Arsenal qualified for the next round of the Champions League a few weeks back, but the group was only concluded on Tuesday night after the Gunners came out on top. A 2-2 draw for PSG against Ludogorets was enough to see Arsenal top the group ahead of the French champions, following the Gunners impressive 4-1 win away to FC Basel.
With Arsenal in first position, it should mean that theoretically the Gunners get an ‘easier’ draw in the next round. However in practice, every match will be a tough test regardless of the club’s opponents. There are also a few shocks on final positioning in this year’s group stages so the Gunners could once again be drawn against a potential champions league winner early on in the competition.
One of the biggest pressures Arsene Wenger will face is the fact that he’s never won the Champions League and its a major honour that’s missing from his legacy. He will be desperate to win the trophy, especially in what could turn out to be the Frenchman’s final season in charge of the club. It means that Wenger will be looking to take the competition extremely seriously, which in turn hopefully means he plays the strongest squad possible.
Wenger is notorious for not playing his strongest Arsenal side possible in the Champions League, especially in the goalkeeping position. Wenger often opts for the Gunners second choice keeper to play Champions League matches and for Champions League winner Steven Gerrard, he feels that’s where Wenger’s going wrong in his quest for success.
Gerrard said: ‘For me it’s a no-brainer, you’ve got to play Petr Cech. It’s OK in a group game or a game like tonight [in which the Gunners had qualified] where there’s not really too much on the line, but when you go into the last-16 it’s got to be Petr Cech for me.’
I must admit I definitely do agree with Gerrard on his point, but at the same time you have to understand the pressure Wenger must be under to make this decision. It would be extremely tough on Ospina, especially as he hasn’t been too bad during his limited opportunities, to then replace him with Cech. However Cech is of course the more experienced and ultimately it’s a he’s the better keeper. In my opinion it would be silly not to play our strongest side against the strongest of European opponents and that of course means the Champions League winner Petr Cech in goal ahead of David Ospina.
Hopefully Wenger will decide to opt in for the stronger team when the next round rolls around, although I can’t imagine the disappointment on Ospina’s part if the Columbian was dropped based on the name rather than form.