Defeat in the Champions League: not as bad a portent as one might think


Arsenal not as bad as Man U – especially in Europe

By Tony Attwood

A couple of days ago we ran a little piece comparing this season with the Unbeaten Season of 2003/4, and noting the similarities thus far.   Included in that article was a table showing where Arsenal stood in the Premier League after seven games in recent years, and then with where the club stood in the Unbeaten Season.

That table of year by year summaries is of course still there but here’s the simple comparison of this season and 20 years ago.  The figures as we noted then, are remarkably similar.   Arsenal are currently on the same number of points as the club was after seven games in that glorious season 20 years ago.


AFC Pos Season W D L F A GD Pts Top Diff End
3 2023/24 5 2 0 15 6 9 17 18 -1 ?
1 2003/04 5 2 0 14 5 9 17 17 0 1st


Of course what we didn’t look at was the Champions League in the Unbeaten Season, but had we done there would have been a bit of a warning about what could happen – and indeed did happen last night.

For aside from (obviously) doing astonishingly well in the League in the Unbeaten Season, Arsenal also did astonishingly badly in the Champions League, the opening results being a 0-3 home defeat to Inter Milan, a goalless draw with Lokomotiv Moscow away from home, and then 2-1 away defeat to Dynamo Kiev in the third game.

And yet all the while the unbeaten-ness of the Unbeaten Season continued in the League.  And at least thus far that pattern is being repeated 20 years later – although the club is now doing slightly better in the Champions League (having won the first game easily).  But we seem to come down to earth for the second match, last night.

So yes, last night was a huge disappointment, but given the choice, I’d sooner have Arsenal top of the Premier League than top of their Champions League group.  After all, my season ticket includes all the Premier League games at Arsenal Stadium, but only includes the three group stage games of the Champions League.

And of course we can console ourselves with the fact that no matter how disappointing last night looked I am sure the result doesn’t hurt as much as Manchester United’s defeat to Galatasaray, bringing back the memories of that famous away game when the home supporters were at Istanbul Airport as the United players arrived, with their “Welcome to Hell” banners in 1993 after which a highly petulant Sir Alex Ferguson imperiously announced that Manchester United would never return to Turkey (suggesting obviously that either he would fix the draw, or he’d step down as manager if the two clubs were selected for the same group again).

Nor indeed has Mikel Arteta’s response been as fanatical and extreme as Sir Alex Ferguson’s response was.  In fact what he said after the defeat reflected totally the difference in style and quality that there is and always has been between Arsenal and Manchester United.    Ferguson responded by suggesting that somehow he could fix the Champions League draw.   Arteta responded to defeat last night by saying, “let’s not put excuses. First of all congratulations to Lens, they are a really good side, really well coached, we knew it was going to be a really tough match, I think we started the game and straight away got a grip of the game, scored the goal, the most difficult thing and we were in total control of the game. One isolated situation we conceded and it was game on.

“We started the second-half really good again, have a huge chance with Leo to put it two-one. Not only that we were preparing the subs as well, Tomiyasu has a big chance and when they go the other way they just score the goal. The difference between today and PSV is clear. The difference was in the boxes, we had four or five big chances and didn’t put them away, and we didn’t defend the boxes well enough.

“It’s true that there were moments in the second half we struggled to be more a threat in the final third, and attack certain spaces, otherwise they defend those numbers really good and that’s something to take for the next game.”

And in conclusion he added, “It was great to play in and embrace that moment and play in that atmosphere.”  What a difference in style between our manager now and their manager then.

But we have to return to the result.  Arsenal lost, and now the table reads…


Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 RC Lens 2 1 1 0 3 2 1 4
2 Arsenal 2 1 0 1 5 2 3 3
3 Sevilla 2 0 2 0 3 3 0 2
4 PSV Eindhoven 2 0 1 1 2 6 -4 1


And by and large I’d say that isn’t quite as bad as


Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Bayern Munich 2 2 0 0 6 4 2 6
2 Galatasaray 2 1 1 0 5 4 1 4
3 Kopenhagen 2 0 1 1 3 4 -1 1
4 Manchester United 2 0 0 2 5 7 -2 0


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3 Replies to “Defeat in the Champions League: not as bad a portent as one might think”

  1. Arsenal was out muscled and the weaklings went missing as usual. Certain players like the Arsenal captain and Viera cannot take a kick.

  2. Sevilla – PSV draw softened the blow. There are still 4 games to reach the top spot.

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