We’re not there yet! The problems Arsenal could face on the way to the Champions League Group Stages

So
we made it, Champions League, here we come, 16th year in a row! But
hold off humming the anthem for now, there’s still the small matter of the playoffs
to get through.

You would think we don’t have anything to worry about, given our decent record
when it comes to playoffs. Of the past 15 years we made it into the Champions
League, we had to face playoffs five times (Udinese in 2011/2012, Celtic in
2009/10, Twente in 2008/09, Sparta Prague in 2007/08, Dinamo Zagreb in 2006/07)
and if memory serves me right, we negotiated all of them with relative ease to
get into the Champions League proper.

But the way things are shaping up in the rest of Europe, we could be in for a
couple of tricky ties against teams such as Zenit St. Petersburg (Russia) or
Fenerbahce (Turkey) if the draw doesn’t go our way come August.

To get a tentative idea of the kind of teams who could be drawn against us, I
took a look at all the league races around Europe, made a list of who’s in the
playoff spots in their respective countries and the table below is what I came
up with.

POT
 A                                                                                                                   

Arsenal (Eng)     113.6

Valencia* (Spa)  102.6  (OR Real Sociedad* (Spa) n/a)

Oly. Lyon* (Fra) 95.8   (OR
St. Etienne*(Fra) 26.8)

AC Milan (Ita)    93.8

Schalke (Ger)     84.9

POT  B

Zenit (Rus)                   70.8

Metalist Kharkiv (Ukr) 62.5

PSV (Net)                     64.9

Fenerbahce (Tur)          46.4

PAOK* (Gre)                28.8 (Greece are in CL/EL
spot playoffs now)

Salzburg (Aus)              28.0

Pacos de Ferreira (Por)  12.8

Nordsjaelland (Den)      12.6

Grasshopper* (Swi)       7.2 (OR St. Gallen* (Swi) n/a)

Zulte Waregam (Bel)      6.8 

Arsenal
will end up being drawn against one of the clubs from Pot B above in the Champions
League qualifiers. Now the Champions League playoff spots haven’t been decided
yet in a few countries (viz. Spain, France, Greece and Switzerland), so, as a
compromise, I took the teams who are in the playoff spots at the moment to get
a tentative idea of whom Arsneal could face. (And for good measure, I’ve also
listed alternative teams who could take their place. I’ve put an asterisk next
to these teams to denote their tentative status.)

The
clubs in the table are ordered by their UEFA ranking points (You can see it
from Bert Kassies’s website here – an unofficial but authoritative and wonderful source and
where I got most of my information from.) 
Now what happens in the playoff draw is that UEFA seeds clubs according
to their ranking with the top five teams going into Pot A and the bottom five
in Pot B, with one team from each playing off against the other.  (Pot B ultimately gets whittled down to five
teams after the earlier play-off rounds they’re involved in. Only the big five
leagues- which in 2013/14 are England, Spain, Germany, Italy, Portugal – get teams
directly entering the fourth and final playoff round. This seeding is also why
Arsenal will not face teams like Schalke (Ger) or Milan (Ita), as some were
suggesting online.)

You
would trust Arsenal to get through, whomever they faced, but the thing about
teams from Russia and Ukraine is that their seasons start earlier to
accommodate the longer winter breaks they have, so they tend to come into the
playoffs fitter and sharper than the rest of the teams in Europe. Metalist
Kharkiv, doesn’t have much European pedigree, so I think we should get past
them with ease but Zenit with Kherzakov, Hulk, Witsel et al might be another
matter.

We
could even meet Carlos Vela again if his club Real Sociedad pips Valencia for
the final playoff spot in Spain. Because of their negligible coefficient, they
will be placed in Pot B and Zenit gets promoted to Pot A. (Note that Real
Sociedad (Spa) and St. Gallen (Swi) weren’t in European competition the past
five years, so they don’t have a ‘coefficient’, as it’s formally called, listed
on the UEFA website and Kassiesa which is why I put an ‘n/a’ against them. But the way I
understand it, the two will get some attributed, if that’s the word, points
from the performances of other Spanish and Swiss teams in Europe. Zulte Waregam
from Belgium don’t have a European record too but thankfully, Kassies has
already calculated it for us!)

I,
for one, wouldn’t be looking forward to ties against Fenerbahce from Turkey or
PSV Eindhoven from Holland, our exit against the Dutch team in 2006/07 in the
Round of 16 still hurts. But if I were to attempt to be a glass half-full kind
of guy we could be facing ties against minnows like Pacos de Ferreira
(Portugal) too, so it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom for us.

And
even, if we were to face tough ties against teams from Russia or Ukraine, I
would trust our class and pedigree to show through, 15 years of experience in
the Champions League counts for a lot and here’s hoping that it counts when it
matters!

I’ll
keep updating Gunners Town readers on how our potential playoff opposition
takes form in the coming months as the initial rounds of the playoffs begin. A
draft of the table will keep getting updated as a Google doc here and a more
authoritative version from Bert Kassies is available here.

SHORT
BIO:

I’m
usually on twitter here @ultimateposeur and when I’m not doing that, I make graphics and
visualizations on football for my sporadically-updated blog http://ultimateposeur.blogspot.com

Ultimate Poseur


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4 Responses to We’re not there yet! The problems Arsenal could face on the way to the Champions League Group Stages

  1. Shadi fawzi hasan motlaq May 20, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    Thank you for the explanation

  2. ultimate poseur May 20, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    Not a problem, Shadi! And thanks to everyone on Twitter for pointing out mistakes in two earlier versions of this table that I had floating around, am going to use Twitter as a quality control mechanism much more now!

  3. ultimate poseur May 20, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    Not a problem, Shadi! And thanks to everyone on Twitter for pointing out mistakes in two earlier versions of this table that I had floating around, am going to use Twitter as a quality control mechanism much more now!

  4. google August 26, 2014 at 12:19 am #

    I am really glad to glance at this web site posts which carries lots of
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