Mikel Arteta has demanded that his Arsenal players rise to the challenge of the hostile atmosphere they can expect to face when they meet Olympiakos in Athens on Thursday night.
The Gunners will be looking to go one better than runners-up in the Europa League this season, however a fiery night in Greece stands in their way for the time being.
However, Arteta has told his Arsenal players to make the most of the opportunity that has been presented to them and has told the youngsters in the squad what he expects from them over the course of the 90 minutes.
Speaking to the press, via Sky Sports, the Spaniard said: “It is part of the process.
“You don’t know until you expose them [young players].
“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.”
Indeed, Arteta has used a blend of youth and experience in his squads during his Arsenal tenure, with the likes of Bukayo Saka, Matteo Guendouzi, Joe Willock and most recently Eddie Nketiah all getting an opportunity to play across all competitions (per WhoScored).
The aforementioned Saka, though, appears to be thriving with a regular spot in the Gunners team and could prove to make a difference in Athens on Thursday night.
Although the 18-year-old is still in his infancy as a senior member of the Arsenal side, the teenager has already provided four assists in his four Europa League outings so far, whilst chipping in with two goals as well (WhoScored).
In fact, the versatile left-sided teen has been really effective going forward, as WhoScored’s data shows that he averages 2.8 shots per game, three key passes and 2.3 dribbles.
Saka can also be solid defensively as well, as he has provided an average of 1.5 tackles, 0.5 interceptions and 0.3 clearances when on the field (WhoScored).
Perhaps, if Arsenal were to play to their best and handle the hostile atmosphere they are expecting to face, then Arteta’s young guns could be heading back to north London with an advantage heading into the second leg.
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