Arsenal: Analyzing the Gunners' Champions League Group Stage Matchups

Ned Harwood@@RBStampedeContributor IIIAugust 25, 2011

Arsenal: Analyzing the Gunners' Champions League Group Stage Matchups

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    It might not have been pretty, but Gunners fans can thankfully watch Champions League football for another season. After taking care of Udinese in the qualifying rounds, Arsenal were drawn into a fairly difficult group Thursday afternoon that included German Champions Borussia Dortmund, Greek Champions Olympiakos, and French powerhouse Marseille.

    Considering Arsenal's recent roster struggles, getting to another knockout stage certainly won't be easy. How will the Gunners fare in the new UCL campaign? Slide through the preview and see for yourself. 

Olympiakos FC

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    Team Outlook:

    Last Champions League Appearance: 

    2009-2010 Round of 16 (Loss 1-3 to Bordeaux)

    Star Players:

    Kevin Mirallas, 14 goals in first season with Olympiakos

    David Fuster, 13 goals last season as a midfielder

    Marko Pantelic- 10 goals last season as striker

    Manager: Ernesto Valverde

    Home Atmosphere:

    Olympiakos' Karaiskakis stadium fits a measly 33,000 when all seats are available, but don’t let that modest number fool you. The supporters have been known to create an intimidating atmosphere during big Champions League games and can really influence play on the field. Before heading to Karaiskakis in the 2009 UCL, Bordeaux midfielder Jaroslav Plasil stated “It was one of the most intense atmospheres I've ever experienced in a stadium, so I expect it will be a bit like hell for us.”

    The Verdict:

    Olympiakos might be a tough test for Arsenal, but they truly don’t have the firepower to match the Gunners for 180 minutes. Their Greek GA leading defense won’t be able to contain the vast amount of offensive weapons the Gunners already have or will add by the time the series starts. Arsenal might have some trouble on the road, but will take care of business back at the Emirates.

    Away: 1-1

    Home: 3-0

Olympique De Marseille

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    Team Outlook: 

    Last Champions League Appearance:

    2010-2011 Round of 16 (Loss 1-2 to Manchester United)

    Star Players:

    Steve Mandanda- Ligue 1 GK First XI last season

    Loic Remy- Led Marseille in goals last season with 16

    Taye Taiwo- Lique 1 Defender First XI last season

    Manager: Didier Deschamps

    Home Atmosphere: 

    Marseille own the largest stadium in all of France and it really isn't close. Their 60,000 masterpiece is 12,000 seats larger than the next biggest stadium and is home to one of the largest and most supportive fan bases in the prestigious country. Last year, Marseille played Manchester United to a nil-nil draw at the Stade Velodrome in the UCL and nearly helped the club pull off a massive upset in the knockout round. 

    The Verdict: 

    When playing behind a full crowd, Marseille can truly be one of the best teams in all of Europe. Marseille beat Chelsea at home and tied United in their 2010 UCL campaign proving that England's prestige doesn't exactly lead to results in France. However, considering Marseille haven't won a European match in England since 2007, Arsenal are likely to get the better of them in the series. It will be close, but the Gunners will prevail. 

    Away: 2-2

    Home: 2-0

Borussia Dortmund

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    Team Outlook: 

    Last Champions League Appearance:

    2002-2003 Second Group Stage

    Star Players:

    Mario Goetze: 2nd in Bundesliga in Assists with 11

    Lucas Barrios- Leading goal scorer with 16 last season

    Shinji Kagawa- 8 goals in 18 league appearances last season

    Manager: Jurgen Klopp

    Home Atmosphere: 

    Considering Dortmund hasn't lost a home league game in over a year, Arsenal should definitely not overlook this Pot 4 club. Dortmund is simply unstoppable at home allowing just under .5 goals a game when playing in front of their supporters. Let us not forget that the last time Arsenal made a trip to Signal Iduna Park, Tomas Rosicky had a brace to send the Gunners home empty handed. 

    The Verdict: 

    Arsenal may slide past Marseille and Olympiakos without much trouble, but an undefeated group stage would truly be too optimistic. Dortmund will ice their London visitors and give Wenger a run for his money at the Emirates as well. This team is more than a Pot 4 club, and they will show it. 

    Away: 0-2

    Home: 1-1

The Final Word

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    If you put it all together, I have Arsenal picking up nine points in their six Group F matches. It may not be what Gunners fans are used to, but it still is an achievement considering the unstableness surrounding the club right now. I then have Dortmund winning the group and Marseille picking up nine points as well, but losing out to the Gunners on goal differential. It will be another Knockout Round UCL campaign for the Gunners, but will they go any further than that? We'll know soon enough. 

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