Arsenal have not made an impression on the latter stages of the Champions League for a number of seasons now, so there will be a greater sense of determination about the club as they go to Dinamo Zagreb for their opening match of the 2015-16 competition.
Unlike the last four seasons, the Gunners have not had to make it through a qualifier in order to reach this stage, having achieved third place in the Premier League last term, which for the most part was a successful one. The biggest disappointment, however came against Monaco in the last 16, producing a shockingly naïve first leg performance, the consequences of which were that they were left with a little too much to do in the return match.
The memory of that tie will still haunt Arsene Wenger, and he will perhaps be cursing his luck that the new seeding rules for this season have resulted in them being put in the same group as Bayern Munich. To put a positive swing on it, that match-up does represent what could be welcome test of strength for his side, who will still fancy their chances of making it through alongside the German champions, although Olympiakos, who make up Group F, can never be written off.
Dinamo Zagreb are the rank outsiders, so any points dropped here would come as a major disappointment to Arsenal. The hosts failed to make it through a Europa League group that contained Celtic last season, but did get the better of Albanian club Skenderbeu by a comfortable margin in their qualifier. Among those who represent the Croatian champions are former Manchester United striker Angelo Henriquez and defender Gordon Schildenfeld, who played for his country in Euro 2012.
Since losing to West Ham United against the odds on the opening weekend of the season, Arsenal have responded well to pick up 10 points from the last 12 available, keeping three clean sheets in the process, though doubts still remain in some quarters over whether they have the depth in their squad to challenge for the very biggest honours. Both strikers were on the score-sheet against Stoke City on Saturday as they claimed a much-needed home win.
Despite that, criticism did come their way for the number of chances that went begging, but that was harsh given the nature of the display, which was a dominant one and by far their most convincing of the campaign thus far. Before the Potters visited North London, Arsenal had lacked fluency in the final third and had seen too many passes go astray and not enough chances created as a result, so Saturday was a major step in the right direction.
It sets them up well for this game, where they could decide to go unchanged. Tomas Rosicky, Danny Welbeck and Jack Wilshere are still unavailable due to injury.
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