History looked like it was about to repeat itself for yet another consecutive season, as the Gunners looked like they had put themselves at a disadvantage for top spot. Whilst Arsenal were drawing 2-2 with Ludogorets, our champions league group rivals PSG were winning away in Basel. A Basel equaliser looked as if Arsenal may have been saved of their blushes, but both sides left it late to score winners.
Arsenal and PSG are both therefore still on equal tallies in the group and with Match Day Six featuring a face off between the two clubs, both will be going for the win. You could say Arsenal have the advantage, as the Gunners will be at home and PSG haven’t looked quite the same force without Zlatan Ibrahimovic leading the line. However realistically we are all aware that this last test won’t be easy for the Gunners and if we want to finish in top spot, we need to field our strongest side possible.
In previous campaigns Arsenal have been in top spot in the group going into the final group stage match and Wenger has therefore decided to field a slightly weakened team in order to focus on our domestic league campaign. However as a result of fielding a weakened side, Arsenal have often slipped up in the final match, by not achieving the win that would definitely secure our place at the top of the group. As a result the Gunners have slipped into second, which gives us a harder test in first knockout round. Arsenal haven’t got past the round of 16 in the last 6 seasons, with our last quarter final appearance coming in 2009-10. We’ve faced the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich in that time, but we’ve also missed out on progressing against the likes of AC Milan and AS Monaco. Six seasons without progressing is a terrible statistic for a club that argues it’s ready to compete on the major scales of European football.
Arsenal’s goal difference is better by three goals over PSG. The Gunners and PSG may be level on points with 10 points each, but Arsenal have +9 goal difference, with PSG on +6. That does mean that a draw would be enough for Arsenal to finish first in the group, but with PSG more than capable of putting up a fight, it’s vital the Gunners perform like it’s all to play for.
If the Gunners grab top spot, then hopefully we can get an easier draw for the next round. However to win the competition you do have to beat the best, so Arsenal should be up for the challenge no matter who we face.