Untangling Champions League Group F: What Arsenal needs to advance
What a performance at the Emirates, where Arsene Wenger’s Gunners made an evening against a Ligue 1 heavyweight look like men-against-boys stuff. Be fooled not by a slightly skinny 2-0 margin for the men of North London; Arsenal was always in control of a match that, we all thought, would put them safely through to another Champions League knockout stage if seen out successfully.
So why do the Gunners still have so very much work ahead?
Short answer, because of hard-to-kill Dortmund’s big night at the Westfalenstadion; Jurgen Klopp’s men are apparently not quite ready to trade out their Champions League membership card for a free token for admittance into Europa League doings.
UEFA Champions League Group F is a bit of a mess now. Or, perhaps better said, it could be a big ol’ messy pileup. Arsenal sits in the top spot, in better shape than the pair of second-place pursuers, Napoli and Dortmund. But there is a scenario threat where this one would need much tiebreaker spelunking to untangle.
Final match day on Dec. 11 has Dortmund at Marseille. (The complete group standings are below, but the full group detail, with all match results is here.) Given Marseille’s apparent lack of interest Tuesday – the French club does need to get its act together in league play, currently in fourth – you’d have to like Dortmund’s chances of digging up a result along the south of France.
Meanwhile, Arsenal will travel to Italy to face Napoli. If Dortmund and Napoli take all three points, then we have the aforementioned mess, with lots of tiebreaker procedures coming into play.
The full list of UEFA rules and regs are here; those tiebreaker procedures can be found on page 10.
Obviously, a stumble from Napoli or Dortmund makes it moot. But in case of the complicated three-way tie, the bottom lines look like this:
Dortmund and Arsenal would have the best chances of going through. Essentially, Napoli would have to beat Arsenal by three goals to change that. (Dortmund has a slight advantage in one of the early, three-way tiebreakers … hence the slight better positioning for Klopp’s club.)
So, 2-0 to Napoli … Gunners go through for a 14th consecutive season. Anything better for Arsenal, same thing, obviously.