Who could Arsenal face in the Champions League?

The Champions League group stage draw is set to take place tomorrow, Thursday 27th August, at 4:45pm (UK time), in Monaco, where Arsenal find themselves in Pot 2 with the potential to be drawn in one of their toughest groups to date. 

So now you know all the details, but where can you watch it? Sky Sports News of course. OR you could just read your twitter feed and the endless people tweeting updates in real-time.

Unfortunately due to the changes made by UEFA, Arsenal will be in Pot 2 this year for the first time in a while. As will fellow English sides, Manchester City and Manchester United (should they beat Club Brugge tonight). This comes down to the regulation changes that have been made to the draw to benefit each association’s “Champions”.

The new regulations take into consideration the clubs domestic form instead of European, as it used to be, much to the annoyance of Wenger, who has consistency of getting to the knockout stages (and then knocked out) down to a t. He will certainly be moaning about this new structure, if he isn’t right this second, especially if it results in our downfall.

Regardless of Wenger or anyone else’s opinion though, it is formatted in this way.

Pot 1 will consist of the Champions from the seven top leagues around Europe. These are considered to be the English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese and Russian leagues. With the eighth spot being given to Holland. (It may be that this eighth country is up for change on a yearly basis).

As usual, teams from the same country cannot face each other in this round.

So Arsenal will be drawn against one of the Champions, which they are mostly used to having the benefit of avoiding. The Manchester clubs would have all of the same options for the draw as Arsenal too. While Chelsea could still be presented with a difficult team from Pot 2, with both Madrid’s amongst other top sides in there.

Who will they face?

In POT 1 there is, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Paris-Saint Germain, Benfica, Zenit St. Petersburg, Chelsea and PSV Eindhoven

In POT 2 with Arsenal, we have Manchester City, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, FC Porto, Valencia and two of Manchester United, Shaktar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen and Sevilla.

In POT 3: Olympiakos, Galatasaray, Lyon, Dynamo Kiev, Roma, and 3 from Shakhtar Donetsk, Sevilla, Sporting Lisbon, CSKA Moscow, Lazio, Bruges, APOEL, BATE.

And finally in POT 4: Borussia Monchengladbach, Wolfsburg, Dinamo Zagreb, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Gent, Malmo and 2 from APOEL, BATE, Partizan, Astana.

The exact pots will be confirmed after tonights qualifiers, once we know who is through, it will also enable the teams to be ranked based on their UEFA Coefficient. This is why Shaktar Donetsk could be in pot 2 or 3 for example, despite having already qualified.

4:45pm – Thursday 27th August

5 areas for Arsenal to improve for Liverpool clash

5 relatively specific improvements I would like to see Arsenal make from the Crystal Palace victory before we host Liverpool on Monday, who have won both their games 1-0.

  1. Communication between Cech and the back-four.
    Too many times during the win at Palace the goalkeeper and his defenders did not look on the same wavelength. Instances I can recall are with Monreal when neither he nor the keeper went for a cross during the nail-biting end to the game, a time where Cech was also unhappy with his lack of protection in the box from corners. Perhaps more with the ref than any teammates, but they could have helped to move players pressuring him and blocking him in. It also looked like some back passes took him by surprise. The goal obviously could have been avoided at several points, culminating with Koscielny turning his back. Obviously it will take time for Cech to adjust from Chelsea’s ways to ours.
  2. Pace on the wings and tracking back.
    Liverpool have a lot of pace in attack if they wish, and this could make them dangerous on the counter-attack. We dealt with this relatively well at Palace but Liverpool have pace in their full-backs of Clyne and Gomez, and I don’t think Ramsey or Cazorla on the wings as we have seen so far will be enough to get up and down the pitch with them so I would expect to see Chamberlain/Walcott play on the opposing wing to Sanchez.
  3. Finishing.
    We could have and should have killed the game off, but of course we had to do it the hard way and just hold on for the win. Sanchez was a bit sloppy in front of goal, but we know what he’s capable of and will put it down to lack of match fitness/sharpness.
    However, 18 attempts and only 7 on target says it all. Half of those where frustratingly straight at the keeper as well (from Ramsey and Chamberlain in particular).
  4. Breaking quicker.
    I feel we could have taken advantage of breaks and counter attacks more. We did it a few times but not as many as they gave us the opportunity to do. We struggled at picking out the player making a run off their back line – Ozil did this a few times v Palace  but was never found. Hopefully we can also put this down to early season form and a lack of sharpness from some players.Towards the end when they were throwing everything forward, we could have taken advantage of this better and put the game beyond their reach.
  5. Keeping the ball when under pressure/holding on for a win.
    Or alternatively we could have done this better at the end of the game. Rather than neither, and just returning the ball to them. I was always taught that they can’t score if you have the ball. We pride ourselves on a possession based game, but too often when the other team are looking to get back into a game we allow them far too much of the ball and invite too much pressure onto ourselves. Although we have improved defensively in this respect, it is always an unnecessarily stressful and worrying time.

Arsenal not giving up on Benzema transfer

Arsenal are not ready to give up on their hopes of signing Real Madrid star, Karim Benzema, after a summer full of transfer rumours linking him with the club which have thus far only left Arsenal fans disappointed and wanting. 

However, The Guardian and The Telegraph have both reported that Arsenal and Arsene Wenger are still holding out to try and secure a deal for the 27-year-old, perhaps in a fashion similar to which Mesut Ozil was signed on the last day of the 2013 transfer window for a club record £42.5m.

Real Madrid manager, Rafa Benitez, has already publicly stated his desire to keep both Benzema and Bale at the club next season, and Wenger has also claimed that there was nothing in the rumours; yet it is a transfer story that just won’t go away, and for the optimists among us, you must think there is something in these non-stop stories.

The Frenchman has not travelled to Munich for the Audi Cup with the rest of the Madrid squad, after an apparent “training injury” which is also Ronaldo’s reason for missing the pre-season tournament.

It is believed that Benitez is looking to try something different with his squad after a relatively unsuccessful season (by their high standards) from Madrid, in their last campaign.

This was seen on Tuesday night as they defeated Tottenham 2-0, with Gareth Bale playing in a central role. Something he has specifically asked for according to reports in Spain.

If this is the case it could leave Benzema out of the starting eleven, and a move away from the Bernabeu could be on the cards.

Furthermore, it is unlike Madrid to not make a big signing during the transfer window, and this year they have yet to splash the cash as we are so accustomed to seeing. A striker could be on their radar, and if Benzema were to leave you would have to imagine it would be.

There is still a way to go in this transfer window, despite the season starting on Sunday, and as we have seen an innumerable amount of times in the past, a lot of the action doesn’t happen until late on.

Arsene Wenger will surely have something, or someone, up his sleeve.