Arsene Wenger determined to get Arsenal beyond last 16 of Champions League

Arsene Wenger is aiming to take another step towards guiding Arsenal to the top of their Champions League group when they welcome Basle to the Emirates Stadium tonight.

The Gunners have made it through the group stage for the past 16 years but they have failed to get beyond the round of 16 in the previous six attempts.

One of the problems has been an inability to finish in top spot in their group, leaving them open to face some of Europe’s biggest names.

Barcelona eased past Wenger’s side last year but, after fighting to a draw at Paris St Germain in their opening game of Group A, the Frenchman is hoping that can lead to advancing as group winners and avoiding the rest of Europe’s elite.

“It’s our target but the truth is on the pitch,” he said. 

“We had a good game on Saturday but let’s show that we can go from good game to good game and put the effort in in every single game. 

“That’s what it is about, as you said in recent years we came always out of the group stage.

“Last year, let’s say it was difficulties because we made it difficult for ourselves and we have learned as well that in the group stage it’s not only important to qualify but, if possibly, qualify as top of the group. 

“It gives you many more chances after to go through.”

While PSG will be considered the main rivals to Wenger’s ambitions of winning the group, the 66-year-old, who celebrates 20 years in charge at Arsenal on October 1, acknowledges tonight’s opposition can cause an upset.

“They are a team who are used to playing in the Champions League,” he said of Basle.

“It’s not a newcomer or a beginner in the Champions League; they have huge experience in the competition.

“This experience goes through the generations and this is why they’re not intimidated. I don’t expect them to be intimidated at all. On the other hand, they have nothing to lose. That’s always dangerous.”

Summer signing Granit Xhaka, a former Basle player, could make just his third Arsenal start as he is likely to be drafted in for the injured Francis Coquelin. 

The Swiss international replaced Coquelin after he suffered a knee injury in Saturday’s 3-0 win, but Wenger revealed the prognosis of the Frenchman’s injury was better than first expected.

Wenger said: “He is out for the game [tonight], but it should be a short-term injury because the scan was quite positive and I think it will be three weeks out.”

Basle coach Urs Fischer will take heart from his club’s recent run against English sides. The Swiss Super League champions have lost just one of their last four games in England, having drawn at Manchester United in 2012 before winning at Tottenham and Chelsea.

Their only loss in recent times came against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge back in May 2013 but, although Fischer is pleased to boast such a good record, the current Basle boss will not be channelling too much from the past.

“We have to look at ourselves but the past is a positive thing for us,” said Fischer.

“We have to show confidence and play confident so the results are important but the past is the past and the present is all that matters. The present is tomorrow. I think we have to play a very good game to be able to get something tomorrow.”


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