The Gunners have been drawn against Marseille, Borussia Dortmund and Napoli in Group F, in what looks like the toughest pool for the English sides.
The phrase ‘group of death’ is banded about every year, as whichever English team is given the toughest test in the Champions League has to overcome this fabled moniker. Arsenal have certainly drawn the short straw this year with their Group F opponents, but it could have been worse for Arsene Wenger’s men.
The challenge of Marseille, Borussia Dortmund and Napoli s considerable and the Gunners will need to be at the races to avoid elimination. Any two of the four sides could well progress to the knockout stages, with no clear favourites for qualification.
Napoli were the side that everyone wanted to avoid in pot 4, as the other teams in the final grading section looked like easier foes on paper. The Italians have had a progressive summer in the transfer market, with former Arsenal target Gonzalo Higuain set to lead the line for the San Paolo club against them, in a cruel twist of fate.
Travelling to Naples will be arguably the toughest game in the group, but the Gunners must ensure that they win their home clash with the Italians, which is their first game at the Emirates in the competition this season.
Borussia Dortmund showed just how good their young stars are with their progression to the Champions League final last term and will again be mightily difficult opponents this season. Their rise to prominence on the continent was something of a surprise last season given they had toiled in the Champions League the season before, but Arsenal have the advantage of fully understanding Dortmund’s capabilities this time round.
Marseille are arguably the weakest side in the pool, despite opening their Ligue 1 account with three wins from their first three games. The Stade Velodrome team are seasoned European campaigners with a number of able players in their line-up, predominantly in attack.
Whether this should be labeled a ‘group of death’ remains to be seen. If Marseille had been replaced in the pool by Paris Saint-Germain, they certainly if would be as tough as it comes, but as it is Arsene Wenger should have every confidence that his side are good enough to progress.
It is the Champions League at the end of the day, and if a side is to be successful they will need to overcome some of the continent’s best teams. Arsenal’s opponents are all dangerous and competent sides, but the likelihood of any of them, maybe apart from Dortmund, featuring in the final stages of the competition this term remains to be seen.
image: © Matt and Kim Rudge