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Are Arsenal realistic contenders for the Champions League?

Are Aaron Ramsey's Arsenal realistic contenders for the Champions League this season?

Are Aaron Ramsey’s Arsenal realistic contenders for the Champions League this season?

Arsenal have made an impressive start to the season. The Gunners are currently leading the Premier League table by four points and top their Champions League group.

Arsene Wenger’s side could all but seal their place in the last 16 with a win at home to Marseille tonight.

Contenders

The Gunners form so far this season has some claiming that they could be contenders to win the Champions League.

Marseille boss Elie Baup believes that the Gunners are an extremely strong side. He told Sky Sports: “Arsenal are an extremely strong side in these competitions.

“They are the best side in our group and are going to qualify. When you get to the last 16 and the quarter-finals, the teams are all very close together. However, this season Arsenal have an undeniable attacking quality.”

Qualification

Arsene Wenger’s side could seal qualification with a victory over the French side. Group F is regarded as this season’s group of death by many and it will be a good achievement by the Gunners if they manage to top the group.

The Gunners have won three out of their four group stage matches so far and a fourth win against Marseille should see them through to the last 16 of the competition.

Improvement

A number of Arsenal players have shown an incredible improvement this season. The two players who have shown the most improvement being French striker Olivier Giroud and Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey.

Giroud did not endure a terrible first season with Arsenal, but was still on the end of criticism last season. The France international is already in double figures for the season and is just seven goals short of his tally of last season’s 17 for the campaign.

The goals had dried up slightly for Giroud in recent games, but a brace against Southampton on Saturday could lead to the striker hitting top form again in the near future. I think it is fair to say that very few Gunners fans have criticised Giroud this season.

Wales international midfielder Ramsey has been one of the stories of the season. The young midfielder has been in sensational form this season, scoring 11 goals this season for the Gunners, including five in the Champions League.

His drive and industry has been one of the key factors in Arsenal’s excellent start to the season. The Arsenal fans who were accustomed to using Ramsey as a scapegoat for their failures in recent years have suddenly gone very quiet. He has gone from boo-boy to star player this season.

The 22-year-old deserves the successful season he is having, after recovering from a potentially career threatening injury. The youngster has proved his doubters wrong and shone bright this season.

Defence

An area of the team that has improved slowly but surely for Arsenal is the defence, after a calamitous start to the season against Aston Villa. The defence looks more solid as a unit and seem far more disciplined than in previous seasons.

One factor in that may be the increased confidence in their keeper Wojciech Szczesny. The young Poland international has always had self-confidence, but his defence did not look like they had that much faith in the youngster, until this season that is.

He is starting to live-up to his potential as a top-class keeper and very few people now seem to talk about the goalkeeping position being a problem for the side from north London.

Worry

The one big worry for me would be the Gunners reliance on French striker Olivier Giroud. The Gunners attacking options have been increased by the return to fitness of England international Theo Walcott, but I still think they are short of attacking options.

Arsene Wenger was expected to dip into the transfer market for a striker in January. However, the veteran French boss has recently stated that he feels under no pressure to sign a striker in the winter transfer window.

It seems the Frenchman feels that Giroud, Walcott and Lukas Podolski, when he returns to fitness, could be enough to sustain the Gunners for the rest of the season.

Even if Arsenal does attempt to sign a striker in January they could encounter the problem of most of their targets being cup-tied in Europe. As Wenger has previously stated, clubs will not want their best attackers leaving halfway through the season, especially if they are in form.

Tough

If as expected Arsenal get to knockout stages of the competition, then they will face a lot of teams with major quality and strength in-depth. The Gunners have proved they can win big games this season, but they also lost big games to the likes of Dortmund and Manchester United.

I sense that Arsene Wenger’s men may just come up short in the last 16 of the competition. The Gunners are odds of 16/1 to win the Champions League. The way the Gunners have played this season they could prove to be a very decent outside bet for the trophy.

Are Arsenal realistic contenders for the Champions League?

Tue 26 November, 2013
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