By Arsenal correspondent Tony Hughes
Aaron Ramsey will be a key player in Arsenal’s must-win Champions League decider against Olympiakos on Wednesday, according to Arsene Wenger.
The midfielder has started the Gunners’ last two matches after a month-long absence with a hamstring injury and scored in the club’s 3-1 Premier League win over Sunderland on Saturday.
With Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin and Mikel Arteta all long-term absentees, Ramsey was used in central midfield against Sam Allardyce’s team for what was only the second time this season.
The Welshman scored one and created another for Olivier Giroud, and Wenger hinted that he will stick with Ramsey as Mathieu Flamini’s central midfield partner against Olympiakos.
“Aaron is a player who creates a high number of chances when he plays through the middle and his expected goals when he plays through the middle is quite high, one of the highest in the Premier League,” the manager said at his media conference after Saturday’s match.
“So I’m not surprised when he plays through the middle he’s always attracted [to the ball]. He could have scored three today. That’s why he was so happy when he scored. In the first half he had a back pass from Nacho when he could have scored, after that he hit the goalkeeper when he could have scored, and then he did.”
The Gunners need to beat the Greek champions by a margin of two goals, or win by a one-goal margin and score at least three times, to qualify from Group F and maintain Wenger’s outstanding record of steering the team into the Champions League knockout stages.
Wenger’s side have reached the last-16 of the competition for the last 15 seasons, and the manager believes that Saturday’s win will give Arsenal the confidence they need to win in Greece.
“Personally the record means a lot because it’s important for the club and for the players,” he said. “I want to win and I want to qualify. For me our job is to win the next game, and do what is requested.
“There is one positive thing for us – we know exactly what we have to do. We know that we have to go for it from the start. So let’s do that and hopefully we can get through. We know what is expected and we have studied Olympiakos.
“We changed the team completely [against Sunderland] because we’ve lost the core in midfield of Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin in the past two weeks, and we had to find a new balance. We were a bit insecure as well because we had not won last week. I believe [Olympiacos] is a different game psychologically, it’s clear, we just have to go for it.”