Examining Arsenal’s Champions League draw: not as “easy” as it looks

There will undoubtedly be a lot of articles over the next day or so that label Arsenal’s Champions League draw as “easy”.

In truth, it is anything but.

Shakhtar Donetsk, Sporting Braga and Partizan Belgrade are not big names in European football, but once the novelty factor of Eduardo’s early reunion with Arsenal subsides a couple of harsh truths will emerge from this draw.

For starters, our boys have a lot traveling to do.

Braga might not be too far away (and have a unique and beautiful stadium) but Belgrade is while Donetsk is the second-most Eastern club in the Champions League after Rubin Kazan.

At this stage of the tournament I consider travel to be far more of a concern than the quality of the opposition because of the knock-on effect long trips have on the following Premier League fixtures.

A quick look at the league fixture list shows that five of the six games we have following Champions League outings are away from home and exceptionally difficult games: Sunderland after Matchday 1, Chelsea after Matchday 2, Manchester City after Matchday 3, Aston Villa after Matchday 5 and Manchester United after Matchday 6.

Things are kicked off with a home game to Braga on Matchday 1, which should see three points secured.

The only home game, against Newcastle after Matchday 4, follows the most difficult fixture of the group, Shakhtar Donetsk away. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see points dropped.

The thought of playing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge three days after a long trip to Belgrade is a scary one, particularly as they have a laughably easy corresponding fixture at home to mighty MSK Zilina.

Eduardo’s return to Emirates will come three days before a trip to Manchester City on Matchday 3 while Braga away comes four days before a visit to Villa Park.

Perhaps the most important thing for Arsenal to do is qualify early.

With an away trip to Old Trafford following a home game against Partizan Belgrade on Matchday 6 fielding a reserve team could be significant, particularly if United are also comfortably through.

Arsenal should qualify from Group H comfortably, as we usually do, but the impacts of some very long trips and awkward fixtures may be felt domestically.

As such, any mention of the word “easy” to describe this group would be naive.

Thoughts?

Have your say on Arsenal’s Champions League draw by leaving a comment.

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17 Responses to “Examining Arsenal’s Champions League draw: not as “easy” as it looks”

  1. jkColombia
    August 26, 2010 at 9:05 pm #

    I think the same way, long trips, Shakhtar Donetsk is not a new team in europe, particullary with a well job done in the UEFA “Europa” League, but i still think that Arsenal will come through in this group, a tricky one…

    For other groups, the A and G groups are the tough ones…

  2. colin humber
    August 26, 2010 at 9:23 pm #

    glad someone else has noticed this.i”ve read too many blogs saying we have an easy draw.pride comes before a fall.lets just qualify first.

  3. Nick
    August 26, 2010 at 9:54 pm #

    Pulease! Belgrade is 1000 miles from London, maybe two hours in the air. Donetsk is a little over three. After what we know about how the club manages every aspect of their lives, don’t go on about the long flights. This is not the Bolton of airlines, Ryanair, they’ll be taking. Complete nonsense – now the pre and post games is a more serious issue, but not air time

  4. maddo
    August 26, 2010 at 10:18 pm #

    Don’t worry about a thing, everthing little thing will be alright. We can only come first or second. It makes no difference in the last 16

  5. GunnerBoss
    August 26, 2010 at 11:43 pm #

    Excellent stuff ANDY

  6. jleau
    August 26, 2010 at 11:56 pm #

    I won’t debate easy vs. hard but I can’t imagine fans could have hoped for a better draw. It would be stunning for Arsenal not to go through. Yes there is a little bit of extra travel, would fans want to trade Partisan for Milan?

    The fixtures after the games are irrelevant. Those games are going to be played regardless of which group Arsenal was drawn. Unless the expectation was UEFA just letting Arsenal bypass the group phase because their kits are really cool there is no room for complaints.

    I’m thrilled.

  7. Darragh
    August 27, 2010 at 4:20 am #

    Well Nick, you’re coming off a little foolish here, travel just doesn’t mean air time, there are commutes to and from airports plus other little things that significantly blow out travel times. Also, I think your timings are a bit wrong – it is a two hour trip via flight to areas like Stockholm and Scandinavia from London. Belgrade and Donetsk are much further away than those destinations. Andy is correct to point out that these flight sap energy from people.

  8. ASNLthruNthru
    August 27, 2010 at 7:28 am #

    Belgrade is 2 hours, 2:15 at most.Ukraine 3 hours.Point is whether our games are on tuesday or wednesday.As ” Arsense” says returning on the thursday from the further destinations reduces preparation time for saturday games.The chelski game is a sunday kick off which is less stressful,at least.The shitty game is a sunday game as is the Newcastle game.By that time we should have a 6 point lead over chelski ,9 over tha mancs and 20 over the spuds,so what,s all the fuss about!!?!

  9. Andrew Weber
    August 27, 2010 at 8:03 am #

    @ Nick – You actually make a good point re: the air time but as Darragh pointed out (sort of) it’s more the travel time I’m concerned with. And again, as you touch on, it’s about the impact that has on our following fixture.

    I think we’ve been a little unlucky with the trips to Serbia and Donetsk: they will be grueling games regardless of the quality of the opposition and we’re likely to put in flat performances the game after. I’m a little concerned about it.

  10. Andrew Weber
    August 27, 2010 at 8:08 am #

    @ jleu – You’re quite right but an element of the draw is finding which UCL fixtures will be played before the Premier League ones. Playing Belgrade away rather than at home before Chelsea is much more inconvenient, particularly as Chelsea have their easiest fixture before they play us. The draw matters in this way, I feel.

  11. Andrew Weber
    August 27, 2010 at 8:12 am #

    To further my point, here are Alex Ferguson’s comments on their draw:

    “You can’t complain about that, it’s a good draw for us. You always look at the travelling side of it and the only one that’s of any great distance is the trip to Turkey.”

  12. Shard
    August 27, 2010 at 8:36 am #

    I’d rather not hear anything ‘Sir’ Alex has to say. Why can’t he boycott the entire media rather than just the BBC?

    I think the travel times really do matter. However, it is what it is, and we have to deal with it. I think we can IF and i mean IF we don’t get many injuries.

    And EDUARDOOOOOOooooo… fans can get to sing his name properly one more time.

  13. Shard
    August 27, 2010 at 8:38 am #

    On an aside.. Barca got 2 of the 3 teams I was hoping we’d draw.. And I was fearful we might get the 3rd..Rubin Kazan.. Thank God for small mercies.

  14. Kaushik
    August 27, 2010 at 7:34 pm #

    Definitely not the easiest of draws. Generally the unknown teams rattle the power houses of European football. Remember Barca were outplayed by Rubin Kazan last season. Also the travelling is another outlook to this draw. And more importantly we play top teams after every champ league fixture meaning the depth of the squad will be tested to the max. Having fit players for all these matches is really significant. We have sufficient cover and talent in all depts and fielding an above average team for these groups should be enough to qualify for the knock outs. Wenger will know wat’s best for the team and I have a feeling the Gunners will make the shift around this time to claim the awaited European glory

  15. Pepy
    September 2, 2010 at 8:24 am #

    I can’t believe you talking about haw trip is gonna be long!?
    Think about haw you will easily loose both matches in Doneck and Belgrade!
    For sure, you are to much cocky! We will bit you just to learn a lesson that you are not big name in euro football!
    You gonna out of yourself after these horrible trips, Ehe!

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