Statistical Analysis

New stats reveal why Arsenal continue to struggle in the Champions League

Mon, 5 December 2016, 10:32

When Arsene Wenger walked off at the end of Arsenal's 2-2 draw with PSG in the last round of Champions League fixtures, he won’t have just been upset his side conceded a late goal.

Lucas Moura’s 77th minute strike put the French side ahead of the Gunners by virtue of having a better head-to-head – most likely consigning Arsenal to a second placed finish in Group A for the fifth season in succession.

While Arsenal have a proud record of qualifying for the knockout phase of the competition, having made the stage every year since the competition was restructured in 2003/04, their ability to get beyond the round of 16 is not so impressive.

Consistently Qualifying In Second Place Halting Gunners Progress

The Gunners haven’t won a Champions League knockout tie since 2010, falling at the first hurdle six years in a row. Finishing second in their group, which they have done on five of those occasions looks to be the reason.

It has seen them handed some unenviable ties, with Barcelona and Bayern Munich (both twice) among the European heavyweights they would have avoided should they have finished top.

The Gunners haven’t won a Champions League knockout tie since 2010, falling at the first hurdle six years in a row. Finishing second in their group, which they have done on five of those occasions looks to be the reason.

It has seen them handed some unenviable ties, with Barcelona and Bayern Munich (both twice) among the European heavyweights they would have avoided should they have finished top.

Arsenal’s failure to get through is mirrored across the Champions League, with 72.11% of group winners since 2003/04 getting through their R16 tie to reach the quarter-final.

With the advantage of playing at home in the second leg, as well as playing against supposedly less fancied opposition, the benefits to finishing first in the group are obvious.

In 2013/14, all eight group winners progressed from their R16 tie – a year where Arsenal were knocked-out by supposedly then European champions, Bayern Munich.

Furthermore, group winners dominate the entirety of the knockout phases.

Since 2003/04, 21 out of 26 finalists (80.77%) topped their group, with 10 of the 13 winners (76.92%) coming from teams that won their group.

The Special One Defying The Odds

Only Porto, Liverpool and Inter Milan have lifted the trophy having finished second earlier in the competition, with Inter’s win over Bayern in 2010 the only occasion where the final was made up of two second-placed sides.

Jose Mourinho, the self-acclaimed “Special One” was at the helm when both Porto and Inter upset the odds to finish second in the group and still go on and win the top prize in European football.

The Special One Defying The Odds

This could spell bad news for Arsenal, and Manchester City, who are confirmed as coming in second.

However, these stats make for very good reading for Leicester City, winners of Group G after just five games.

With an easier draw and a second-leg at the raucous King Power Stadium – who’s to say the Foxes’ fairytale can’t continue even longer?

The Special One Defying The Odds

Three of England’s four sides are safely through, but for Tottenham, the best they can hope for is third, which brings with it a Europa League spot.

They face CSKA Moscow in a showdown at Wembley on Wednesday to decide which of them gets that second chance at glory, but the stats suggest Spurs shouldn’t get their hopes up.

Since the rebrand and restructuring of the UEFA Cup to the Europa League in 2009/10, only 5.36% of Champions League dropdowns have lifted the trophy, with 39.29% of teams exiting at the first possible opportunity, in the round of 32.

A further 28.57% have been knocked out in the last 16 – meaning nearly 70% of clubs don’t even make the quarter finals.

After the disappointment of leaving the Champions League, teams have struggled to motivate themselves in the less glamourous competition, and the sudden extra complications of Thursday night games have often seen managers shuffle their packs and field second strings.

In both 2012/13 and 2014/15, five of the eight teams to drop down have lost in the R32, with no side getting beyond the quarter-final in the latter of those campaigns.

However, the former Champions League sides that do take it seriously tend to get some real success.

Three of the seven Europa Leagues have been won by teams that only entered the competition after Christmas, with six of the fourteen finalists having dropped down from the premier tournament.

For Tottenham, whose relatively small squad has already struggled with the extra complication of juggling European football and staying in the title race, the added hassle of the Europa League might not be worth the bother.

Of the last five English teams to drop into the Europa, four have failed to get beyond the round of 16.

The other side, Chelsea, did win it – which may not be that much consolation for Spurs as they look ahead to the possibility of Thursday night football returning in the new year.

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Statistical Analysis discovers hidden trends and values in major gambling events by deciphering both contemporary stats and historical data. We derive our probabilities from history, not just betting odds, so you don't have to.

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