The way I see it – Arsenal's Champions League Group

Last updated : 14 September 2003 By Jason Hogan
Having said that, I have to admit that I am keeping an open mind as to how we will fare this year largely because I personally want us to get our Premiership title back more than anything else.

The group that we have been placed in is far from the ideal one compared to the one that lot from Old Trafford came out with.

I wasn't dismayed so much by the fact that we were pitched in with Inter Milan, it was the fact that we were also pitched in with Dynamo Kiev and then Lokomotiv Moscow. Urrgh!!

I don't think that we have anything to fear where Inter are concerned. Our recent record against Serie A sides has been pretty good. In the last three seasons we have faced Roma, Lazio and Juventus losing only once (to Juventus) in that time.

However, the Russians and the Ukrainians are a slightly different kettle of fish. There is always an element of mystery attached when you face teams from this part of the world and even if you are able to do your homework on them then, more often then not, you then find that these teams are invariably turn out to be better then you thought they were.

We found that to be the case when we played Dynamo Kiev four years ago. They were outstanding against us when we played them at Wembley and indeed when we played them in Kiev.

They may not have the likes of Shevchenko, Rebrov or indeed Oleg Luzhny in their ranks anymore but you can bet that they will be technically well drilled and we cannot take them at all lightly.

Lokomotiv Moscow have invariably lived in the shadows of their more illustrious city rivals, Spartak – but not this year. That fact is a warning in itself.

We did have also had the dubious pleasure of playing in Moscow against Spartak a couple of years ago. The one thing I remember most about that match was that the pitch looked like a cross between a cabbage patch and a toboggan run.

We lost 4-1 that day though I didn't think that the result was true reflection of the game.

The Gunners were 2-1 down but still very much in the game with 15 minutes to go. We had a couple of chances to equalise but we didn't take them and two late strikes from Spartak prove to be decisive.

Whilst our record in the Baltic's isn't much to write home about, the good news is that we will not have to go over to those places in the height of winter this year so the weather and the conditions should suit us a little better.

Still, if the Gunners are to get out of this group, I think that we must adhere to the golden Champions League rule – we MUST win our home games. I know it's a cliché but I honestly think that we cannot afford to do anything less.

If we manage to do that then I agree with those that have said in recent times that the knockout format could well suit us. Why? Simple. We are probably one of the few teams in the competition that is genuinely capable of scoring goals against anyone, anywhere and that is a useful ability to have.

Over all, I don't think that we have as much to lose this year as some might make out. I think there are certain clubs (some of them being VERY close to home) that have more to lose than us.

It's almost a guarantee that the Gunners will have a roller coaster ride in Europe. Let's hope that the roller coaster stops in Germany at the end of next May.