As a Goal columnist, Carlo Ancelotti will provide his expertise and insight on this season’s Champions League through an exclusive series of columns and videos.
Carlo Ancelotti believes that Arsenal are already effectively out of this season’s Champions League, arguing that Arsene Wenger and his players will pay a heavy price for underestimating Dinamo Zagreb.
The Gunners are playing in Europe’s premier club competition for the 18th consecutive season, a streak only bettered by Real Madrid (19).
However, while they made it out of the group stage for the past 11 years, they are now facing an early elimination, after surprisingly losing both their tournament opener against Dinamo Zagreb (2-1) and their subsequent home clash with Olympiacos (3-2).
Those results have left the north London outfit in the unenviable position of needing to pick up points from their upcoming double-header with Group F leaders Bayern Munich in order to keep their qualification hopes alive.
Ancelotti is pessimistic about Arsenal’s chances of getting anything out of their games against the German titleholders and suspects that they will be punished for taking victory for granted against a Dinamo side that had not registered a win in the Champions League since 1999.
“Arsenal are practically out because they must now face Bayern twice,” the Italian coach told Goal.
“I don’t agree with those that say that Arsenal have consistently disappointed in Europe, because they have been present in the Champions League for so many years. I just believe that the problem was the first game.
“The Gunners underestimated Dinamo Zagreb. Because of Dinamo’s CV, Arsenal miscalculated the challenge facing them.
“Dinamo had not won in the Champions League for many years and this affected Arsenal’s concentration. I believe that Dinamo were underestimated not only by the coach but also by the players.”
Wenger has come under mounting pressure in recent seasons because of Arsenal’s failure to make the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the past four years, as well as their continued inability to sustain a Premier League title challenge.
However, Ancelotti does not believe that the French manager, who has been at the helm of the Gunners since 1996, is in danger of being axed.
“There’s still the FA Cup, and they’re well placed in the league,” the former Chelsea boss argued. “As a result, I don’t think that Wenger’s job is at risk.”
Still, Ancelotti does not hold out much hope of Wenger masterminding a victory over Bayern, who are arguably the form team in Europe with a 100 per cent record in the Bundesliga and Champions League.
Ancelotti was impressed by Arsenal’s counter-attacking prowess in their 3-0 win over Manchester United before the international break but he is not sure if they will see enough of the ball to hurt Pep Guardiola’s slick, passing side.
“I see Bayern as favourites,” the 56-year-old admitted. “Arsenal need to pick up points against Bayern but it will be very hard.
“You can never take the ball away from Bayern because, by now, it’s in their DNA. But where you can hurt them is on the counter-attack. And, as seen against United, Arsenal’s speed on the break can give them an advantage.
“I saw impressive pace up front with Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil. It’s this weapon that can upset Bayern.
“But I still think it will be very hard for Arsenal.”