Arsenal have not made it past the last 16 of the Champions League since the 2009/10 season when they beat Porto 6-2 on aggregate before being knocked out by Barcelona in the quarter-finals. This season, the Gunners topped their group and were unbeaten (W4, D2) but that meant nothing as they were still drawn against Bayern Munich. In the last three seasons, Arsenal and Bayern have seen a lot of each other. Bayern knocked Arsenal out in consecutive last 16 matches in 2013 and 2014. The two teams faced each other again in the group stage last year when Bayern won the group and Arsenal came second.
The best thing about being group winners is Arsenal play the second leg at the Emirates. Home advantage could be just what they need to progress. If Arsenal have all their big players fit, there is no reason why they can’t beat Bayern and reach the quarter-finals. As long as Alexis Sanchez is still playing as well as he is right now, Arsenal have a chance of progressing.
Arjen Robben recently said that Arsenal are only interested in reaching the quarter-final whereas Bayern want to reach the final. I was furious about this comment at first but Robben is right. As an Arsenal fan, I would be happy if Arsenal made it to the quarter-finals because I know they won’t make it much further than that.
Arsenal are happy to just settle for the last 16 every year. However, this year could be different. While Bayern are undoubtedly a fantastic side, Arsenal should not fear a team that were beaten 3-2 by Russian side FC Rostov. FC Rostov earned their first victory in the competition’s history and became the first Russian team to beat the Bundesliga giants in Champions League history.
In addition to that, Bayern were eight points clear at the top of the Bundesliga this time last year. Bayern are now top only on goal difference. They are still a dominant force but Arsenal have a fantastic chance to beat them and prove that they can triumph against such top quality opposition.
The last time Arsenal went unbeaten in their group, was the 2005/06 season when they made it to the final only to be defeated by Barcelona. It might be overambitious to suggest that they can reach the final again but that has to be a good omen. Arsenal have their best chance in years to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League. When you get that chance, you have to take it.