With Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp coming out and declaring that Arsenal can win the Champions League (as long as they avoid Bayern) a lot of people have been having their opinion on whether Arsenal could do it.
There’s no doubt that Arsenal had the perfect gameplan yesterday and apart from a few blips, executed it extremely well – but can we be considered real Champions League challengers?
We sit at the top of Group F in a group consisting of Napoli, who are flying in Serie A, Dortmund who are one of the best teams in Europe and Marseille of France. We’ve beaten Tottenham and Liverpool in the league, and sit 5 points clear at the top of the Premier League.
So there’s no doubt we’re putting in some really brilliant performances.
And if that wasn’t encouraging enough, we are somewhat in an injury crisis. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Mathieu Flamini, Lukas Podolski and Abou Diaby are all out injured – and at least four of those players would be competing for a first team place.
So when they come back, we really have a formidable squad.
The only problem I have is in two positions. Up front and at the back. If Olivier Giroud was out for any amount of time we would be in big trouble. He has been immense this season, and one of the players of the season so far. What he adds to the team is priceless and even if Podolski was fit, he wouldn’t be able to do the same role and we would have to adapt our system. That leaves us with Nicklas Bendtner with our only real alternative and as scary as that is, it could be a reality.
In midfield we are well stocked and at full back we are okay. Gibbs has Monreal and even Vermaelen as backup, and Sagna has Jenkinson. But the middle is where I worry. Mertesacker and Koscielny have been epic in 2013 and if one of those gets injured we would have problems. The only alternative for me would be playing Sagna in central defence because even though he is a great bloke (probably, I’ve never met him) Thomas Vermaelen has lost it for me. I can see why Arsene doesn’t rotate his central defenders because he’s too rash, leaves too much space in behind and can get caught out against the better strikers. There were a couple of times against Chelsea where he dived in and it’s those kind of challenges which concede penalties.
If we had another striker (although Podolski’s return would help) and another centreback, then I would say we could be genuine contenders.