Arsene Wenger: Let’s change our Champions League history

Arsene Wenger has challenged Arsenal to learn from the sins of their Champions League last-16 failures past.

The Gunners finally topped their Champions League group this term, only to draw German giants Bayern Munich in the last-16 for the third time in four years.

Arsenal are bidding to end a string of six successive last-16 exits from Europe’s top competition — and Wenger has insisted the Gunners are now ready to heed all those harsh lessons from recent years.

“The last six years we have not come out of the last 16,” said Wenger.

“They said God made the world in seven days, so this is the seventh day for us. And we have to get our special day.”

This time Arsenal will enjoy the luxury of hosting the second leg, after topping their group. And Wenger has called on his players to take full advantage. Arsenal take on Everton in Premier League action at Goodison Park tonight (7.45pm), with Wenger hopeful Arsenal can return to Champions League action in February off the back of a fine domestic run.

“We are all here to change history; and to make history,” said Wenger. “So we have to change what happened before, and make it better.

“Many times we’ve been in a position where we’ve played at home, wanted to make a difference and after 10 minutes we concede a goal and you think already ‘huh’.

“This time the advantage we have is we play first away from home.

“And if we can keep our strengths away from home that will allow us to think we can have a good first game and then finish the job at home.

Bayern Munich coach Carlo Ancelotti admits Arsenal represent a “tough draw” but remains confident his side will reach the quarter-finals.

“They are going to be two very interesting games,” he said . “I’m already looking forward to them.

“I have faith in my team and I hope that we will reach the quarter-finals.

“For that, we have got to put ourselves into a good position in the first leg at the Allianz Arena.

“Arsenal have a very good team at the moment and a manager who I rate. They are doing really well in the Premier League and they have only lost once this season in the league. It’s a tough draw, but I am confident.”

Meanwhile, Claudio Ranieri has welcomed Leicester’s Champions League draw against Sevilla as their debut campaign continues to the knockout stage.

Having stunningly won the Premier League last season and then topped Group G ahead of Porto, FC Copenhagen and Club Brugge, Ranieri acknowledged his side represented a favourable draw for any of the group runners-up.

But having avoided the likes of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid to land the team who have won the Europa League for three straight years, he too was happy with the outcome in Nyon yesterday.

“For us it is a tough but very exciting draw against a team who are used to fighting in Europe,” he said.

“Whoever we played would have been a tough opponent, but I think all the teams who arrived second will have wanted to play against us and I know that we will be the underdogs once again.

“Always we are underdogs, every time.

“I know that Sevilla have lifted the Europa League three times in three years — it is unbelievable.

“Now they are third in the league and have lost only three so far. They are a big, big, big team.

“For now, we must focus on us. We have to be focused on the Premier League and we will enjoy the Champions League whenever it happens.”

That domestic focus begins tonight (7.45pm) with a fixture against a Bournemouth side two places and two points ahead of Ranieri’s side, whose disappointing start to their title defence has left them 14th in the table.

They bounced back to form in style on Saturday, though, beating Manchester City 4-2 as striker Jamie Vardy ended his 16-game club goal drought with a hat-trick.

There was a further good news for the Foxes yesterday when Riyad Mahrez was crowned BBC African Footballer of the Year.

Manchester City were the first team drawn out and will face Monaco on February 21 and March 15.

Manchester City’s director of football Txiki Begiristain was happy with his side’s draw but warned Monaco — who twice beat Tottenham en route to topping Group E and have scored 53 goals in 17 games in Ligue 1 — pose a tough test.

“We are happy to be here, and we have avoided Real Madrid and Barcelona,” he said.

“Monaco are playing probably the best football in France now. In a group with Tottenham and Bayer Leverkusen they were top, and they have young players and a lot of talent.

“It’s a new adventure for everybody here and it is a good draw. We want to be offensive and play attacking football and Monaco want this (as well).”

Paris St Germain against Barcelona was arguably the pick of the remaining ties and PSG director of football Patrick Kluivert said: “We knew we could draw the biggest clubs in the world and we have to face it.

“This is the draw and we can’t hide but also, Barcelona has to watch out for us.”

Barca’s Spanish rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid face Napoli and Bayer Leverkusen respectively, while Benfica meet Borussia Dortmund and Porto take on Juventus.


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