The season, so far
Arsenal have endured a fairly interesting start to the season. The Gunners are struggling to advance to the knockout phase of the Champions League competition following three losses out of four matches played in the group stage. Defeats away to Dinamo Zagreb and home to Olympiacos put tremendous pressure on Arsenal to get results in both matches against German giants Bayern Munich. One win and one loss against Bayern has kept the Gunners at the bottom of the group with two games remaining.
The north London club also suffered an early exit from the Capital One Cup. While they did beat rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the third round of the tournament, Arsenal were sent packing after a shocking 3-0 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday (it must be said, however, that manager Arsene Wenger generally likes to give his younger players time on the pitch during these matches).
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While those two competitions have been disappointing, the Gunners are still very much alive in the Barclays Premier League title race. After a dozen league matches, Arsenal have only lost two games and are currently sitting in second place in the table – tied with Manchester City in points, but behind on goal difference.
Morale has fluctuated quite a bit during the current campaign. Although I don’t believe the Capital One Cup loss hurt the team too badly, the disappointing Champions League results have certainly had a negative effect. Nevertheless, the players have not let their hiccups in the European tournament impact their Premier League run.
The road ahead
Arsenal has nine matches on the schedule between now and New Year’s Day. Of these games, seven are league matches and two are the last Champions League group stage fixtures. The Gunners are going to need some help from Bayern Munich if they are to advance to the knockout phase. Bayern need to beat Olympiacos on Nov. 24, and then Arsenal need to record a victory over Dinamo and thump Olympiacos away from home by at least two goals.
Arsenal does not exactly have a stellar record facing Olympiacos in Greece over the last six years. The Gunners have played the Greek side three times away from home since 2009 and have lost all three matches. However, the north London club have gone into these three matches having already advanced to the knockout round and have thus not always sent their best players.