Arsenal Poised For Another Glorious Failure?
Last night’s comprehensive victory over Dinamo Zagreb, combined with Olympiakos’ loss to Bayern, has put the power of qualification from the group stages of the Champions League in Arsenal’s hands. They now control their own destiny in UEFA’s premier competition.
It’s not quite a winner takes all match as it’s entirely possible for Arsenal to win the match but still end up in the Europa League. Arsenal will continue to play in Europe for a while longer but in what competition is entirely up to them. The Champions League is considered by some to be an unnecessary distraction considering the likelihood of Arsenal winning it but at least the fixtures are reasonable. The Europa League, a competition Wenger says he will aim to win if we drop into it, brings Thursday night games and with it Premier League fixtures rearranged for Sundays and Mondays.
Those later fixtures are okay as sporadic events but aren’t obviously compatible with a sustained title challenge. It’s likely you will consistently be playing catch up with your rivals and that adds a great deal of pressure whatever their result. If they win you are under huge pressure to match them, if they lose you must be seen to be taking advantage. This clearly happens quite regularly throughout the year but it’s not always with the same team. It’s a circumstance you’d wish to avoid repeating on a weekly basis, especially through the crucial Feb-April period.
Not qualifying for the Champions League and dropping into the Europa could be disastrous for the Gunners so it’s imperative they see the job through in Greece. So what needs to be done?
The official means of qualification according to UEFA is:
If two or more teams are equal on points on completion of the group matches,
the following criteria are applied in the order given to determine their rankings:
a. higher number of points obtained in the group matches played among the
teams in question;
b. superior goal difference from the group matches played among the teams in
c. higher number of goals scored in the group matches played among the teams
d. higher number of goals scored away from home in the group matches played
among the teams in question;
So Arsenal need to win by two goals to automatically qualify. If Arsenal win by just the one goal then we will be tied with Olympiakos on head to head goal difference (b) and head to head goals scored (c). As Olympiakos scored 3 against us at the Emirates we would need to score at least four goals (d) to qualify for the last 16. If we match the 3-2 scoreline it would go to total goal difference and Arsenal’s superior one would take them through.
In really simple terms, we need to win by two goals. On the face of it Arsenal are looking at the potential of another glorious failure. Every season we seem to put ourselves in a position where we need to win by a certain amount of goals only to fall one shy having fought bravely.
Arsenal may fail at the final hurdle with only a one goal win but unlike previous seasons there will be nothing glorious about it. Arsenal should never have been in this position to start with, especially when you see how easily they dispatched Zagreb.
I’m worried for Arsenal, winning is one thing but winning by an exact scoreline can be a huge mental barrier. There is hope however as Wenger believes we’ll have two more players back from injury by the time we fly to Greece and fingers crossed Ramsey doesn’t relapse.
If we play like we did last night we shouldn’t have much difficulty.
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