Arsenal only narrowly made it into the competition proper after beating Besiktas in a qualifying round, and they have been rewarded with an exciting, testing group. The route to round two is by no means clear for Arsene Wenger, and his young side will have to perform at their best to get through. The following is an assessment of Arsenal’s chances, and of the teams they shall face:
The second-biggest club in Germany, Dortmund pose a very serious threat to the Gunners. They have fallen a little behind Bayern Munich in recent months, having caught up with their rivals in recent years, but they can still cause a lot of problems.
Jurgen Klopp’s men do not have the same attacking threat as they once harboured with Robert Lewandowski, but their strengths can definitely be found within a very strong defence and midfield. Mats Hummels will captain the side this year, which is only likely to increase his powerful performances. Marco Reus will operate as vice captain, which is only likely to increase his influential play-making. When the likes of Neven Subotic and Sven Bender are also considered, the strength in depth at Dortmund is apparent.
On paper, the ties between Dortmund and Arsenal should determine the first and second positions of the group. Both of these clubs should progress, but it is difficult to tell who will emerge victorious over the other.
The Turkish giants are always a threat in the Champions’ League, and one of those sides that the ‘bigger’ teams would prefer to avoid in the draw. Because of the less competitive domestic league in which they play, Galatasaray are becoming regular Champions League contenders, although Arsenal are amongst the tournament’s most experienced entrants as well.
Emmanuel Eboue is still on the books for Gala, which could throw up an interesting Arsenal reunion, but this side’s main threat is undoubtedly Wesley Sneijder. The Dutch midfielder is a world class player, and will prove very difficult to play against. If he is on form, then the Arsenal defence will have to play especially well to handle him. These are games that the Gunners should win, but they are not going to be an easy 6 points.
Again, of all of the so called ‘small’ teams in the Champions’ League, this is one it would be best to avoid. Playing in the Belgian League, Anderlecht’s domestic season is becoming increasingly more competitive. Arsenal will be expected to beat this side easily, but that might prove a very difficult task to fulfil.
There are no especially household names in the Anderlecht squad, although there are a few to watch out for. Steven Defour has arrived in Belgium this summer from Porto, and considerable anticipation surrounds him. Also, there is Matias Suarez of Uruguay and the young Belgian, Dennis Praet, up front – they could form a dangerous partnership.
This could be a very difficult group for Arsenal, and if any English club is going to fail at the first hurdle then it could be the Gunners. Dortmund are perpetual dark horses for the tournament within recent seasons, whilst Galatasaray are always a good bet to make it into the knock-out stages. Even Anderlecht pose a considerable threat.
It will be a tough task, but it should still be one that Arsenal are up to. Arsene Wenger has at his disposal world class players such as Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey – it will be down to those characters to get them through the trickier ties. They did it against Besiktas in qualifying, but that will be forgotten if they don’t do the same in the round one group stage.