Champions League Draw – Is This The Year?
The Champions League group draw takes place this evening and given the Premier League fixture list, there are a few teams that Wenger will be hoping to avoid. A long distance flight by football standards cannot be ruled out, especially with pot 4 containing clubs in Israel, Turkey, Russia and Romania.
All of the pots from which Arsenal’s opponents will be drawn have potential pitfalls; all have relatively straightforward opponents. None are teams that should be feared, respect will be the key to maximising progress to the knockout phase, a characteristic and outcome which has been shown in abundance before. Of course, there is the ‘preferable’ draw at the same time and influenced by the domestic requirements, the ideal draw is probably Marseille, Basel and FC Twente.
The absence of the Champions League from The Emirates trophy cabinet sticks is hard to take. Wenger has seen talented squads, efficient at disposing of domestic opponents, eliminated in ties that were within their grasp throughout his reign. The defeat at Anfield typified some of the earlier stumblings against Valencia, PSV, Chelsea and Bayern Munich.
It is at times baffling to work out why the failures have occurred, defeats and performances inexplicable with a mix of tactics and players to blame. Some have been as a result of injuries, the absences which cost so dear in the Premier League last season, have haunted some European campaigns. Yet this does not necessarily explain the capitulations such as those in Munich or conceding late aggregate leads in Valencia and elsewhere.
Does the absence of this trophy indicate why the Spanish – and previously Italian – clubs think that the best Arsenal players have, over the years, been ripe for cherry-picking? Arsenal is a club with a strong reputation at the moment but little past to trade upon in European football. Multiple titles throughout the decades mean little in knockout tournaments. The Fairs Cup and Cup Winners Cup are little to show for such an illustrious domestic history. Granted, the concept of continental competitions came with the decline of the club from the Golden Age of the pre- and post- war years. Picking up the Champions League would add muscle to a burgeoning reputation.
Recent seasons has seen Arsenal fall to heavy aggregate defeats, inexperience and injuries contributing as significantly as individual errors in Champions League exits. This time, the squad has grown in terms of the former and the latter needs to be controlled – as much as possible – for progress to be made. The balancing act of Premier League fixtures is tougher with squad restrictions in force by the time the Champions League commences, a test of Wenger’s squad especially with the matches being against perceived and real title contenders.
Yet the players are there for a serious tilt to be made for both competitions. Undoubtedly, they are talented and encouragingly, the first two Premier League fixtures have shown a defensive discipline with Arsenal denying shooting opportunities to their opponents, the lowest in the division. Carry these onto the continental fields and there is no reason why, with the obligatory smattering of luck, success can be achieved. Will these fields turn out to be Elysian? Time will tell.
The competition is one that Andrey Arshavin wants to win before he quits football. According to an ATVO interview to be shown on Friday, the Russian also observed:
I want to be remembered as a small Russian guy who did some magic things where people did not understand how he did it
I think there is a phrase missing at the end, “and who was part of the most successful Arsenal squad ever“? We’ll assume that it was ‘taken as read’ that this applies…
Elsewhere, the interminably dull and drawn out transfer sagas surrounding the club continue to be exactly that with prospective new goalkeepers and /or centre backs nowhere nearer joining Arsenal, publicly at least. Stan Kroenke seemed to edge further away from a full blown takeover of the club by investing substantial funds in his NFL franchise, at the same time divesting his interests in NHL / NBA clubs in Denver. OK, so he gave them to his son which is hardly selling up but it satisfied the NFL.
The window of opportunity – if there even is one – is shrinking for a change of ownership of Arsenal with Uefa’s financial regulations due to become ‘law’ in two years, even if there is a period of assimilation for clubs. Along with economic circumstances, this partly explains the lack of major transfer activity this summer as clubs look to balance their wage bills down to the required percentages. The exception to this is obviously Manchester City who are seemingly oblivious to these stipulations, perhaps an admission that they have much ground to make up to become regular participants in Uefa club competitions.
Having spent the equivalent of a small nation’s GDP on transfer fees in recent windows, the point must be upon them when they have to release some of their high earners. I was tempted to say “better players” but footballing ability has long been at odds with the economic rewards earned by players. Premier League squad rules are impacting upon their purchasing but the harsh reality of the club is that when they pay inflated fees, the wage expectations increase sometimes disproportionately. Gary Cook’s assertion that City will make operating losses for years to come highlights the problems that they face.
Posted on August 26, 2010, in Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer, Transfer Gossip and tagged Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Soccer, Transfer Rumours. Bookmark the permalink. 256 Comments.