I think it is fair to say that Arsenal were quite pleased with how the draw for the Champions League groups panned out this season. There were some easier clubs for us to get from the top seeded pot of title winners, most notably CSKA Moscow who our jammy north London rivals Tottenham got, but there were a lot worse as well, so we are happy to have dodged Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Juventus.
Arsenal could stake an early claim to top the group this week as we travel to face our main rivals PSG in France and it is a pretty good time to face them, as well. Not only are they weakened by a few injury problems (as are Arsenal) but they are not in great form either.
The Gunners may not have been exactly emphatic at the weekend but we did at least win and that made two in a row, whereas the Parisien club were held to a surprise draw by St. Etienne and lost the previous game to Monaco. They have a new manager in Unai Emery and are clearly taking time to get up to speed.
They also lost their main striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and sold David Luiz to Chelsea, so with Thiago Silva out of action they will be without their two first choice centre backs from last season. We should not make the mistake of thinking it will be easy though, even though their Italian midfielder Thiago Motta has been talking up our quality and saying that we will be tougher than Chelsea who they have faced with success in recent seasons.
He said, “Arsenal are a level above Chelsea because they like to play. We have not faced an English team that plays this way.”
Another of their stars, the Brazil international Lucas Moura was also reported by the Evening Standard talking about how hard they expect it to be against Arsenal.
He said, “The Champions League is coming and it starts with a tough match. We’ll play a very strong Arsenal team. We’re looking forward to it. Even against Saint-Etienne it was hard not to think of this match.”
They may have changed their minds if he saw us struggle against Southampton at the weekend, but if the real Arsenal do turn up in Paris tomorrow we could well prove the comments well founded. Then in a little under two weeks from now we will have another chance to prove Motta right, when Chelsea come to the Emirates.
The Blues lost their 100 percent EPL record yesterday with a surprise draw at Swansea and their next two matches are against Liverpool and Leicester so their confidence could be a bit shaky by then while ours could be much stronger after we face PSG, Hull and Nottingham Forest.
Do you think we will prove Motta right twice in the next two weeks?