Arsenal Focus – Wenger’s men looking to make a dent in Champions League

A shattering collapse in Italy in the first leg of their round of sixteen match against AC Milan last season was enough to end Arsenal’s Champions League dream for another year. In truth, few fancied Arsene Wenger’s side to make any impression among the continent’s elite and, despite a spirited comeback attempt back at home in North London, the Gunners fell short and crashed out. The aim will be to better last year’s performance – even without the now-departed Robin van Persie.

Five months on, Arsenal have discovered the identity of their first opponents as they attempt to get closer to winning Europe’s top prize. German giants Schalke, Greek champions Olympiakos and France’s surprise title winners Montpellier will stand in between seeded Arsenal and a place in the first knockout round.

It is the fifteenth consecutive year that Arsenal have qualified for the Champions League; a great achievement amidst an era crammed with big-spending Sheikhs and a general lack of fiscal common sense. While economic sensibilities should be applauded, top-level football is ultimately geared towards silverware and success on the field. With the Gunners faithful having now endured seven trophyless seasons, European success would not go amiss.

The group itself, Group B, has echoes of Arsenal’s group last year which also included French, German and Greek teams in the form of Marseille, Dortmund and, again, Olympiakos. Wenger and his team eventually qualified with relative ease but the veteran boss will be keen to avoid a repeat of last season’s result against the Greek Super League winners as Arsenal lost 3-1 in farcical fashion.

An interesting sub-plot to the draw comes in the form of Arsenal’s summer signing from Montpellier – Olivier Giroud. Giroud swapped Stade de la Masson for the Emirates Stadium at the end of last season and will be keen to get one over on his former employers, for whom he scored 33 goals in 77 league appearances between 2010 and 2012.

In reality, Arsenal should not face too many problems qualifying from the group, with Schalke, the 2010-11 Champions League semi-finalists, perhaps posing the biggest threat. Die K

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