Friday, 29 August 2014

5 thoughts on the Champions League draw

Most fans’ views on Twitter are very odd
Of all the bizarre complaints, people who were asking not to draw Olympiacos were the strangest.

If you’re somebody who actually goes to matches, every person I know who’s been to Athens (whether for Arsenal or just for a holiday) has said what a great city it is - even if they’ve been multiple times.

If you don’t go to matches, you should have wanted to draw Olympiacos because they were one of the weakest teams in their pot and so were a plum draw for Arsenal.

The conclusion I’ve come to is simple: people are talking rubbish on Twitter. Who knew?

The fixtures could have fallen better
Although the draw was a favourable one which Arsenal should qualify from, the way the fixtures fall is not. Playing away in Dortmund just three days after a tough Premier League game against Manchester City is not ideal. Similarly, having the most important fixture (Galatasaray at home) sandwiched between games against Spurs and Chelsea is not what I would have chosen.

As I wrote in my season preview, Arsenal have an atrocious record playing away after playing Champions League midweek. It’s already been born out by dropped points against Everton. Playing away after five out of six of the group games could well be what kills any small hope of Arsenal winning the League.

The TV pairing system is patently ridiculous
I find it very strange that people complain about the coefficient system but not about UEFA’s use of TV pairings when making the draw. Because Dortmund are paired with Schalke for TV coverage, once Chelsea had drawn Schalke there was a one in three chance Arsenal would draw Dortmund again. That’s not a random draw and it’s why we keep seeing the same fixtures over and over again.

Sure, hate on the coefficient system for reinforcing the status quo - but the Champions League would be more interesting if the groups weren’t so similar. And the worst part it is that the TV pairings are done for TV, but it actually makes for worse TV. It’s hard to get people excited about Arsenal vs Dortmund for the fifth time in three years.

The Nouveau Riche have changed the Champions League
It used to be the case that winning your group would have you nailed on for a favourable draw in the last 16. Now, with Bayern Munich and Man City in together, along with PSG and Barcelona, it’s eminently plausible that Arsenal could win the group and still find themselves up against one of the best teams in Europe in the last 16. Incidentally, Arsenal really need to get to the last eight this season - one more season of PSG and Dortmund doing well and Arsenal will almost certainly lose their spot in pot one.

There’s going to be a lot of ticketless Gooners in Brussels

Take everybody who ever goes to a European away game tweeting about how much they’ve enjoyed it, very cheap train tickets midweek to Brussels, and a small Anderlecht ground and what do you get? Far too many Gooners planning to go to Anderlecht.

It’s lucky that British people are so fond of the EU as I’m sure people will enjoy exploring the EU institutions instead of watching Arsenal!

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