Arsenal are already through to the next round of the Champions League with two games to go, but victory against Paris Saint-Germain this week could ensure Arsenal’s last 16 fixture is considerably easier than it might be should they finish second.
The Gunners have plenty of form when it comes to round of 16 exits, and often the damage is done before the knockout rounds even begin, with second-place teams playing those who have finished top of their group.
Here’s a recent history of the north London side’s last 16 woe.
That big team arrived immediately however, in the form of European behemoth Barcelona. The best side in the world rocked up at the Emirates and piled the pressure on the Gunners, who somehow withstood it and countered towards the end of the second half to seal an unlikely 2-1 win.
Arsenal’s task proved beyond them however in the return leg in Spain, where Robin van Persie was controversially sent off for a second yellow card after kicking the ball away, and Arsenal crashed out 4-3 on aggregate.
But the Gunners were unprepared, and lost 4-0 at the San Siro. The result all but confirmed they would not reach the next round.
Arsenal responded in the second leg, and had cruised to a 3-0 lead by half time at the Emirates. They were unable to add a crucial fourth goal to level the tie in the second half however, and exited the tournament.
The punishment was to face Bayern Munich, and the Germans duly took Arsenal to the cleaners, scoring three away goals in a 3-1 win for the Germans.
Arsenal’s task looked beyond them once again, but as against AC Milan the year before, the Gunners finished just one goal short of a miraculous comeback, winning 2-0 in Munich through Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny, and going out on away goals.
After trading wins with Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund, Arsenal very nearly managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, losing 2-0 in their final group game against Napoli, when a third goal for the Italian side would have put them through at the Gunners’ expense.
As it was, Arsenal qualified, met Bayern again, and lost 3-1 on aggregate. You didn’t miss much, Napoli.
Still, the north London side looked to have gotten away with it, after drawing Monaco in the next round; Gunners fans fancied their chances of breaking the last 16 curse.
Inexplicably Arsenal turned in one of their worst performances of the season, losing 3-1 at home in the first leg with some of the most abysmal defending. Wenger’s men won 2-0 in Monaco, but once again it proved not enough. The Arsenal faithful were getting sick of heroic failures.
And guess who they drew in the next round? For the third time in seven seasons, it was Barcelona for Arsenal, and the Catalan pass masters wasted no time in showing who was boss.
A 2-0 first leg defeat in London pretty much ended Arsenal’s chances of a quarter final spot, and a 3-1 defeat in Spain confirmed their sixth last 16 exit in as many years.
Will 2016 be any different? Victory in their penultimate group game against Paris Saint-Germain could determine that.