27th August 2015: Familiar foes in Champions League

Evening all. The draw for the group stages of the Champions League was made earlier today and we were pitted against Bayern Munich, Olympiacos and Dinamo Zagreb in Group F, which, looking at Manchester City’s group, I’m not going to complain about too much. Or at all in fact.

Typically, Chelsea and Man United were put in groups their under 9s would top, but ours looks pretty straight forward too, Bayern aside of course. I mean, not to sound complacent or cocky, but if we can’t at least secure second spot in this group then I’d give the entire squad a free transfer because they’d deserve it frankly.

But far from such a shocking scenario occurring, the early-season optimist in me sees no reason why we can’t actually top the group, handing Pep Guardiola’s Bayern a beating or two along the way. I mean, in our four recent meetings with the German champions, we’ve won one and drawn the other of two away games, while our two losses at home had mitigating circumstances.

When they beat us 3-1 at Emirates stadium in February 2013, our team was very different to the one we have now, and by different, I mean much worse. A year later, Wojciech Szczęsny was sent off early on, handing the visitors a numerical advantage for most of the match.

So I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion at all that Bayern will top the group, no matter how likely Owen Hargreaves thinks it is. Time will tell I guess and of course there’s also the possibility that finishing second can provide a more favourable draw in the next round so there’s always that to consider too.

The only side that truly worries me in Europe is Barcelona, with their three footballing freaks up front and an already perfectly balanced midfield now strengthened by this summer’s capture of Arda Turan. Other than the Catalans though, bring them on I say. Surely it has to be our year some season soon, so why not this?

Speaking of the current European champions, Theo Walcott has been talking to the official Arsenal magazine about his memories of facing Lionel Messi and co in the Champions League quarter finals in 2010, and recalled a pretty amusing anecdote about his visit to Camp Nou, saying:

That [home leg] was a great night and a great performance. I also remember something which happened before the return leg in Spain. I was doing the press conference at the Nou Camp the night before the game and I saw Lionel Messi at the top of the stairs. I was chatting to him, then the boss came up to me afterwards and joked, ‘Theo, why didn’t you push him down the stairs?!’. That has never left me, I thought it was brilliant, really funny from the boss. I think he scored four goals the next day as well. It’s things like that that are great memories, because people don’t see that side of it. That home game against Barcelona was definitely something special though.

Yeah, so, on second thoughts, I’m not sure Theo should find Messi scoring four against us funny but I think he was talking just about the stairs bit in fairness. But moving away from the draw in Monaco and onto a former Monaco manager, Arsene Wenger held his pre-match press conference today as we prepare to travel to Newcastle for Saturday’s Premier League clash.

I’ll talk more about team news in tomorrow’s blog, as well as the usual answers Arsene provided regarding transfers etc, but I do have his thoughts on our pairing with Spurs in the third round of the Capital One Cup. He said:

It’s an interesting draw and we have had some fierce competition with Tottenham over the years, even in the League Cup. It will be interesting but for us it’s an opportunity to go through and we will take the competition seriously.

Interesting. Anyway, I’m afraid it’s just a short post today because I have stuff to do. And by stuff I mean sleep. Early start in the morning, you know how it is.

Laters.

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