Dinamo Zagreb 2 Arsenal 1: Three talking points
Three talking points as Arsenal's Champions League campaign begins with a defeat by Dinamo Zagreb
How deep is the Gunners’ squad?
The decision to rest a number of key players highlights where Arsenal’s weaknesses are. Of course it is difficult to legislate for ridiculous and petulant red cards, but given the lack of activity over the off-season and before the transfer window closed, Arsenal in their current guise are not able to rotate and leave out their key players for a Wednesday night in Croatia. With Petr Cech being Arsenal’s only real summer acquisition and the inevitably of injuries, Arsenal showed against Dinamo Zagreb that they perhaps lack the numbers to go far in the Champions League, and potentially across other fronts.
Wenger was wrong to underestimate an Invincibles side
Arsene Wenger is often labelled with the moniker of ‘the Professor’ but this is potentially more tongue in cheek given his studious demeanour and look of a geography teacher. But over the course of his two decades at the helm of Arsenal, he has shown himself to an adept tactician while creating a breath-taking brand of attacking football. Without question, he has left an indelible mark on English football and that will be for one reason alone – his invincible season. Dinamo Zagreb are also an invincible side. While the calibre of the opposition may not be as strong in Croatia as it is, or was, in England, it would be foolish to treat such a side with kid gloves who are unbeaten in 40 plus games domestically. It seems that with his starting 11, Wenger thought it would be an opportunity to rest some of his first team players. He was wrong. It may be cliche but the adage of ‘there are no easy games in the Champions League’ has never rung more true than in Zagreb. The hosts went in with the game plan and it was delivered to the letter. The visitors, however, did not.
Are Arsenal still one of Europe’s top sides?
If 2008 was the high point of English football in the Champions League, then this opening week of fixtures must rank as one of the lower points. Three of the four Premier League sides lost by two goals to one, but all of the sides were poor. Arsenal were in the final 10 years ago and after their first performance in Zagreb, it seems that it will be unlikely that they will be able to repeat this performance. Arsenal looked bereft of attacking talent, which is uncommon for the Gunners. They rarely carved their opponents open and their first half performance was largely disjointed. Arsenal should still qualify from this group as their only real challenge on paper is Bayern Munich. But they will need to raise their game and quickly.