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10 Reasons Arsenal Should Be Fearful Of Their Champions League Group
Despite securing the services of highly-rated playmaker Mesut Ozil, many Gooners will still be concerned about our tough draw in Europe’s elite competition where we’ve been drawn against German Giants Borussia Dortmund as well as two equally difficult teams in Napoli and Marseille.
Here I will highlight 10 important things to know about our opponents and what we should be cautious of:
10. Beware Pierre
With 35 goals in just 73 appearances for Saint-Etienne last campaign, Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looks a real danger-man for Arsenal’s game against Dortmund. The forward netted a hat-trick on his debut and looks set to continue his fine form in European competition as well as domestically. He’s certainly one to watch and could form a devastating partnership alongside Robert Lewandowski.
9. Brotherly Love At Les Phocéens
Marseille could be a dark horse in this ‘group-of-death’ and their potential success would no-doubt have a big input from brothers Jordan and André Ayew. Each of them have become permanent fixtures in the French side. Jordan plays purely as a striker whilst brother André is capable of playing as a winger also. Their combined attacking threat could play an important part when Arsenal travel to Stade Vélodrome.
8. Higuaín Could Haunt Us
At the centre point of our Summer speculation was clinical Argentine Gonzalo Híguain. The exact details of our interest remain unclear but we missed out and the striker opted for a move to the Naples instead. Now, signed as a replacement for Cavani, he could come-back to punish us. Like Aubameyang, he should be targeted as the main threat and isolated along with dangerous playmaker Marek Hamsik.
7. Dortmund’s defence
The German side are better known for their fast-paced breaks and counter-attacks but there is a tactic used by Klopp’s side which I believe could have a bigger impact on the game. Dortmund’s defenders like to squeeze the space around the striker and limit his options. If they put pressure on Giroud, our link-up play around the box will be affected so we’ll have to come up with some answers.
6. Steve Can Stop Us
Although the club have lost a fair few stars in recent years [QPR's M'Bia among them] Marseille still have a strong defence, lead by their main man between the sticks – Steve Mandanda. The 28-year-old French international earned 18 clean sheets in 38 appearances last season and clearly makes few mistakes, racking up a claim success percentage of 91% in the same campaign.
We have faced up to Mandanda and his side in recent Champion’s League group stages and he could be the man to stop us from claiming 3 points this time around.
5. Rafa Knows the English Style
After departing England for perhaps the final time, Rafa Benitez moved on to Napoli looking to emulate his success in Europe with Chelsea and Liverpool. Unfortunately, this Premier League experience could prove vital, as the usual advantage of playing foreign sides is the factor of the unknown, this is not the case with Benitez and Arsenal though.
4. Dortmund Out For Revenge
Dortmund were unfortunate last season. Playing in the Champions League for the first time in recent years as potential contenders, they went all the way but lost out to a last moment goal from Arjen Robben against arch-rivals Bayern München. This time around, despite the loss of star Mario Gotze to Bayern, they will feel they are even more prepared – especially with the additions of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang plus the fact they managed to retain Pole Lewandowski too. We can expect two games both full of high intensity and aggression and will need to be very strong mentally.
3. Champions League Regulars
Marseille have played Champions League football almost as frequently as Arsenal in the past decade. This is an accolade which deserves extra credit with the recent addition of PSG’s large financial influx making it even more difficult to compete at the top of Ligue 1. Despite many doubting them though, this experience could carry them through and cause more problems for the side which misses out.
2. Tactically Unique
The Italian game has gone through vast changes over the past twenty years or so, once a footballing Utopia with the likes of Lazio and Juventus bossing the European game, it had fallen to its darkest moment and looked set to never to return to the glorious heights it had once experienced. Now though could it be on the rise again? Few countries’ teams are capable of playing a 3-5-2 and still win most of their games and Napoli are one of the few teams who can. It will be difficult for any side to compete against this as it is so unfamiliar.
1. Very Open Group
It is a rarity for Arsenal to be in a four-way split for the title of group winners, but this year tests that sentiment. Dortmund have the talent, Marseillle have the experience and Napoli have the individuality. That’s not to say we’re not firmly in contention, but simply warning fans not to be too confident. If we can win all our home games and pick up a couple of points away to Napoli and Marseille we should advance comfortably. Let’s hope for a positive start against Marseille which we can build on.
Thanks for reading and feel free to comment below.