We’re halfway through the group stages of the Champions League and the Premier League are yet to receive their usual dressing down by the media. Well, Manchester City are sure to get an earful in the next couple days after the loss to Barcelona but we’ll get to that later.
As things stand Arsenal, Leicester City, Tottenham and Manchester City are all in a decent positions to progress from the group stage. Leicester are, of course, the surprise of the bunch with three wins out of three. The last time all English teams made it out of the group stages was the 2013/14 season in which Chelsea made it to the semifinals and Manchester United made it to the quarterfinals. A similar return wouldn’t be too disappointing given the respective pre-tournament doubts about Leicester and Tottenham.
Right now the most likely opponents, meaning those in first or second in each group, are Paris Saint-Germain, Napoli, Besiktas, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Monaco, Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, FC Copenhagen, Juventus and Sevilla. Other teams within touching distance in third place include Borussia Mochengladbach, Benfica, Porto, Bayer Leverkusen and Lyon. Admittedly, it is easier to see who will progress after four rounds but even that isn’t a given. The Premier League clubs wouldn’t face each other in the Round of 16 regardless of position or seeding given they are from the same league and who knows what form they or their opposition will be when the tournament returns next February. While the current standings means each team would face some unwanted opponents should they reach the knockout rounds, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus and Atletico Madrid stand out, it would be hard to fully count them out for a variety of reasons.
Leicester have, as expected, benefited from being a top seed as champions of the Premier League and were put in a manageable group. While their domestic form leaves little to be the desired, Claudio Ranieri’s side has produced some professional performances their first time on the European stage. Progression is expected at this point and there’s a high probability they will be seeded again after finishing first. As ESPNFC’s Iain Macintosh pointed out, the club’s focus on European football is admirable but a Champions League trophy to follow-up last season’s Premier League is out of the question. Leicester could certainly compete with many of the teams still in with a chance of progression but their preseason losses to PSG and Barcelona are indicative of what would occur should they face the elite. A soft draw could lead to a Cinderella run but this side’s inexperience and lack of real quality in midfield will be their undoing. That’s not the case for Tottenham.
With two home games remaining, Tottenham could very well end up first in what is currently a very tight group. Even if they don’t, their intensity and quality will be enough to unsettle any of their more illustrious opponents. Spurs want to join the elite in the Premier League and part of that will be showing they can compete on multiple fronts. Mauricio Pochettino’s squad now has some decent depth even if they don’t have the Champions League experience of Arsenal and Manchester City. Last season’s Europa League run will be beneficial despite the disappointing end and Spurs will hope to do one better than their London rivals.
Arsenal seem to be benefitting from finishing second last season and thus having a higher seeding in the draw. Funny how that works. Paris Saint-Germain, especially this work in progress version, aren’t the most daunting nouveau-riche side to face. If the Gunners don’t pull their usual deer in the headlights performances away against Basel and Ludorogets then the home game against PSG should decide first place. Oh, what a day that would be. This Arsenal side look a lot more focused and efficient up front with Alexis Sanchez leading the line, again, no surprise there, and they may finally get over the Round of 16 hump. We hope. It may come down to how tight things are in the Premier League race in February but this is the trophy missing from Wenger’s cabinet so Arsenal will be expected to give it their all.
And lastly, Manchester City.
The 4-0 loss to Barcelona was a blow, especially when coupled with Borussia Mochengladbach’s win over Celtic, but it’s not the end of the world. Were it not for Fernandinho’s slip and Claudio Bravo’s horrendous decision the game would’ve played out differently, and there may even have been talk of Manchester City finally becoming elite. That didn’t happen but they are on the way there. City finally has a manager to make the difference on this stage in Pep Guardiola. If he continues to get his tactics right as he did against Barcelona, and the players can cut out the mistakes and step up their game, then City have the best chance of the English quartet. A draw against Barcelona at home and win against Mochengladbach in their next two games and second place is all but assured. Of course, those aren’t the targets to set but the minimum needed. This team wouldn’t be huge underdogs against the elite like their fellow Premier League sides.
There’s no telling what’s in store for any of these teams with the group stages not finished but anything can happen. Of course, they could render all the above thoughts useless by failing to progress in the tournament but the odds do seem in their favour. Arsenal and City will expect to progress further given their experience and the quality in their squads. Both Tottenham and Leicester can revel in the fact that they are lesser know quantities, as much as can be in this digital age, and can use that to their advantage.
It’s unlikely that more than one of these teams will make it to the semifinal but stranger things have happened. The Champions League its still in infancy but these might turn out to be a good season for the Premier League clubs.
The are still lots of wrinkles to iron out but one major positive for Arsenal this season is Alexis Sanchez leading the line for Arsenal.
Let’s get one thing out of the way really quickly though. For anyone who says Sanchez is a winger playing as a forward, you’re wrong. Going back to his Udinese days, and the few times he led the line at Barcelona, Sanchez is an attacker, not a forward or winger but capable of playing both quite efficiently. Some of his best work for Chile came when working in tandem with Eduardo Vargas, as a forward, even if Sanchez spent time dropping off out wide or back into midfield as you usually see when the national side plays. Got it? Good.
Now, back to Arsenal.
Folks will want to tip their hats to Arsene Wenger for making this adjustment but that’s a stretch. When Sanchez initially joined Arsenal, Wenger tried the Chilean up front and scrapped the experiment all too soon. He has featured there once or twice since but you would never think that this was the long-term plan for the Professor. Indeed, it was a surprise to see Sanchez start the Liverpool game at forward even with the other injuries and one expected Olivier Giroud to return once fully fit. He hasn’t reached that status yet so maybe that will occur but Wenger always has a preference for keeping a successful side together. So as long as Sanchez performs up top he’ll keep that spot. Does that mean he is now officially the No. 1 forward at Arsenal? That question will be answered as the season progresses.
Regardless, the improvement Sanchez brings to the Gunners in attack can be seen for all. There’s more fluidity, pace, creativity and improved pressing. Not to mention the improvement of the likes of Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott. These are the types of targets Ozil had at Real Madrid, not in case of overall quality or skills, but in Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Angel Di Maria he had that same fluidity etc and not a stagnant, lumbering target man. His growing relationship with Sanchez is a prime example with that and his lovely volley against Swansea, his third assist from Sanchez, could be a sign of more to come the longer they play together.
Giroud has certainly done a job for the Gunners but I’ve always said he was a Plan B forward and not the type to be starting under Wenger. Nor is he one to be relied upon in big games as the manager put it, per the Guardian. He can come on to help change games or even start in certain circumstances to rest Sanchez or play him out wide. Giroud may very well be next in line as it seems new signing, Lucas Perez, is going the way of former No. 9 Park Chu-Young in terms of performances and impact at the Emirates. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen but right now it seems that was Wenger panic-buying, again, to please the masses.
There’s a long season to go yet and Wenger will also have to be careful to not burn Sanchez out as he has the last two seasons, so maybe Perez will get some playing time. If Wenger also decides that Danny Welbeck starts up front upon his return with Sanchez back on the wing then I won’t mind that either. Sanchez is the best option up front but Welbeck provides similar attributes and need a good run of games to solidify himself as a starting striker. There’s still some growing pains to work through offensively, as the Burnley game showed, though that was partly down to Wenger’s lack of rotation, but the signs are promising. There’s still issues at the back and midfield as well so this is by no means a change that will win silverware of any kind.
With Sanchez up front Arsenal are a better attacking outfit and reminiscent of the days when Thierry Henry led the line. Hoppefully in time the same type of silverware will begin to roll in as well.
The first Weekly chatter that looks more into the summer and onwards than the disappointing season that just ended. Well. Mostly. The amount of Granit Xhaka articles about shows just how happy fans are at a big signing. I feel like the rest of the summer we’ll see articles about this player and that but no other move will happen until Wenger signs a young striker and says he’ll solve our problems up front. We shall see.
Do we think he will though?
I always liked Rosicky going back to his Borussia Dortmund days. Definitely wish he could have provided more on the pitch.
You kept a hold of Theo Walcott for 10 years so you may as well do the same with the Ox.
First things first. He’s staying. There’s an infinite contract sitting somewhere on Stan Kroenke’s desk they just haven’t figured out how to tell the whole world yet. Of the changes, three have already been mentioned multiple times. Injuries, buying well in the transfer market and defining the team’s style. The other three are unlikely to happen or don’t really help the club in the hear and now. Arsenal can’t regain its edge with Wenger in charge because he’s lost the ability to motivate and the team isn’t full of strong personalities. Youth is still a big part of the club and I would be surprised if Jeff Renee-Adeilade plays some as well as those mentioned. Lastly, the British project is off track for a reason. The players haven’t fully convinced or have injury issues or both. It’s up to them to fix that.
Useful bit of info for the uninitiated I guess.
Nope. None at all. I’d like Xhaka and Ramsey to start. Ramsey can get back to his preferred position and bring some much-needed goals from midfield especially if we stick with Giroud. Elneny and Coquelin backups with Cazorla there as well. Wilshere mainly backs up Ozil and then the wings might need a new player or two assuming two or more of Walcott, Ox, Joel Campbell, and possibly Gnabry, leave.
Okay. Okay. We get it. He’s good.
Here”s our first get your hopes up target. Except because he’s not a big name not many fans will know about him.
It’s probably going to be mostly transfer chatter as far as Arsenal is concerned for the rest of the summer. I’ve already pushed many thoughts of this season to the back of my mind. Here’s some thoughts for the end of the season.
Finishing above Tottenham is so undeserved .
And that’s why we have no really major trophies in the last 10 years.
We’re shit. We’re shit. Mentally weak. Needed better strikers. Wenger needs to go. Oh, wait. We knew all of this before.
Makes sense. If he announced he was leaving at the end of the season I think everyone would come together as. If he’s staying for longer, well then it could probably get worse.
Based on his recent productivity. No.
Last game of a disappointing season and we’re bringing back the weekly chatter to reminisce on how shitty we were, fanciful transfer news and how shitty we were.
Yes, it means keeping a job for another year.
Don’t need the Manchester City draw to show that.
So, did the author have a cup of tea with Wenger and jot down all these plans on a notebook? All this amounts to is just rumours. The same old crap rumours we get every summer and winter with a few different faces in the mix. I don’t have a probably with coming up with theoretical solutions etc but to say this piece provides an inside track on Arsenal’s summer is kind of ridiculous. Alvaro Morata being pointed out as an option to upgrade the attack says it all. He’s a good player and might come into his own at Arsenal but his recent history doesn’t suggest he’ll do any better than Giroud.
Players, manager, board. Did we miss anyone?
Arsenal tell Alexis Sanchez there’s no chance he’ll be sold as star forward stalls on £180,000 contract
Fun to see how this plays out if its true.
I don’t think he should go to the Euros even if he’s fit but, hey. It will just be showing favoritism to a player who, while clearly talented, hasn’t done much in his career to warrant it even if it’s mainly due to unfortunate injuries.
And then give him a new contract.
Really? Now is the time?
The two players in France are probably the best and most realistic options and that might be a stretch.
Same old story with the injuries. Feel bad for Danny Welbeck though.
It was bad the last time he got it. Can’t be any worse now. Well, it could be.
Basically, we were shitty in front of goal because, oh, I don’t know, we don’t have the quality players that we should have.
Really great read here. It’s not hard to see why the Emirates would have a poor atmosphere when this is becoming the norm.
Nods head. If all goes well for Tottenham this summer, keeping players, managers and good additions etc then there’s really no reason this can’t become a regular thing as long as Wenger is in charge at Arsenal. Spurs lost their heads against Chelsea, a sign maturation is still needed, but the last two disappointing results can serve as further fuel for what is a very motivated side. Playing in the Champions League will make the early season schedule a bit easier as well.
It’s hard to see any protests making a difference. Especially when the manager wants to blame fans for poor home performances. The St. Louis Dispatch article just adds more fuel t the fire. Maybe Arsenal won’t sink to such depths but then one could say the fans already believe we have. I don’t think anybody’s going to go find a new club except those in St Louis who don’t have a choice.
I might go back to mass commenting on all the weekly Arsenal pieces in due time but this one struck a chord. I remember that moment in the game, and this author couldn’t have said things better. Everything the author presented about Walcott and what he shows about Arsenal hit the nail on the head. No guts, okay with mediocrity or average play and a failure to fully reach potential. Arsenal in a nutshell
Really great piece. The way in which some fans have displayed thier anger towards Wenger, or any other manager in similar situations etc, is absurd. I’ve wanted Wenger gone for quite some time but it will be a sad day when he does go. I’ll still remember all the good things he brought to the club, with Thierry Henry chief among them. Maybe Wenger has a change of heart this summer. We shall see.