Arsenal looked on the verge of elimination from this season’s UEFA Champions League after only two games following shock defeats at Dinamo Zagreb and then at home to Olympiacos.
Victory over Bayern Munich in matchday three gave them more than a lifeline even if they were stuffed 5-1 in Germany two weeks later and results going against them in the other tie.
Progression from this group is hanging by a thread but I’m confident in Arsenal making it out of the group as they have done in every single campaign this millennium.
This evening’s task is the easy one – win at home to Dinamo Zagreb who have lost their three matches since beating Arsenal. Remember, the Gunners were down to 10 men before half-time in that encounter and Arsène Wenger later admitted he underestimated his opponents for that match.
There will be no underestimating the Croatian outfit at the Emirates this evening – Wenger has named a very strong side as expected and they will be more than enough to win by a couple of goals this evening.
Yes, Francis Coquelin is a big blow, I’ll come to that in a bit. But this will be a game where Arsenal will dominate possession and territory and put a few past the weakest side in the group. Olivier Giroud is in very good form and owes it to his teammates to bag a goal or two this evening after his dismissal in Zagreb.
As well as Arsenal winning this evening, the Premier League side need help from Germany when Bayern Munich host Olympiacos. Any result for the Greek side will eliminate Arsenal by virtue of finishing on more points than the English side and Bayern Munich either doing the same with a draw, or winning the head-to-head battle if the Gunners were to catch them up on points (virtually impossible).
Bayern Munich were 3-0 winners in Greece back in September and Pep Guardiola’s side win the group with three points this evening meaning they can give their fringe players and some young some Champions League experience in a fortnight when they face Dinamo Zagreb.
As Olympiacos are joint on points with the German champions, Arsenal fans have no reason to be pessimistic about Guardiola’s side playing for a draw – really, the Germans don’t have anything against us.
Arsenal are 7/2 with Skybet to finish runners-up in this group by the way. Back that this evening and you’ll either be looking at a handsome profit in a fortnight or a very profitable trade.
The slightly tricky part in my eyes for Arsenal is when they go to Olympiacos in a fortnight’s time, needing to win by either two clear goals or by a scoreline of 3-2 or higher, to progress on head-to-head, after losing the home time by that scoreline.
I really don’t believe this Olympiacos side are as good as that result – as mentioned earlier in the article, they were thrashed at home by Bayern Munich and Arsenal have taken three points off of them.
David Ospina was in goal during that first meeting and made a real howler for one of the goals.
However, the absence of Francis Coquelin could be a real blow with no out-and-out replacement for him. I’m not a fan of Mathieu Debuchy or Mikel Arteta in that role but the club captain may be the favourite to partner Santi Cazorla when fit. Aaron Ramsey is ready to make his return and has a couple of games to get to match fitness ahead of that crucial encounter.
Olympiacos have only kept one clean sheet in their four group stage matches and that’ll be one in five after this evening. It came away to Dinamo Zagreb. Basically, Arsenal can put a few goals past them – Mesut Özil and Olivier Giroud are in excellent form right now and Alexis Sánchez scored twice in the first meeting. I’m very confident this Arsenal side will do the job, depending on a few more serious injuries being picked up between now and their final group game.