European Football - Arsenal won on Tuesday on the road at Basel to top a group that also featured French champions Paris Saint Germain and Ludogorets. A hatrick from Lucas Perez and Alex Iwobi ensured Arsene Wenger and his men finally topped a group after six seasons of finishing at second place. Arsenal’s performance in the English Premier League has also been among the best in Europe as they trail leaders Chelsea three points and have scored nine goals in their last two outings all on the road. Is this a good sign for Arsenal or would the gunner’s slump heading forward as they have done in recent seasons?
Arsene Wenger has not had it easy after playing out a semi-final match against Manchester United in 2009 in the UEFA Champions League. Second place finishes has led to Arsenal facing heavy oppositions in the Round of 16 with FC Porto in 2010, FC Barcelona in 2011, AC Milan in 2012, Bayern Munich in consecutive seasons 2013 and 2014, AS Monaco in 2015 and FC Barcelona again in 2016.
Arsenal under these six years advanced once to the next round of the competition after defeating FC Porto 6-2 on aggregate in 2010. Although teams paired against Arsenal were much stronger, Arsene Wenger and his charges became the center of attraction in 2015 after exiting the competition to AS Monaco – a side that were relatively weaker to the gunners squad which left many soccer enthusiasts with the notion of Arsenal just being happy representatives of the English Premier League but not competitors.
Placing second brings a lot of permutations but placing first brings relief as a group winner relatively faces an easier opponent that can see them go far in the competition. Ludogorets has done a great favor to Arsenal because their performance in Paris has undoubtedly handed the team a chance to improve on its performances.
News around the Champions League
Serie A – There has been good news for Italy as Napoli joined Juventus as teams that have qualified for the Round of 16. The UEFA coefficient has reduced Serie A to three slots with the third team competing in the playoffs which AS Roma humbly lost to Porto on a 1-4 aggregate. This normally left Juventus with a great responsibility of carrying the flag of the Italian League. Maurizio Sarri and his lads has done a great service to the league and fans of Italian soccer can only hope that Napoli can provide a lot of competition to other teams heading forward.
Ligue One – AS Monaco and PSG have already qualified and Lyon is the third French team that has hopes of making it to the Round of 16 with their game against Sevilla coming in the later hours of Wednesday. French Football is on the rise and the teams representing Ligue One would do all it can to make a first appearance in the Champions League final since 2004.
Round of 16’s always bring up great pairings and this season wouldn’t be any different. With clubs such as Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Bayer04 Leverkusen having notched up second place, this Champions League campaign has a lot of surprises in stall for football fans.