Arsenal traveled to Naples to face Italian outfit Napoli in the final game of the group stages. Their qualification was nearly guaranteed, and only a heavy defeat by 3 goals would have seen them go out of the competition. That nearly happened last night as Arsenal managed to scrape through following their 2-0 loss. That result, coupled with Borussia Dortmund’s last gasp win at Marseille saw the group shape up interestingly.
Dortmund, Arsenal and Napoli all ended with 12 points each, however it was the German club with won the group followed by Arsenal, by the virtue of goal difference. Napoli were the unfortunate ones who missed out despite their 2-0 win last night. The final table sees Arsenal qualify as group runners-up, which sees them pitted against group winners in the Round of 16.
That means Arsenal will face anyone between Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint Germain or Athletico Madrid when the draws are made. Facing one of these teams so early in the competition is something every club wants to avoid, and reserve it for the latter stages, but the Gunners now will have to play them in a bid to go into the next round.
Arsenal are no strangers to this situation as the last two times they finished 2nd in their group, they were pitted against Barcelona, and lost out to them in the Round of 16. Manager Arsene Wenger highlights this situation as reported by Metro, with Wenger confessing, “Of course, to finish second makes the potential draw more difficult. In the last four or five years, we have always had a difficult draw, so maybe this year we will be a bit luckier,”.
“We regret we are not top. That is the frustration because you feel it was open to do better. But it could have been worse tonight as well.”
“If you look at the teams, you know we will have a difficult draw. On other hand, we qualified for the 14th consecutive year for the last 16. Maybe number 14 will give us a bit of luck”
Who do you hope to see Arsenal facing in the next round; and given their form this season, will they come up short once again against them, or will they upset one of these group toppers this time around?