In last season’s Europa League, Arsenal saw out the first leg of the Round of 32 with a margin of one goal but, in theory, had we taken our chances Mikel Arteta’s side could have seen the game out on the night. As a result, the pressure was on in the second-leg at home.
Just before the hour mark, in that second-leg , Olympiacos levelled the tie from a bullet header scored by their unmarked six foot centre back. Poor man marking has been a determining factor not only last season but this season at Arsenal too.
After 90 minutes, the tie-ended 1-1 on aggregate and, in the 112th minute, Gabriel Martinelli headed onto the Arsenal skipper, Aubameyang, who produced the most memorable quickest forgotten goal you will ever see.
The moment was one to savour, not only for those fortunate enough to be there to see it live but also for those who embraced the emphatic commentary of the poet himself, Mr Peter Drury.
“AUBAMEYANGGG, that is a peach! At last, at long long last, a moment of Gunners inspiration. Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang with the special moment for which the night thirsted”. The commentator was not alone in his excitement. All Arsenal fans across the world thought that the skipper had sent Mikel Arteta’s side through to the Europa League Round of 16.
However, Olympiacos had other ideas that night. It was the 119th minute, Arsenal fans were beginning to pile out onto the concourse of the Emirates Stadium, celebrating the team progressing in the Europa League – and then the ball fell to the feet of Youssef El Arabi, after a corner that Arsenal failed to clear. Every Arsenal player and every Arsenal fan knew what was going to happen before the ball was hit.
All that could be heard were the travelling supporters. Arsenal fans were stunned into silence as they realised – on away goals – their club was going out of the Europa League in the Round of 32.
Arsenal still had a chance to win the tie on aggregate, in the dying seconds, when the ball ricocheted into the path of Aubameyang and he missed a sitter from 8 yards out.
“We have some feelings towards that team and we want to put it right in the next round.”
History cannot repeat itself. Arsenal need to re-write the history books, starting in Athens and continuing this newly written chapter in north London in a weeks time.
The Arsenal players need to go into this game telling themselves that tonight is a final, there is no second-leg and no second chances.
Olympiacos go into the first-leg with only one fit first-team centre back and that man happens to be someone every Arsenal player knows something about, Sokratis.
Arsenal need to be ruthless and see the tie out on the night by scoring two or three without conceding any. The Gunners should go at full pelt in Athens.
With a north London derby on the horizon, the last thing Arsenal want is to underperform in the first leg against the Greek giants and have it all to do in the second-leg four days after a physically demanding challenge in the against an in-form Tottenham Hotspur side.
Tonight is indeed a task of Olympian proportions.
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