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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Arsenal Champions League mission (half) accomplished.

Arsenal managed to ease into qualification for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League while resting key players - and I'm sure that manager Arsene Wenger will consider it a "job done" - despite a 0-2 loss to Napoli in Naples.

Arsenal rested Wilshere and Walcott, and only played Ramsey for 22 minutes, meaning that all three players are well positioned to face Manchester City and will be claiming that rotation is important.

But is it really a job done ? or is it only half done as Arsenal have only managed to qualify in runners-up spot, and will very likely face a very tough opponent in the round of 16.

Group winners are Barcelona (149), Bayern Munich (145), Real Madrid (144), Chelsea (132), Manchester United (124), Dortmund (76), Paris Saint Germain (72), and Atletico Madrid (104).

Group Runners-up are Arsenal (111) , Bayer Leverkusen (69), Galatasaray (54), Olympiakos (65), Manchester City (72), Schalke (94) , Zenit (71) and AC Milan (97).

(Number is brackets are the club UEFA Rating)

Arsenal's failure to take a point on the final day and win the group means that the Gunners will face one of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Paris St Germain or Atletico Madrid in the next round. The draw really doesn't matter - all the opponents are top drawer - as it's a choice of one of the top three sides in Spain, the top side in France or the top side in Germany (and defending champions).

Wenger might well be a top football manager, but I think that he needs to sit down and take a few more lessons in game theory, as in looking ahead to Manchester City, Wenger picked a side that failed to do the required job in Naples and Arsenal's path in Europe is likely to be very difficult indeed.

To my way of thinking Wenger has just created a new mountain to climb, and if / when Arsenal get knocked out again in the round of 16, he will have provided detractors ammunition to say that he still not able to maintain a squad of highest calibre.

Is Wenger thinking that Arsenal have to beat the best anyway - so it doesn't matter who Arsenal are drawn against? Is he thinking that competing in two fronts to too tough and domestic success is more important? Or is he simply being too clever for Arsenal's own good - and diminishing the chances of European success?

I feel it's a slice of all three - Arsenal's squad is small - and it is unlikely that they can sustain a challenge against the best in Europe and in England - but isn't that an indictment on the continued state of the Arsenal manager's approach to the transfer market?

Of course, if Arsenal avoid Barca and Bayern ... and then beat Manchester City on Saturday then Mr Wenger is a genius and I'm an amateur blogger again ... ;-)

We will see.

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