Placed in pot two for the Champions League group-stage draw, there was a distinct chance Arsenal were going to be pooled with a continental heavyweight and given their tendency to pull Bayern Munich out of the hat in this competition, their pairing together in Group F came as no surprise.
Obviously, the Gunners are now second favourites to win their mini-league, which, theoretically, means they’ll face a tougher round-of-16 tie, should they qualify, of course.
Olympiacos, another side magnetised to Arsenal in the Champions League group stage, and Dynamo Zagreb making up the remainder of their pool, progress will be expected, though hopes of going on to claim the trophy for the first time have been massively dented by Bayern’s presence.
They’re a microscopic 1/15 to advance into the knockout round and 5/2 to do so ahead of Pep Guardiola’s Bavarian behemoth, who assume 35/100 favouritism to take the laurels.
Finishing second in their group has often spelled the end of Arsenal’s Champions League aspirations in the past – they were famously forced to play Bayern in the last-16 in 2012/13 and 2013/14, losing both times, after claiming the runners up spot in their groups – but this term the outlook is a little different.
The new seeding system has meant the champions of Russia, Portugal and the Netherlands have claimed the prime position in three of the groups, while Chelsea, who Arsenal can’t draw in the first knockout round, have another.
Beaten finalists of last season, Juventus, face stiff competition from Manchester City (another team prohibited from facing the Gunners until at least the quarters) to win their group, while Paris Saint-Germain’s pairing with Real Madrid means only one is a potential last-16 adversary of Arsene Wenger’s side.
Should City upstage Juve while all the other favourites go on to claim first place in their respective groups, the north Londoners will, realistically, have only Real and Barcelona to fear when the competition resumes after Christmas, with their obligatory Bayern meeting safely taken care of in the group stage.
They’ll stand as much chance of drawing them as they would Atletico Madrid/Benfica from Group C, or one of Zenit/Porto/Lyon from Group H.