After the opening game of the Premier League season, the knives were already out for Arsene Wenger and his Arsenal side after a summer without strengthening in the transfer market and a home defeat to Aston Villa.

Fast forward to the start of October and the Gunners have signed Mesut Ozil, sit top of the Premier League and, just as pertinently, sit top of their extremely tough-looking UEFA Champions League group.

After back-to-back impressive wins over Marseille and Napoli, the question needs to be asked of the other Premier League teams: Can they match Arsenal for impact in this season’s competition?

All three of the other teams, of course—Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs—have had managerial changes over the summer, along with the usual ins and outs of the transfer window. Even so, they are all by now Champions League staples and, with the exception of City who have stuttered in their two campaigns amongst Europe’s elite, are all routinely expected to progress to the knockout stages.

Arsenal, though, are the only English side to have started with two wins, despite arguably facing the most difficult pair of games, and perhaps even the hardest all-round group.

United continue to go through a small winless patch under David Moyes, though in truth, an away point at Shakhtar Donetsk is hardly a poor result, even if it could have been more. Chelsea’s unexpected defeat to Basel and Manchester City’s routine dismantling by Bayern Munich seemed to come for different reasons; while Mourinho is still assembling his bloated squad into his best team, Bayern are simply on another plane to most sides at present.

Qualification for the knock-out stages should present no problem for Chelsea or Manchester United.

Each side now faces home-and-away games against the group opposition they have not yet faced; for United that means Real Sociedad in Group A. Although the Spanish side have yet to pick up a point in the group, they are a wonderfully capable counter-attacking side and, if Moyes does not have his team set up accordingly to stem the support to Carlos Vela, a slip-up could easily be on the cards. Four points from the two games should be enough for the Red Devils, presuming they have another positive result to come thereafter.

Chelsea face Schalke in what are likely to be the two games which decide the outcome of Group E, but again, most would expect Chelsea to take at least one win from those two games, if not more. The defeat to Basel was a set-back but it shouldn’t prevent Jose Mourinho guiding the Blues through, providing they win their remaining two home games.

Manchester City, however, face the two matches next which will likely determine their fate in Group D, after two years of failing to get out of the group phase of the Champions League. Home and away fixtures against CSKA Moscow will be far from easy for City, but given the relative depth and ability of the two squads, the English side should be favourites from the start.

After a strong start to their Russian Premier League campaign, CSKA have not been in great form recently and are struggling somewhat in the absence of key attackers Alan Dzagoev and Seydou Doumbia. Whether those two return in time for the games against City could have a big impact on CSKA’s ability to take points.

And so to Arsenal. The Gunners face back-to-back tests which will not only determine whether they can go on to finish top of Group F or not, but also which might give an early indication of how far they can go in this season’s Champions League. They face none other than last season’s runners-up, Borussia Dortmund. The Bundesliga side need no introduction to most fans of European football by now and have a huge array of attacking talent at their disposal.

Arsene Wenger’s men will have a huge challenge to go unbeaten for the entire group phase, but they will also believe they have the form and their own attacking artillery to trouble any back line.

It’s still early days in the group stages of the Champions League but Arsenal certainly have the depth and quality in the middle of the park to dominate matches against most opposition, and seem to have a belief and confidence in themselves which hasn’t always been apparent over the past few years.

An interesting month lies ahead in the biggest club competition around, and one which might tell fans of English sides much more about which side can carry the fight to Europe’s finest, which was so sorely lacking from Premier League representatives last season.

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