Hearts have been down since Arsenal’s loss to Napoli yesterday, a result which forced Arsenal to the second spot and throws up a potential clash against European juggernauts in the round of 16. While some pundits have used that to buttress their point that the Gunners aren’t still strong enough to challenge at the top level, Arsenal’s key midfielder Mathieu Flamini has hailed the Gunners for making it out of the death zone alive.
He said: “It was one of the hardest groups because you have a team like Napoli who have not qualified and we have finished second, level with them on 12 points
“We will play a big team now but we knew that anyway. If you want to go to the final and try to win something, you have to play all the big teams.
“I do not really have a preference, so we will see what happens with the draw.”
Well said Flamini. Qualifying out of a group that had Napoli, Dortmund and Marseille isn’t a mean feat. Two of Arsenal’s opponents have a very impregnable home record. While Arsenal were able to demystify that of Dortmund, they couldn’t do the same to Napoli. The fact that Arsenal won at Dortmund is enough reason for them to be respected. Real Madrid despite the presence of top class players went to Dortmund twice last season and lost on both occasions while Arsenal went there this season and emerged with victory. It speaks volume of the Gunners strength.
Usually, every manager would say 12 points will secure qualification and in some cases top spot (Chelsea had only 11 point) but in the group of death, all three teams had 12 points but one still had to drop off to the Europa league, that speaks volume of how competitive the group was. I am sure other top European teams would have toiled to qualify from that group.
About fears that the Gunners might be drawn with a top team in the round of 16, well, it is very likely and if the Gunners must emerge champions, they will have to play the best and what the difference does it make whether they play them in the round of 16, 8, 4, or in the final?