Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has insisted he wants his young players to play with courage when they face Olympiacos on Thursday.
The Gunners travel to Greece for their Europa League the first leg of their last-32 tie against Olympiacos as they look to go one further than last season’s runners-up berth.
Arsenal finished top of Group F, ahead of Eintracht Frankfurt, to secure their spot in the knockout stages and were rewarded with a draw against Champions League drop outs Olympiacos.
Arteta’s side will be the second London team to travel to Olympiacos this season, and they will hope to fare better than London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
Then led by Mauricio Pochettino, Spurs surrendered a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 in Greece, with Daniel Podence and Mathieu Valbuena aiding the comeback.
Podence is no longer with Olympiacos, having joined Wolverhampton Wanderers in January, but the atmosphere at Karaiskakis Stadium is expected to be hostile as the Greek side look to take a lead to the Emirates.
Arsenal have often utilised younger players in this competition but have recently seen those stars form a strong part of their first-team. And Arteta will continue to put his faith in them, providing they do not allow their heads to drop.
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“It’s part of the process,” he told reporters of his use of younger players in testing games.
“You don’t know until you expose them. They can have the best of intentions but they need to go to a stadium like this and when they make a mistake or a bad decision, have the courage to try again and play again.
“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 from what I’ve seen up to now, every time they play on the field, they’re responding really, really well and that’s why I’m hoping and I’m sure they will do the same [vs Olympiacos].”
Arteta will be the third man to take charge of Arsenal in the Europa League this season after Unai Emery and Freddie Ljungberg oversaw the group stage, and Thursday’s game will represent his first taste of continental action as a manager.