Arsenal are back at the top of the European table this season and everyone linked to the club won’t have to wait much longer to hear the famous Champions League anthem echo around the Emirates Stadium before kick-off for the first time in six years.
Considering Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, AC Milan and Galatasaray were all possible opponents for the Gunners – who were placed in pot 2 for the group stage draw – to be matched certainly at Seville, PSV Eindhoven and RC Lens. is not the worst result in the world.
That’s not to say Arsenal will qualify for Group B easily. After all, Mikel Arteta is making his managerial debut in the competition – although he did take charge of a Manchester City game in 2018 when Pep Guardiola has been suspended – and there isn’t much UEFA Champions League experience in the squad.
But what bodes well for the north London side are their results so far this season. Even if the performances were not as spectacular as a year ago, 13 points out of a possible 15, including a victory against Manchester United, in addition to lifting the Community Shield, constitutes a very good return.
So after Arsenal prepared for their return to Europe’s elite club competition by ending their Goodison Park hoodoo with a 1-0 victory over Everton, Football.london looked at how their opponents fared in the group stage this weekend and how they have fared so far this season.
The Europa League holders presented two teams at the start of the season. They lost their opening three La Liga matches but pushed Manchester City very close in last month’s UEFA Super Cup clash, losing on penalties and, based on the chances created, they might have should have won the match in normal time.
With something to prove in the Champions League while their record in the competition is not great, reaching the quarter-finals twice in 10 attempts, Sevilla have signed a player who knows a thing or two about lifting the famous trophy ; Sergio Ramos. Returning to the club where it all began, his return coincided with a first league win of the campaign against Las Palmas on Sunday.
If the legendary Spanish defender can inspire an experienced team including Ivan Rakitic, Jesus Navas, Suso and Youssef En-Nesyri, then the double header against Arsenal on Matchdays 3 and 4 could be crucial in determining who tops Group B.
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Arsenal’s first opponents on Wednesday evening. These two teams met in the Europa League group stage a year ago and traded home wins. But a lot has changed since then, with PSV Eindhoven losing key players such as Cody Gakpo, Xavi Simons, Ibrahim Sangare as well as manager Ruud van Nistelrooy.
However, they signed highly rated Dutch winger Nao Lang, brought back Hirving Lozano for a second term and signed Armel Bella-Kotchap on loan from Southampton, among other deals. It all culminated in a stunning start to the season as they won eight of nine competitive matches, drawing with Rangers.
Simply put, PSV should arrive in North London with confidence. Experienced striker Luuk de Jong – goalscorer against the Gunners last season – is one to watch as he has scored nine goals in as many matches so far, including a brace this weekend as his side prepare for Wednesday night by beating NEC Nijmegen. 4-0.
Based on UEFA club coefficients, last season’s Ligue 1 finalists are the lowest-ranked team in the competition and this is only the third time in their history that they have qualified for the Champions League group stage. Ironically, they faced the Gunners in the 1998/99 campaign and came away from both meetings with four points.
However, they got off to a bad start this season. Taking one point from a possible 15 is not a good return and Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at home to Metz was their third defeat in this sequence, with the departures of Lois Openda – who scored 21 league goals last season – and Seko Fofana had a negative impact.