The dreaded international break is upon us and it's time to have a look at how things have gone so far for Arsenal and how they might go for the rest of the season in the Champions League in particular.
Arsenal were drawn in a very tough group with last season's runners up Borussia Dortmund, Napoli and Marseille. As it stands both Dortmund and Napoli are challenging very near the top of their domestic leagues and Marseille are fifth in theirs. In a group where all four teams would have felt they had a genuine chance of progressing Marseille have been left behind with no points from their four games so far.
Arsenal are in a prime position to qualify for the knockout stages and a win in their next match at home to pointless Marseille could be enough to put them through. It's a very tight group though and the chances are it will come down to their last game away to Napoli before the final group places are decided. The advantage is certainly with Arsenal at the moment because of their 2-0 win in their home game with Napoli.
They were at their very best that night and completely outplayed a Napoli team who were billed as being their first real challenge of the season. The attacking flair Arsenal showed in the first half of that game was matched by the defensive solidity they showed in the second half and it was an ideal European performance. Despite losing their next game at home to Dortmund they bounced back to win away to the German team in their most recent group game.
Qualification for the last 16 is by no means certain yet, but coming through such a tough group would surely be a great boost for Arsenal.
There are no doubt lots of fans who are travelling to all these games in a bid to try help boost the Gunners, many of whom are hard-core Arsenal fans. Some by plane, others by driving through to get to the country hosting the match, let’s hope they have their driving insurance sorted out! For those still looking to get their insurance sorted you can look at Gocompare, motor insurance with Express Insurance or even Moneysupermarket to name a few.
It's always ideal to win your Champions League group to ensure a slightly easier draw in the first knockout round and it would certainly be for Arsenal this season. As it stands they would avoid Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, PSG and Atletico Madrid in the last 16 if they were to win their group. Of course most if not all of those teams would probably win and be potential opponents in the last eight and you can't win the competition without beating some of the best teams in Europe.
The big question is whether the current Arsenal team/squad is good enough to actually win the Champions League and it's not an easy one to answer. Chelsea managed to win it in 2012 and they certainly weren't the best team in Europe, but they defended well and rode their luck at times. Last season's winners Bayern Munich more or less swept all before them and were definitely the best team in Europe last season.
Bayern did come close to going out in the last 16 though and it was Arsenal who almost beat them when they lost on away goals after winning the second leg 2-0 in Munich.
That game seems to have been the catalyst for Arsenal's current form and they have been on a great run of results ever since that night. That game seemed to bring a confidence the team was lacking in and they have won 16 of their 21 league games since it.
If Arsenal are going to progress in the Champions League it won't make their chances in the Premier League any easier. Their squad has been severely stretched already this season with injuries depriving them of key players far too often. Some of their players have been asked to play too often already and they will need their injured players to return to continue challenging on both fronts. In the new year they will also be faced with FA Cup games to further clog up their schedule.
The current Arsenal squad does look more capable of dealing with the rigours of challenging on three fronts though with the average age now a little higher than it has been for quite a few years. There is plenty of experience in the squad with players such as Bacary Sagna, PerMertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Mikael Arteta and even some of the younger players have a lot of games under their belts. When it comes to the business end of the season that experience could count for an awful lot.
The form of players such as Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud, Kieran Gibbs and Laurent Koscielny so far this season has been a plus for Arsenal too. They have shown real progression since last season even and have helped to make the team much stronger overall. Those four players have made themselves invaluable to the team and the team has progressed along with them. Of course the addition of Mesut Ozil on deadline day was a fantastic addition to the team and showed the club has genuine ambition.
If Arsenal are going to have a real chance in the Champions League their away form could have a crucial bearing on their chances. That win away to Bayern showed that they have a genuine chance against Europe's best clubs and the win against Dortmund endorsed that opinion. They would certainly need a little luck on their side if they are to have a chance but sometimes these things have a way of working themselves out.
It's still very hard to be sure Arsenal will continue to challenge right up until the end of the season but they seem to have all the right ingredients at the moment. The players are all working very hard and playing for each other and the team and maybe Arsene Wenger's patience has finally paid off. If they can get another striker to supplement Giroud in the January transfer window it could be the final piece in the jigsaw for them.
I'm not sure Arsenal are quite there yet when it comes to winning the Champions League, but they're not far away. Dortmund’s boss Jurgen Klopp said that Arsenal can win the Champions League, as long as they don’t face Bayern Munich, but they showed last season that Bayern are vulnerable. Arsenal are a better team than they were last season and I'm sure they would give Bayern or any other team a run for their money.
If I had to choose I would say Arsenal have a better chance of winning the Premier League but continued progression in Europe would be no bad thing either. Besides the additional money the club would make from progressing it would also help to raise their profile and make them a better prospect for potential transfer targets. I don't think that progression could reach all the way to lifting the Champions League trophy but it will be interesting to see how far it can go.
What are your opinions?
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.