A quick glance at Group F and you’d think that Arsenal are effed. A longer, more explorative look would probably bring you to the same conclusion. It does not look good for Arsene Wenger’s team who have lost three of their four group games thus far as they trail second placed Olympiakos by six points with just two games to go.
And yet all is not lost, at least not yet.
This scenario will be repeated ad nauseum by the pundits throughout tonight’s broadcast but let’s run through anyway. If Arsenal beat Dinamo Zagreb and Bayern Munich beat Olympiakos then the Gunners will travel to Greece for their final group game with their fate in their own hands. Right now the manager and fans alike would snap your hand off up to the elbow for that possibility.
Arsenal beating Zagreb should be a given. The odds of for a home win certainly indicate it will be and the Gunners would feature in every football acca being placed today. However Arsenal did lose 2-1 in Zagreb and they’re coming off a surprising 2-1 loss to West Brom in the Premier League, a game in which they took the lead. Pile on top of that a midfield which has been decimated by injuries and there’s plenty of reason to doubt the home side are as sure a thing as the match price suggests.
It’s not all doom and gloom though.
Bayern Munich should beat Olympiakos comfortably tonight, having cruised to a 3-0 victory in Greece they could well better that result on home soil.
Dinamo Zagreb have not fared well on their travels to England. In five previous visits they’ve only managed to avoid defeat once and even then they wound up being eliminated by Newcastle after extra time of their Champions League qualifier.
Arsenal have not failed to qualify from the first group stage this millenium. They did go out in the second group stage of the 01/02 and 02/03 Champions League competitions but since reverting back to the one group stage format they’ve always managed to make the last sixteen at the very least. Before anyone points out that they failed to get out of the group stages in the 99/00 Champions League they were technically eliminated in 1999 so the initial statement holds true.
Not So Dina-mighty On The Road
Zagreb are terrible away from home in European group games. The Croatian side have lost their last nine games away from home in Champions League group games and have only won 1 of 14 all-time. That happened to be on their very first try back in 1998 when they beat Ajax 1-0. Since then it makes for grim reading with 2 draws and 11 defeats. Add in the Europa League and Dinamo Zagreb have lost 14 games in-a-row away from home in the group stages of European games.
Arsenal should win tonight and win comfortably. The same applies to Bayern Munich. Baring a shock result in either game Arsenal will be three points behind Olympiakos with a better or at least close to equal goal difference. That sliver of hope becomes a clear opportunity. Getting a win in Greece won’t be easy but it’s very possible. Perhaps Arsenal aren’t as effed as we all thought and thatfor them to qualify could turn out to be a shrewd bet when all is said and done.