looked somewhat pissed off in his post-match interview muttering about knowing when to pass and when to go long.

    Let’s get the masseur on those tired legs and get focused on our historic foe.

  73. 73
    Bathgooner says:

    And three truly beautiful goals. Long time since we’ve had three corkers in one game.

  74. 74
    scruzgooner says:

    ttg, that’s appalling. and yet simple to eliminate, by paying attention. we seem to panic at the back when we try to play out, and teams really press us hard…leading to success for them, and abject failure for us.

    getting rid of personnel would make a difference, but i wonder if their replacements would be just as culpable, given the system.

  75. 75
    North Bank Ned says:

    Interesting contrast in tone in the BBC reports tonight. The neighbours’ 2-0 home win puts them with ‘one foot in quarter-finals’ while our 1-3 away win leaves us no better than ‘well placed to avoid a repeat of [our] dramatic exit … last term”.


  76. 76
    Osakamatt says:

    Mikel was obviously annoyed afterwards
    about the goal – saying it was the decision
    on when to play the ball that was the issue
    not the system so I don’t think there will
    be any change there. Though I might have
    misunderstood your @74 as wanting a
    change in system.
    Although the mistake wasn’t as obvious
    as ours, it was our pressing that got us
    our first goal when we forced the turnover
    in a bad position for them. Good pressing
    by Hector and Saka, then quick ball from
    Thomas. Great shot of course from Ødegaard.
    But then their pressing and finish was good
    too to give them credit.
    Of course I’m posting this four hours after
    the game finished – I was 😡 at the time😉

  77. 77
    Osakamatt says:

    I have never really seen many
    people’s beef with perceived
    political bias at the BBC but their
    anti-Arsenal thing is really obvious!
    And far, far more serious of course.

  78. 78
    scruzgooner says:

    matt, i don’t necessarily want a change in the system, but if we change players and still have the same problems the system may be at fault…

  79. 79
    scruzgooner says: