So, it’s happened.
Arsenal have drawn Olympiacos once again in the Europa League knockout stages. It’s poetic that the Gunners should be paired with the Greek giants, almost a year to the day they were knocked out by the side in the last-32 stage.
Mikel Arteta and his side will be hoping for a better outcome this time around as they look to make the quarter-final stage.
Making it through to the next round could be fairly rewarding after a number of the big sides drew each other. Manchester United will face Italian giants AC Milan, meanwhile, AS Roma drew 2009 champions Shakhtar Donetsk.
Will Arsenal progress against Olympiacos?
The range of angles that have reared its head as a result of this draw is quite staggering.
For starters, Sokratis returns to north London mere weeks after having his contract terminated by the club. You get a sense the central defender will be out to seek revenge for what he will think was a harsh dismissal by the Reds.
And as mentioned above, there are the events of last year that saw the side knock out Arsenal in what can only be described as sensational circumstances. If ever there was a match to prove how tough European competition, and that darned away goals rule, can be than it was this encounter.
Having lost the first-leg 1-0 to Arteta’s men, the Athens outfit were undeterred as they came to north London to put in a sensational performance. Two goals, one just minutes away from full-time in extra-time, saw Pedro Martins’ side snatch an unlikely victory.
It wouldn’t have been the defeat, and subsequent exit, that hurt those associated with the club, but, more so the timid nature of the performance at home to a side they really should’ve knocked out.
However, having been given a warning a year ago, it seems the team are yet to learn from their mishaps after Thursday’s near-miss against Benfica. The side were given an almighty fright as they were forced to come back from 3-2 down (and two away goals) to defeat the Eagles.
Why can’t this team learn? It’s not like Arsenal are a completely awful side, who you expect to lose high-pressure games. Last campaign’s FA Cup run shows that this group of players have both the bottle and ability to hurt anyone on their day after back-to-back victories over Manchester City and Chelsea on their way to lifting the trophy.
So, just what is it about knockout ties that cause them distress?
It’s hard to put your finger on an exact reason, however, you’d hope that following last year’s disappointment, these players will be hoping to dish out some revenge. Then again having witnessed Thursday’s fixture, don’t hold your breath.