Although they probably don’t have the necessary defensive cover, goals are what win you games and in this department, Arsenal are blessed with a wealth of talent. Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere have spent most of the campaign injured and yet they still have options such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Cazorla. However, the beauty of Arsene Wenger’s midfield options is that they can all play in a variety of different positions. Apart from the holding role in which a specialist is needed, they have plenty of box-to-box midfielders, and in players such as Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, they have men who can operate in any position behind the striker. Perhaps Wenger’s biggest task will be finding the right balance in there but the emergence of Francis Coquelin has eased some of his worries. The Frenchman is an old fashioned defensive midfielder. His role is to break up play, tackle and then redistribute the ball in a simple way to players who can create chances. They also now have players who can play alongside Olivier Giroud, or can operate as a supporting striker and this will be vital in the closing stages of the Champions League. Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck’s pace will be important as it offers them a genuine counter-attacking threat, especially against team’s who are chasing the game and will commit more men to attack.
You don’t necessarily have to be the best team to win the competition – just ask Porto or Chelsea, who won the competition in 2004 and 2012 respectively. On both occasions line-ups on paper accounted for nothing, instead it often boiled down to desire, commitment and taking your chances when they came along. Chelsea may have been outplayed in quite a few games but when they had chances they were ruthless. In Porto’s case the competition was all about momentum as they didn’t initially think they would have a chance, but after every game they won belief started to spread around the team. A similar thing happened with Liverpool in 2004-05 when they won the Champions League. The Reds squad was not at its strongest but they were still able to overcome a formidable Juventus team that had Pavel Nedved and Alessandro Del Piero – which proves that anything is possible over 90 minutes. With a bit of luck, a kind draw and some momentum there is no reason why Arsenal can’t go on to win the competition – one that has eluded them despite their rich history.
While you expect the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich to be contesting the latter stages there is no consensus on who the strongest team actually is. In previous seasons, Bayern Munich or Barcelona have been the outstanding side – the one you would have to beat in order to win the competition but this term the Champions League is more open. There are question marks remaining over Barcelona’s defence, while the trio of Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez is still developing. Madrid almost have too many attacking players and selling Xabi Alonso to Munich appears to have been a big mistake. Alonso offered them protection and he performed the ‘quarter-back’ role to perfection; they currently do not have a player like that. Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are world-class players but they are also dictators rather protectors, and a lack of balance in midfield could affect them in the latter stages. Munich are starting to look really strong under Pep Guardiola but the nature of their style means you will always get a chance against them. In recent matches, Guardiola has only picked one central defender in a 3-3-3-1 formation which has allowed them to dominate – but against a better side that formation leaves them vulnerable defensively. Taking all that into account Arsenal will have a chance if they believe they can compete against the very best sides in Europe.
MORE: Man United latest news
MORE: Arsenal latest news
MORE: Chelsea latest news
MORE: Liverpool latest news