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Manchester United need to repeat Sir Alex Ferguson trick by stealing Arsenal superstar

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Manchester United are still far adrift of battling for a Premier League title with Liverpool currently flying high at the top of the table ahead of their meeting at Anfield today (4.30pm), but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should follow in the footsteps of his former boss to get the club back to the top. Sir Alex Ferguson was often lauded for his exploits in the transfer market for bringing in the right player at the right time.

Since his retirement though, United have lost that sharpness in the transfer market to find what they need.

Marouane Fellaini, Angel Di Maria, Morgan Schneiderlin, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez are just some of the names United have spent big on in previous years with little to no success in return.

Jose Mourinho did lead United to the best-of-the-rest to second spot in the 2017/18 campaign, but last season saw them finish outside the top four for the fourth time in the last six seasons.

There has been some promise in the transfer window under Solskjaer with the acquisitions of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire and Daniel James strengthening in areas that were necessary.

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But this is a United team who won eight Premier League titles since the turn of the century, their last being arguably Ferguson’s most famous.

The Red Devils were still reeling from seeing Manchester City snatch the 2011/12 Premier League title after Sergio Aguero’s dramatic late winner on the final day of the season.

However, Ferguson responded in the transfer market with a killer blow to their Premier League rivals by signing the league’s most prolific striker from Arsenal – Robin van Persie.

The Dutchman had spent eight years with Arsenal but was entering the final year of his contract and United jumped in to steal the striker away from Arsene Wenger in one of the most surprising deals in Premier League history.

United could face the same situation this summer. While missing out on the title on the last day of the season is all-but out of the question, they may have to face the prospect of seeing arch-rivals Liverpool lift the title for the first time in 30 years.

And the Merseyside outfit are being backed for a period of dominance at the top of the English league should they go on to claim that elusive Premier League title.

Only United fans will be able to say which would be a worse prospect, but the club under Ferguson back in 2012 responded by signing Van Persie and going on to storm to the title the following season as Ferguson called time on his illustrious career.

The Old Trafford outfit though should try to repeat that same feat this summer in the transfer window to steal another Arsenal superstar who has shown reluctance to sign new terms at the Emirates – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The Gabon international is out of contract in 2021 with the current Arsenal captain supposedly wanting Champions League football.

United could end up beating Arsenal to the final spot in the top four come the end of the season and going after Aubameyang would be a huge signal of intent about the club going after players capable of taking them to the next level.

At 30 years of age, United would still be getting some of Aubameyang’s best years while young players such as Rashford, Martial and Greenwood could learn a lot from the Arsenal forward.

Whether or not Arsenal would be willing to risk similar business which saw them lose Van Persie remains to be seen, but United could leave them with no choice.

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Europa League: Mikel Arteta warns Arsenal stars to show their mettle at Olympiacos

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‘If they hide, I don’t like it’: Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta warns his players to show their mettle away at Olympiacos in first leg of last-32 Europa League tie

  • Arsenal face Olympiacos away in the first leg of their last-32 Europa League tie 
  • Mikel Arteta is gearing up for his first European match in charge of the Gunners
  • The Arsenal boss is expecting a tough test and hostile atmosphere on Thursday
  • He has warned his Arsenal players not to go hiding at the Karaiskakis Stadium

Mikel Arteta has warned his players not to go hiding when they resume their Europa League bid against Olympiakos.

Arsenal face the Greek league leaders in the first leg of their last-32 tie on Thursday and know exactly what to expect at the Karaiskakis Stadium, where Olympiacos have lost just once this season.

Arteta has watched plenty of Pedro Martins’ side ahead of his first European game in charge of Arsenal while he has also been able to call on the insight of Greek defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos.

Mikel Arteta is gearing up for his first European match in charge of Arsenal on Thursday night

Mikel Arteta is gearing up for his first European match in charge of Arsenal on Thursday night

Sokratis Papastathopoulos knows a tough test awaits the Gunners against Olympiacos

Sokratis Papastathopoulos knows a tough test awaits the Gunners against Olympiacos

Sokratis Papastathopoulos knows a tough test awaits the Gunners against Olympiacos

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ARSENAL (4-2-3-1): 

Leno; Bellerin, Sokratis, Mustafi, Kolasinac; Willock, Xhaka; Pepe, Ceballos, Martinelli; Lacazette

The Greece centre-back knows that a ‘tense’ atmosphere awaits Arsenal as well as opponents who are used to winning. Arteta, meanwhile, is wary of their passion and quality.

It will be a serious test of character for Arsenal’s players, particularly the younger ones Arteta selects, and he said: ‘It is part of the process. You don’t know until you expose them [how they will handle it].

‘They can have the best intention but they need to go to a stadium like here and when they make a mistake or a bad decision, have the courage to try again and play again.

Arteta's side head into the Europa League clash in confident form after beating Newcastle 4-0

Arteta's side head into the Europa League clash in confident form after beating Newcastle 4-0

Arteta’s side head into the Europa League clash in confident form after beating Newcastle 4-0

Matteo Guendouzi has travelled with Arsenal's squad after being axed against the Magpies

Matteo Guendouzi has travelled with Arsenal's squad after being axed against the Magpies

Matteo Guendouzi has travelled with Arsenal’s squad after being axed against the Magpies

‘And I want to see that in my players, whether they are 17 or 35. That’s what I expect from them.

‘If they keep trying, they have my full support. If they hide after that, I don’t like it.

‘But what I’ve seen up to now, every time they play on that field they are responding really, really well. That’s what I am hoping and I am sure they will do it tomorrow.’

Arsenal have travelled without Mesut Ozil, who has stayed behind as his wife is expecting their first child imminently.

Matteo Guendouzi is part of the squad Arteta brought to Greece after being axed for Sunday’s win at Newcastle having angered the Spaniard with his attitude during Arsenal’s winter break training camp in Dubai.

Mesut Ozil has stayed behind in London as his wife is expecting their first child imminently

Mesut Ozil has stayed behind in London as his wife is expecting their first child imminently

Mesut Ozil has stayed behind in London as his wife is expecting their first child imminently



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Arsenal confirm fresh double blow as 5 players miss Olympiacos clash

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Arsenal have provided a team news update ahead of Thursday night’s Europa League clash with Olympiacos and we’ve been handed a major double blow.

Unfortunately, Mesut Ozil has been ruled out of the game in Athens tomorrow evening as the playmaker has been given personal leave to be with his wife for the birth of their child.

Lucas Torreira also hasn’t travelled with the first team squad to Greece as he’s been struck down by illness. The club says the midfield could yet make the trip on his own if he improves over the coming hours but I personally don’t see that happening. Is Torreira really going to overcome this illness in a matter of hours, fly to Greece and start in a huge game on Thursday night? I don’t think so.

It’s a big blow to be without two influential players like Ozil and Torreira for what will be a crucial first leg in our last-32 tie and Mikel Arteta will also be unable to call upon the services of three other first team players tomorrow.

Calum Chambers won’t play again this season after undergoing surgery on an ACL injury while Kieran Tierney isn’t ready yet as he’s not expected to resume full training until later this month having suffered a shoulder injury late last year.

January signing Cedric Soares is still working his way back to full fitness from a knee injury that he was nursing when he arrived on loan from Southampton so a total of five players are unavailable against Olympiacos.

However, there is some positive news on the injury front as Arsenal have confirmed Pablo Mari is available and could make his debut after building up his fitness with 90 minutes for the U23’s on Monday. I still think it’s highly unlikely Mari will start against Olympiacos but it’s still nice to have another option in defence.

This is what the team news update on Arsenal.com said earlier:

Calum Chambers
Left knee. Ruptured anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee during Chelsea (h) on 29 December. Successful surgery completed. Rehabilitation process expected to take between six to nine months.

Pablo Mari
Available for selection.

Mesut Ozil
Will miss Olympiacos (a) due to personal reasons.

Cedric Soares
Left knee. Progressing well with gym work. Aiming to be in full training by the end of February.

Lucas Torreira
Has not travelled on the club flight to Athens on Wednesday due to illness. Being assessed in the next 24 hours. If there is a significant improvement will fly to Athens in time for the match.

Kieran Tierney
Right shoulder. Dislocated right shoulder during West Ham Utd (a) on 9 December. Good progress being made in rehabilitation process and has commenced participation in group training sessions. Aiming to be in back in full training by the end of February.



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Are Arsenal set for Europa League upset against Olympiacos amid Premier League struggles?

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Arsenal return to Europa League football to take on a familiar foe in Olympiacos – a team they have beaten four times and lost another four in the past. The Gunners are the obvious favourites ahead of Thursday’s clash at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium (8pm) but the Greek Superleague leaders are not likely to give them an easy night in Athens.

The north Londoners hold an advantage over Pedro Martins’ side as they undoubtedly have more quality in their squad and will profit out of their opposition’s difficult fixtures list.

After the Europa League Round of 32 first leg Olympiacos will take on league rivals PAOK at the fiery Toumba Stadium in Salonica on Sunday a few days before their return leg at the Emirates.

The Piraeus outfit haven’t won the league in two seasons, which is something unprecedented as they have conquered the title 18 times in the last 22 years.

They are now determined to put an end to that run and a loss to last season’s titleholders would frustrate their plans, even though it wouldn’t have a critical impact as the Superleague champions will be determined via play offs this season.

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But by the time the second leg comes up on February 27 (8pm) Olympiacos are likely to be knackered and Arsenal, who will be coming from a home match against Everton, are very likely to benefit from it.

However, the match in London is a long time away and the fixture in Greece will be a completely different story as Martins’ men have been flying at home with the Georgios Karaiskakis crowd acting as their 12th player.

Olympiacos will greatly miss Daniel Podence, who joined Wolves during the January transfer window, as he was instrumental in unlocking tight defences as proven in the 2-2 draw against Tottenham in September.

However, the Greeks are undefeated in the league, with only four losses in total this season to Spurs, Red Star Belgrade and Bayern Munich, twice, in the Champions League.

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Tottenham have struggled this season but have been better than their north London rivals as their position in the Premier League table suggests.

And even though they never lost to Olympiacos they still conceded four goals in two matches, should the Greeks repeat that feat in the two knockout matches then they could well upset Arsenal.

The chances of the Piraeus giants getting on the scoresheet are quite high as they have netted a staggering 50 goals in 24 league matches this season and have only conceded nine times – they also recorded eight goals in six Champions League matches.

Arsenal, on the other hand have conceded a whopping 34 goals in 26 Premier League matches and also picked the ball out of their own net seven times in six Europa League matches against the likes of Eintracht Frankfurt, Standard Liege and Vitoria.

Although Mikel Arteta’s fragile defence won’t have to deal with Podence’s skills, they will still have to be alert as Olympiacos’ attack shouldn’t be underestimated.

The team’s best player Kostas Fortounis is regaining fitness after coming back from cruciate ligament injury and their leading goalscorer Youssef El Arabi has been on fire with a total of 22 goals in 33 matches in all competitions.

They will both be getting a lot of help from former France international Mathieu Valbuena, who has been instrumental this season with 18 assists in 27 matches all season.

Olympiacos’ attack, though, do have one major issue and that is that El-Arabi is the only fit striker they have declared in their European squad as they lost former Nottingham Forest ace Hillal Soudani to an injury that will keep him sidelined for the rest of the season.

Martins will focus on the midfield so that he can cut Arsenal’s counter attacks, contain Mesut Ozil’s brilliance and dictate the pace.

Much will be expected by Arteta’s midfield which will be going up against the likes of Mahdi Camara, Guilherme and Andreas Bouchalakis who haven’t been rock-solid this season.

But Ruben Semedo has been a rock in Olympiacos’ defence and much depends on him when he faces Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Gabriel Martinelli.

The match in Greece will be difficult to predict but if Arsenal get on the scoresheet then the return fixture will become much easier for the Premier league giants who are the undoubted favourites to go through.

However, Olympiacos do have the means to make the second leg a dramatic affair and if the Gunners’ defence and midfield don’t get it together in Greece then an upset can in no way be ruled out.

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