I had initially thought I will do this at the end of the group phase. But we have achieved qualification and top spot, so it seems worthwhile to have a look at other groups as well. Here are some highlights from the group tables after 5 games,
• Arsenal on 13 points are joint leaders in points terms with Chelsea and Bordeaux.
• These three teams are also the only unbeaten teams in the tournament. Even Barcelona and United have lost.
• Arsenal with 12 goals are joint leaders in scoring terms. Madrid and Fiorentina are the other teams on 12. United have scored 7, Chelsea 9 and Barcelona 5!
• Arsenal’s 8 is the best goal difference in the tournament so far. Chelsea are next with 7.
• Liverpool have crashed out. Inter, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Milan can still go out.
I know our group was relatively easy. But so was Chelsea’s. If the likes of Olympiacos and Alkmaar are not considered tough opponents, the same can be said for Rubin Kazan, Marseille, Besiktas, and Dynamo Kiev.
United haven’t looked convincing at all, have they? Their second string lost at home to a team like Besiktas who had 1 point in four games. Their first team conceded 3 at home against CSKA. Chelsea have only managed two 1-0 victories away from home.
Madrid have spent hundreds of millions but they haven’t set the football world on fire. Juventus have spent big on the likes of Diego, Melo etc. But they aren’t dominating any competition. Barca have spent enormously on Zlatan but they too have to live with a couple of scoreless draws.
I know we have a habit of conceding sloppy goals. I also realize we have let ourselves down a few times. But the improvement over last season is clear for everyone to see. We can certainly do well to improve our attitude and desire at times. There is room for improvement in maintaining the shape of the team, defensive tactics and developing a killer instinct. But these are all achievable as long as all concerned have genuine belief and will to win.
Some fans still don’t think this squad is good enough. I am more worried if some of the players also think that way. I guess that is an argument that can only be countered by actually winning something.