At the half-way stage in the current Champions League group stage, several of the favourites appear to be in a comfortable position for qualifying for the knock-out phase. It is the opposite case in the so-called ‘Group of Death’ featuring Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli and Marseille, where the top three teams have the same points and only the French team seem to be out of contention.
Prior to Tuesday’s tie with Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal had emerged as Group F favourites with a three point lead and they were in the midst of an unbeaten sequence culminating in an impressive 4-1 victory against Norwich the previous weekend.
A 2-1 home loss to the Germans has completely changed the picture of the group and coupled with the Napoli victory in Marseille, Arsenal now look particularly vulnerable in this group. With a trip to Signal-Iduna Park in Germany awaiting them for their next tie, it is essential for the Gunners to avoid defeat or risk finding themselves probably lying in third place in the group standings.
There follows a home leg with Marseille and another difficult away fixture in Napoli, who have yet to lose on home soil this season. Arsenal have received many plaudits this season for their brand of attacking football and have looked a stronger team since the transfer deadline day acquisition of Mesut Ozil. However the next few weeks will prove a real test of their character especially with several matches looming against the Premier League heavyweights.
Marseille can already be ruled out of the equation in Group F. Without a point and having lost three domestic matches so far against the better Ligue 1 teams, their current form suggests that they will struggle to gain any points from the formidable opposition in the group. They may have already accepted their inevitable elimination.
Both Borussia Dortmund and Napoli occupy top three positions in their respective domestic leagues and Arsenal will not relish the trips to their respective home stadiums. The Germans have now been installed as clear favourites in the group and having seized both the initiative and confidence following their win at the Emirates, few will doubt their ability to win the group with Napoli also needing to travel to Germany.