The thumbs up and grin on Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s face said it all- for the first time since 2011 his team had topped their Champions League group at the expense of French champions PSG. Arsenal had done it in style in the end by thrashing a very tricky Basel side 4-1 in Switzerland.
Over in Paris, PSG were reeling because they were the huge favourites to win the group- all they had to do was beat bottom placed Ludogerets- a team they despatched with ease 3-1 a few weeks ago. But nothing doing at the Parc des Princes. PSG fell behind and only an injury time goal by Angel Di Maria saved the French sides blushes, that match ended 2-2.
This win has been the culmination of a very good season so far for the Gunners. They are 2nd in the Premier League table and have lost just one game all season. Indeed the North Londoners haven’t lost a match since August. They are also scoring goals- 33 so far and only Liverpool with 35 have more.
Tonight Wenger opted to play Lucas Perez and the 28 year old Spaniard repaid his boss with a hat trick. And this is the thing, Arsenal has so many options now, one could see them going far in every competition they compete in.
As far as the Premier League is concerned here is a competition that the Gunners have not won since 2004, and with the competition on offer it will be incredibly hard for Arsenal to be raising that trophy come next May. Chelsea are looking irresistible as league leaders- though Arsenal are just three points behind. However there is the ever looming threat of Liverpool and Manchester City both clubs are just a point behind Wenger’s men.
In the Champions League Arsenal will be hoping that the fact they did not lose a game in the group stages is a good omen. The last time they did that they went all the way to the final in 2006 where in the end they were unlucky to lose to Barcelona who at that time were just emerging from their slumber to become one of the all time great club sides.
Of course it may not be all rosy for Arsenal even as group winners. Bayern Munich, Benfica and Borussia Moechengladbach are all potential teams that they could meet in the knock-out round. And then there is the pair off tomorrow night between Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund. Whoever loses that game will finish second.
But Arsenal and Wenger will and should remain positive, because despite not being the team that spends the most and being written off each season, there is an edginess about the team and a winning mentality lacking in previous seasons that could well see them pick up some meaningful silverware this season.
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