The return of the Champions League is always a cause for excitement, and a trip to Croatia is a suitably testing start for Arsenal – who will be hoping to avoid an initial slip-up in a group stage draw that is perhaps slightly kinder than those they have enjoyed (or endured) in recent seasons.
The Gunners have made it out of the group stages on the last 12 occasions – but getting much further than that has become a real issue for them, in part because coming second in their group has often handed them a more difficult last-16 tie. In that regard they have work to do considering Bayern Munich are also in their group – but finishing in the top two should be eminently possible, and claiming maximum points against Zagreb and Olympiacos will enable them to put pressure on the German champions for that all important top seeding.
Zagreb should not be overlooked, however, with the Maksimir a difficult place to go and Zagreb top of the Croatian league after nine games. They are also unbeaten over the last 11 months (a run spanning 40 games), although the Gunners are undoubtedly a stiffer test than Zoran Mamic’s side are usually subjected to.
“At a full Maksimir Stadium we are confident,” defender Leonardo Sigali said at the weekend. “Arsenal need to take us seriously or they are in for a surprise. We are creating chances and looking dangerous.”