Mikel Arteta calls on Arsenal players to show courage in Europa League clash with Olympiakos

Mikel Arteta
Mikel Arteta (Picture: Getty Images)

Mikel Arteta has called on his Arsenal players to show courage amid an intimidating atmosphere in their Europa League trip to Olympiakos on Thursday night.

The Gunners head to Greece for the first leg of their last 32 contest and it is set to be a stern test for their young side, in the cauldron-like atmosphere in Piraeus.

Arteta is willing to throw youngsters into the situation, because he says it is the only way to find out what they are made of. The only thing he demands in return, is that they show courage.

‘You don’t know until you expose them [young players],’ said the Arsenal boss.

‘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.

‘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.’

Arteta may use youngsters like Bukayo Saka, Reiss Nelson, Gabriel Martinelli and Joe Willock in Greece, but he has also hinted that he will pick a strong side to take on the challenge.

Mesut Ozil has been left at home due to his wife being heavily pregnant, but otherwise the Gunners have taken all their fit senior players with them to Athens.

‘That’s why we have a big squad and we can rotate the players. But physically in Europe, the game won’t be any more demanding than in the Premier League, that’s for sure.

‘If they have to do that every three days, it can be an issue but as well we have to try to adapt and choose the players that can perform in each game.

‘We had a break of 15 days. We played just one game so tomorrow I’m going to send out a team that I think is the best to play. The rest of the game will take care of itself.

‘So tomorrow we will send out a team that we think is the best to beat Olympiakos and the rest of the teams after that will take care of themselves.’

The Gunners returned from their winter break in some style on Sunday as they hammered Newcastle 4-0 in the Premier League and will return to domestic action at the Emirates against Everton on Sunday afternoon.

The busy Premier League schedule will necessitate some rotation for Arteta, but winning the Europa League is Arsenal’s best chance of Champions League football next season, so he will not risk a bad result in Greece by resting too many players.

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