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Can Arsenal Still Qualify for the Knockout Stages of the Champions League?

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After only two games in the Champions League, things are looking grim already for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal.

A 3-2 home defeat to Olympiakos sent the Gunners to a second consecutive defeat in the groups of this year’s competitions, which has left them with mountain to climb if they have any hopes of reaching the last 16.

Second choice goalkeeper David Ospina was given the nod ahead of PetrChec and the decision was a one that majorly backfired for Wenger. Ospina made a calamitous error in the first half when he dropped in a harmless corner from Kostas Fortounis. It was all the worse considering The Walcott had just drawn the game level minutes before, after Olympiakos had broken the deadlock on the thirty minute mark.

Arsenal went on to equalise again in the second half, only to concede again mere minutes later. Their defensive fragility is a growing concern, made even worse by the choice of starting your second choice goalkeeper over your high profile summer signing.

It was a similar story against Monaco, who are by no means a team that are miles ahead of Arsenal, yet still managed to expose the soft under belly of the Gunners defence. The problem now shows no signs of being fixed anytime soon, which makes for very worrying reading for fans of the club, who might now be resigned to the fact that they need a minor miracle to qualify from the group stages.

It was a game that Arsenal should have won, even if there were some leftover nerves from their previous collapse to Dinamo Zagreb – another game they conceivably should have won. Now things are looking very bleak before the group has even hit the halfway stage, that’s without the mention of their back to back fixtures that just so happen to be against reigning German champions Bayern Munich.

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That is two games that, on current form, you would fully expect Bayern to win. Should that happen it is all but over for the North London side in the Champions League. The question remains –can they do anything to change it?

Their next game in the competition is a home tie against Bayern Munich on October 20th, which has now turned into a must win game despite being easily their second hardest group game after their away tie against Bayern(who have scored 8 goals and conceded zero so far).

A win is not impossible of course. Arsenal need to show the passion, conviction and hunger to go out can take the games to Bayern, or they can say goodbye to any hopes of making it to the knockout stages. Gaining some points of the German champs is essential for building momentum for their final two games, which are also must-win games.

The question remains whether their impressive forward line of an in from Alexis Sanchez and an ever improving Theo Walcott can outshine some serious defensive issues at the back. Each game so fat has seen Arsenal score, but they have been out gunned up front.

A solid showing against Bayern could the catalyst they need for an unlikely turnaround. While this is easier said than down, Arsenal will hope that they can turn their home tie into a dogged affair, where even gaining a point will be something to celebrate. Anything less than a stellar performance essentially ends the prospect of playing Champions League football after Christmas.

But a positive one could make their difference in their remaining ties. They very well could and should beat Zagreb and Monaco in their return fixtures. As we know though, they very well could lose them too if their performances are not up to standard.

When these two meets each other in the other double header of the group, the results good spell good or bad news for Arsenal. The problem is they cannot even begin to worry about other results going their way if they can’t make some results for themselves.

October 20th will be massive day for the club. Should they get a result from that match, things may seem a lot better. A win for them and a draw in the other game will put them right back into the mix and breath fresh air going into the second half of the group stages. A loss could very well have Arsenal fans making plans for Thursday night football come February – and event that isn’t a guarantee.

 

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