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UEFA Champions League: A Closer Look at Arsenal, Olympiakos, and Dinamo Zagreb

What does Group F have to offer? Here is a first look...

Clive Mason/Getty Images

Due to Germany's new representatives in the Champions League, Bayern were able to avoid a group of death for the second consecutive year. In fact, it may be the easiest group of opponents Bayern have received since the 2010/11 Champions League season.

However, all of the clubs Bayern drew are pretty experienced in the UEFA Champions League, and very experienced in European competition. What do these clubs have to offer as Bayern's adversaries in this group stage? Here is a closer look at Arsenal, Olympiakos, and Dinamo Zagreb.


Seasons in the Champions League: 1971/72, 1991/92, 1998/99, 1999/00, 2000/01, 2001/02, 2002/03, 2003/04, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15
Best Finish: Final
Record vs. Bayern: 2 W, 2 D, 4 L
Manager: Arsène Wenger
Key Player: Alexis Sánchez
Biggest Gain: Petr Čech (Chelsea)
Biggest Loss: Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray)
Most Used Formation (2015/16): 4-1-4-1

Arsenal have avoided Bayern entirely early in the Champions League due to continuous group stage escapes. The new draw structure has allowed them to meet right off the bat, and their back-to-back series will surely draw some eyes around Europe. The group stage never seems to be a problem for Arsenal, and they may be happy they do not have to draw Bayern in the knockout stages.

However, Arsenal now has a different team completion than when they faced Bayern a season and a half ago, though they are still one of the more temperate-playing teams in the Barclays Premier League. Alexis Sanchez provided a lot of punch last season when he moved from Barcelona, and the combination of him and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Theo Walcott could be a very troublesome flank combination. Being an Arsène Wenger team, Arsenal are never short on playmakers, and the long-tenured manager has often tries to squeeze as many of them into one team as he can.

What leads to Arsenal's continued inconsistency is its defense. Fitness issues has forced Wenger to continually piece together unstable defenses, including gambling with Nacho Monreal as a center back or isolating Francis Coquelin in midfield. The recruitment of Petr Čech makes the defense a degree better, but Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny are not players who recover well.

Given the rest of the field, Arsenal are justly favored to go through, but the Gunners will likely have to settle as group runners-up again.

Olympiakos CFP Greece

Seasons in the Champions League: 1959/60, 1966/67, 1967/68, 1973/74, 1974/75, 1975/76, 1980/81, 1981/82, 1982/83, 1983/84, 1987/88, 1997/98, 1998/99, 1999/00, 2000/01, 2001/02, 2002/03, 2003/04, 2004/05, 2004/05/ 2005/06, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2009/10, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15
Best Finish: Round of 16
Record vs. Bayern: 0 W, 0 D, 2 L
Manager: Marco Silva
Key Player: Pajtim Kasami
Biggest Gain: Felipe Pardo (SC Braga)
Biggest Loss: Ibrahim Afellay (Barcelona)
Most Used Formation (2015/16): 4-2-3-1

Lower-tier league, relatively limited resources, and yet Olympiakos still knows how to make some noise in European competition. Although they often relied on loan players, the Greek club went toe-to-toe with the likes of SL Benfica, Manchester United, and Juventus the last two years. The Stadio Georgios Karaiskáki is their proud parthenon, losing just six times in their friendly confines over the last three years in all competition – twice in the Champions League.

For as big of a presence they seem to have, it is daunting to see how disorganize they present themselves. They have won nine of the last 10 Greek Super League titles, and yet 16 different managers have walked the touchline during that time. Their disorganization manifests itself on the pitch as well, the side depending more on player harmony than on holding a shape. They do not really move forward in tandem. they don't really defend in tandem. They don't really interchange in tandem. There still is a harmony that exists in the team though, one that resonates stronger against bigger teams.

The constant player shuffle can muffle some of that harmony though. Esteban Cambiasso, for instance, is certainly a great addition, but he will not provide the same single-pivot support the departing Delvin N'Dinga did. To that end, is Felipe Pardo going to be able to take on players like Ibrahim Afellay did? Is Manuel da Costa going to replicate the ball skills of the retired Eric Abidal in a defense that already is prone to turning the ball over in their own end?

Olympiakos have some potent players and aggressive, long-ball tendencies that can open up teams vertically, but whether they will be able to continue their impressive form against top clubs is a pretty big question.

Dinamo Zagreb 

Seasons in the Champions League: 1958/59, 1982/83, 1993/94, 1998/99, 1999/00, 2011/12, 2012/13
Best Finish: Group Stage
Record vs. Bayern: 0 W, 0 D, 0 L
Manager: Zoran Mamić
Key Player: El Arbi Hillel Soudani
Biggest Gain: Marko Rog (RNK Split)
Biggest Loss: Duje Cop (Cagliari)
Most Used Formation (2015/16): 4-2-3-1

Having produced top Croatian talent such as Luka Modrić or Mario Mandžukić, Dinamo Zagreb has a different yet strong pedigree of success. Domestically they are still top dogs, one of the many clubs from lesser leagues that benefit greatly from any European action. Returning to the Champions League is a big step for the club, but vanquishing clubs from Luxembourg, Norway, and Albania is different than taking on clubs from England and Germany.

Though methodical, Dinamo's buildup play can be dull at times. Due to slow decision making, the pace of their play can stall, so the other teams in this group will be able to take advantage of their indecisiveness. That said, they can be electric on the flanks with Junior Fernández and El Arbi Hillel Soudani, but their loose-cannon nature leads to a lot of turnovers and dispossessions.

Manager Zoran Mamić's system has a relatively strong defensive shape. However, the defense does not receive a lot of help from the midfield, something they are able to get away with domestically. Mamić may have his team sit back and counter with its pace up front, but they have not shown a great propensity to do so successfully so far this season.

Dinamo has the ability to put a lot of goals on the scoresheet, but they will get picked apart before that happens.

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