How they got here: Finshed 4th in the English Premier League; DefeatedSparta Prague in Round 3 of qualifying
Previous Best Showing: Runners-up to Barcelona in the 2005-06 season
Strengths: Smart, possession football
One of the top managers in the game
Youth and energy
Weaknesses: Wasteful in possession and often find it tough to score
Not an overly experienced side
X-Factor: The Lehmann/Almunia situation. Which keeper will establish themselves as number 1? Lehmann has had a rough start to the season both in form and from an injury standpoint. However, if he can regain his form of two seasons ago, he could lead Arsenal deep into the tournament. Almunia has been solid in his starts for Arsenal but has not proven to be the difference maker that Lehmann is capable of being.
How they’ll fare: They should finish in one of the top two spots andqualifying comfortably for the next round
Big summer signing: Eduardo da Silva. The Gunners, having sold ThierryHenry to Barcelona, splashed out on the Croatian striker. Though thefee was not disclosed, some sources report it was as high as £10m. daSilva was not one of the “sexier” names being thrown around thissummer but he has scored goals at every level including 11 in 16appearances for his country.
Star Performer: Midfield maestro Cesc Fabregas has become critical tothe Arsenal squad at only 20. His passing and reading of the game areexceptional and he’s even added a bit of bite to his game asdemonstrated in the qualifying matches against Sparta Prague. Spartaattempted to boss the Gunners around but Cesc was having none of itand for good measure stung Tomas Repka with a hard tackle of his own.
Keep an eye on: Bacary Sagna. The French full-back is predominantly aright-back, and despite his recent move to the Premier League hasdisplaced Emmanuel Eboue as the first choice right-back. His status iccurrently unknown as he injured his lower back in a 1-0 win overManchester City but if he is back to 100%, he will have an impact forthe Gunners.
How they got here: Finished 4th in La Liga; Defeated AEK Athens inRound 3 of qualifying
Previous Best Showing: Two-time defending UEFA Cup Champions, 2006 UEFA Super Cup winners, first time in Champions League