WTTGT Writer: Vivek Arulnathan
We are in the group stages of the Champions League for the 14th successive year and like every true Arsenal fan, I am proud that we are part of the biggest club tournament on Earth. And even more pleasing is that we’ve achieved this at a time when the chips are down at the Emirates and our team was desperately in need of some inspiration.
Arsenal have been paired with Borussia Dortmund, Olympiakos and Marseille in Group F of this year’s Champions League. Dortmund and Marseille are very good teams and Olympiakos aren’t pushovers either. So how tough are our opponents? What threat do they possess? Here is a quick look.
Home Ground: Signal Iduna Park
Manager: Jurgen Klopp
Star players: Mario Gotze, Mats Hummels
I call them the Arsenal of Germany. A club with a great footballing philosophy, Dortmund have blossomed under the expert guidance of Jurgen Klopp. They stunned the Bundesliga last season as they finished champions for the first time since 2002.
Klopp has put a lot of emphasis on beautiful football and their attacking play is a joy to watch. They also boasted the best defence in Germany last season with Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic almost unbeatable. Their attack is lead by Lucas Barrios along with the talented midfield trio of Gotze, Kagawa and Perisic. The defensive midfield pairing of Sven Bender and Ilkay Gundogan are solid with excellent tackling skills and are proficient in breaking up play.
They’ve lost Sahin to Real, but replacements like Chris Lowe and Ivan Perisic have made sure that Dortmund look stronger than last season.
They should be Arsenal’s toughest opponent in the group stage because they are good at keeping possession and are difficult to break down. Subotic and Hummels are as good as any defence in the world and Persie & co will have their work cut out. Our defence will also be tested against the skill of Dortmund’s talented frontline. Dortmund’s confidence is sky high at the moment and Arsenal will have to be relentless to succeed against them.
Home ground: Stade Velodrome
Manager: Didier Deschamps
Star Players: Mathieu Valbuena, Andre Ayew
Runners-up last season in France, Marseille are a very good team and will prove a huge physical test for Arsenal. They are regulars in the CL and have shown what they are capable of time and again, like last year’s win against Chelsea.
They’ve got a good midfield with the likes of Alou Diarra, Ayew and Valbuena. Nkoulou is an exciting talent and Loic Remy will be given the responsibility of leading the attack. Diawara and Mbia are a solid and physical pairing at the back and will look to intimidate Arsenal’s attackers.
They’ve lost some players like Heinze and Brandao but still have a squad that can qualify for the knockout stages.
Arsène Wenger will have the dual task of guiding Arsenal as well as winning a personal battle that will be renewed for the first time since he left Monaco. Not an easy task, but Arsenal will have to win both their games against Marseille if they want to finish top of the group.
Home Ground: Karaiskakis Stadium
Manager: Ernesto Valverde
Olympiakos are the underdogs in this group F. The Greek champions might not have glamorous big names like Arsenal or Dortmund do. But what they do have is tremendous work ethic and a fantastic fan base. The Karaiskakis Stadium is a hostile place to go for travelling teams with the home fans roaring for their team at all times. Olympiakos have an excellent home record and this is largely down to their no nonsense approach to the game and of course, their “12th man”!!
But Olympiakos aren’t all about their fan base. With a strong defence, good finishers like Djebbour and Mirallas and midfielders like Reira, Fuster, Modesto and Cano to create chances, Olympiakos have what it takes to surprise the big guns.
Arsenal lost in the away game the last time they met Olympiakos in the Champions League in 2009 but they really can’t afford such a result this time. Arsenal will have to set that record straight this time around.
Despite being stripped of some world class talent, I feel this Arsenal squad has become more united and the commitment of our young Gunners is brilliant. It’s time they reward the amount of trust Wenger has in them.
Dortmund are a great team and Arsenal’s two matches against the Germans might well decide the fate of this group. Given their regularity in the Champions League, Arsenal might be favourites in this group but Arsène Wenger will have to use all his experience if Arsenal have dreams of progressing.