Can Arsenal start Champions League campaign on positive note versus PSG?

By on September 12, 2016

Arsenal are preparing to meet Paris Saint-Germain in their opening fixture of the Champions League and, if history heeds any warnings, it’s that the Gunners have little margin for error even in these early stages of the competition.

In recent years, Arsene Wenger’s men have suffered a dispiriting run of shortcomings in Europe, having fallen at the Round of 16 stage in each of the past six years. This record breeds an atmosphere of pessimism around their Champions League outings, which only ever leads to more insecurity and inevitable disappointment.

However, Wenger is confident that the club can dig their way out of this mindset and the path towards doing so begins tomorrow. A victory in Paris would put them one sixth of the way towards a brighter future and would be a huge mental breakthrough, their recent pitfalls having been their inconsistent record in the group stages. This has led to five second-place group stage finishes in six years.

By the design of the two-pot system for drawing the knockout stage fixtures, a second-place finish means facing a more difficult opponent and Arsenal have learned this lesson the hard way, having faced Barcelona twice, Bayern Munich twice, AC Milan and Monaco in their past six Round of 16 draws.

Last season, for instance, they lost their first two group stage matches against Dynamo Zagreb and Olympiacos, which was the difference between first and a barely-scraped second placed finish.

Wenger, however, says his team is better equipped to play in Europe this year than they have been in a long time, confident that the depth they added over the summer can help carry them through the grueling group stage schedule this fall.

“I was used to playing with younger squads because, when you build a new ground like the Emirates Stadium, you don’t have the resources,” Wenger said in a press conference ahead of the match, per Arsenal’s official website.

“Now I have a team with more experienced players. There are exceptions, obviously, but the majority of the squad is basically between 24 and 30 in age. That’s where you have a good combination of physical strength and experience.

“They are not 19 or 20 years old. This is one of my strongest squads, certainly. And certainly one of the oldest as well. I always believed we had a chance, even when we had young players but, certainly, I haven’t had a squad of players [like this] for a long time; full of players who have enough experience to compete.”

He also delivered promising news regarding the fitness of Laurent Koscielny, who suffered a knock to the head in their 2-1 victory over Southampton at the weekend. “ I was concerned after the game that he wouldn’t be available, but he’s alright,” Wenger confirmed.

“He had a big knock on his face but recovered quite well.”

They’ll be relying on the defensive partnership between Koscielny and new signing Shkodran Mustafi, who debuted this past weekend. Although the reigning French champions PSG lost their main attacking threat, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, to Manchester United over the summer, Wenger is well aware that PSG still have an array of attacking talent at their disposal.

“I think that, as a club, they have loads of good players,” he said. “I don’t think it affects them at all.

“They have really strong front three at the moment, and anyone they play up front will be dangerous. We will face it as we would have done if he was playing. The team are up for it.”

Do you agree with Wenger? Will Arsenal deliver a result in Paris? Share your comments below!

About Alex Morgan

Alex Morgan, founder of Football Every Day, lives and breaths football from the West Coast of the United States in California. Aside from founding Football Every Day in January of 2013, Alex has also launched his own journalism career and hopes to help others do the same with FBED. He covers the San Jose Earthquakes as a beat reporter for and his work has also been featured in the BBC's Match of the Day Magazine.