Do Arsenal really have 'a chance' of winning the Champions League?

Arsene Wenger Casual

Wenger has made no secret of his desire to claim European gold, but is his statement of Arsenal's 'chance' this season reflecting reality of the situation?

It is testament to the fickleness of the football media, the industry and the sport's fans that, after just one match of the 2013-14 season, Arsenal had instantly plummeted into crisis mode because of a 3-1 loss to Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium.

Fast forward seven weeks, five Premier League victories, a two-legged progression into the Champions League by virtue of a brace of successful qualifiers, a triumph over Marseille in the group stage and a League Cup shoot-out win over West Bromwich Albion and the North Londoners have been subject to a volte-face in fortunes as the club are now heralded as title challengers.

The shift in domestic expectation may not just be down to the Gunners firing on all cylinders as pre-season challenging favourites such as Manchester City are waning while Manchester United have suffered their worst start to a Premier League campaign for 24 years.

So does Arsenal's potentially silver-laden future in England translate to the European scene? Particularly when big-spending Ligue 1 representatives Paris St Germain can brag a who's who of elite names in world soccer, when Barcelona are undefeated in La Liga, when last season's finalists Borussia Dortmund together with last season's champions Bayern Munich share top spot in the Bundesliga and when Arsenal's Tuesday evening opponents Napoli are just two points shy from the summit of Serie A in Italy?

While Arsenal's Premier League counterparts are failing, or have flaws, or look beatable, the best of Europe – like the Gunners – look strong, have good squads and are playing aesthetically-pleasing football. Regardless, Wenger still fancies his side's chances in the competition this season.

'We’d love to win it, as it has never been done at this club,' said the 63-year-old, who has won domestic glory in his native France, in Japan and in England but has never claimed Europe's top honour. 'If we get out of this group, we have a chance.'

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Arsenal have enjoyed a number of memorable European nights thanks for Wenger. The 5-1 mauling of Internazionale in 2003 at San Siro springs to mind, as does the 2-0 trumping of AC Milan in the same stadium five years later.

The ability to stay composed in a death by penalty shootout against Villarreal in 2006 in a run that also contained victories over Real Madrid and Juventus was also compelling viewing, so the club's belonging in the tournament cannot be questioned, but, as Wenger himself notes: 'Recently, we have not had the quality to go through.'

He continued: 'It’s something I miss; I’ll try very hard to fill my c.v. with it. We’ve flirted with it a few times, but in recent years we’ve not been helped by the draw. We have played Barcelona, Milan and Bayern Munich.'

Injuries are usually the curse of Arsenal and Wenger, but if the form of Aaron Ramsey can be maintained and transitioned into Europe, if Olivier Giroud can keep hold of his goal-scoring boots and convert his chances on the toughest stage of all, if accomplished playmaker Mesut Ozil can continue to dazzle in the competition and if the club's goal-line can be suitably defended, then progression from a tough group should be all but guaranteed.

But can they repeat their best nights in Europe from the past ten years in one glorious run in 2014?

What do you think? Will Arsenal need luck to be in the final four let alone to win the competition? Will Wenger need to recruit players in January who are not cup-tied in the Champions League in order to bolster their chances? Or should they focus their efforts on the Premier League as Europe remains a title too good for the Gunners current grasp? Let us know in the comment section below…

image: © wonker

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