Group F Permutations: BVB's fate, and ours, is in our hands

Dortmund did their damnedest to complicate the Group F standings, and their 3-1 win over Napoli does just that. It may not be enough to keep them in the Champions League. They might just be the first club to finish with 12 points but fail to advance. They’ll play Marseille, a club that looked to have thrown in the towel against Arsenal if the starting line-up on Tuesday is any indication. It included a number of second-stringers, and it was only when our 1-0 lead looked a little tenuous that they looked to throw on Valbuena and Thauvin to seek the equalizer. With absolutely nothing to play for, perhaps not even pride, they look likely to roll over for Dortmund—but it wouldn’t matter how many goals Dortmund scores. They do have to win, though, to claim the points. More on that in a minute.

Goals against Marseille just don’t count in determining the standings anymore. If we manage a draw or better against Napoli, we’re not only through to the next round, we’ve won the Group. That matters a great deal in determining who we’ll face. Instead of facing the likes of Real Madrid or Bayern right off the bat, we might draw Olympiakos or FC Basel. That’s not something to turn one’s nose up at. Yes, we very nearly upended Bayern last year and have shown that we can beat almost anyone on our day, but there’s little wrong with looking for a favorable draw.

However, should we fall to Napoli, things get a little more interesting. Rule 7.06b of the UEFA Champions League Regulations stipulates that “superior goal difference from the group matches played among the teams in question” if two or more teams are equal on points. At the moment, we have a +2 goal-differential against Dortmund and Napoli. Dortmund is +1. Napoli is -3. Here, then, are a few scenarios (assuming Dortmund defeats Marseille):

  • If we lose to Napoli by three goals or more, we finish 3rd in the group and fall into the Europa League. 
  • If we lose to Napoli by two goals, we end up with a goal-differential of zero, but Napoli ends up at -1, so we would finish in 2nd place behind Dortmund’s +1 (edited after being corrected in comments section below).
  • If we lose to Napoli by one goal, we’re through because we’d still be at +1 and Napoli would be at -2.

Of course, I would like to see us reduce the preceding break-down to absolute rubbish by simply winning. In years past, we’ve had to resort to such shabby, miserly points-hoarding. I don’t see the need for that this time around. I say we swagger into the Stadio San Paolo and smash them. Did you know that they refer to themselves as “I ciucciarelli“? It means “little donkeys.” Where I’m from, we sometimes refer to donkeys as asses. It’s enough to give new meaning to “kick their asses.” Indeed.

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4 thoughts on “Group F Permutations: BVB's fate, and ours, is in our hands

  1. Anonymous

    This is wrong. The premise of measuring goal difference between Arsenal, Dortmund and Napoli can only arise if all of their total goal differences are the same, then the actual matches between them (excl. Marseille) are compared. This is only possible if Arsenal were to lose by 3 goals (giving goal differences of +2 each).Therefore Arsenal will go through if they win, draw, or not lose by any more than 2 goals.Arsenal will progress, and in 1st place too.

  2. Anonymous

    The other Anonymous is correct. If Arsenal loses to Napoli by two goals, Dortmund would win the group with a +1 goal differential, Arsenal would qualify for the knock-out round in second with a 0 goal differential and Napoli would be third with a -1. I also agree that this will not matter as Arsenal will win the group outright!

  3. Anonymous

    looking at my own words reveals why I teach English and not math. A 2-goal loss to Napoli allows us to qualify. In my rush to post, I failed to check the math! Slow down, Shay…

  4. Anonymous

    All of this demonstrates why beating Dortmund or even a tie would have resolved everything or had they scored more against Napoli the first time. Then AW could have rested his weary players for once. This is certainly not the first time that this would or could have mattered. Far too many wasted goal scoring opportunities as was the case on Saturday and many weeks before when playing weaker teams. In this instance, ironically, even beating Marseille by twenty goals would have made no difference, but goals against the other two would have made losing out nearly a mathematical impossibility rather than what we face now.


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