At the end of last season, and in this pre-season, Arsenal were in such scintillating form that we were being talked about as genuine Premier League contenders, and despite our sluggish start to the new campaign we are definitely in with a shout, and could even go above leaders Man United next weekend.
But what about the Champions League? Can Arsenal (or any other English club) make an impact on the competition any more. Thierry Henry seems to think we are wasting our time. The Arsenal legend said: “When you are looking for the potential winner of this season’s Champions League, it is impossible to look beyond Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and, of course, Barcelona,”
“When you see a side like Dinamo Zagreb beat Arsenal, it is clear that even the smallest teams in the Champions League now fancy their chances against the English.”
“Back in the day, a match like that would have been a guaranteed three or four-goal win.
“People can argue that the English teams are hampered in Europe because the Premier League doesn’t have a mid-season break.
“But that was also the case when English teams were dominating ten years ago, so it doesn’t really excuse the recent poor results.”
Man United also lost their first game to PSV, and Louis Van Gaal admitted that he too would be rotating for tomorrows game against Wolfsburg, knowing they have a trip to the Emirates next weekend. He explained his reasoning thus: “The Premier League is a very difficult league,”
“To beat your opponent every week is not easy, it is always a struggle and a battle.
“Then you have to play again mid-week in the Champions League and that is the difference between all the clubs in Europe.
“It is not predictable to say four teams in the Premier League shall overcome this group stage round, no, it is not like that. But I have to say that we have the teams to do it and we have the quality to do it.
“The difficulty is that all these players are in a rat race and that takes a lot out of the players, which is why you have to rotate and that is what I am doing now because I have to protect my players.”
EPL sides have certainly underperformed in the Champions League in recent times, and perhaps Wenger has realised that he has much more chance of winning the Premier League than becoming European Champions – and he is (like Van Gaal) setting out his teams accordingly. He played his League Cup team against Zagreb two weeks ago, and is likely to do the same tomorrow with the crucial Man United game coming up next.
Should we just be concentrating on our domestic titles? Or should we be playing our best team in the Champions League?