The UEFA Champions League has reached the business end of the competition. It's knockout football. There is no margin for error, there can be no more slip-ups. Ahead of the round of 16, we take a closer look at how Arsenal made it through the group stage and assess their chances of marching into the quarter-finals.
Arsenal secured their place in the last 16 as unexpected group-winners after PSG slipped up at home to Ludogorets. The Gunners had drawn twice with the French champions, who sat atop Group A going into Matchday 6. But the Parisians' 2-2 draw in the French capital opened the door for Arsene Wenger’s side, who sealed a comprehensive 4-1 victory in Basel to secure first place.
15 minutes in Bulgaria left Arsenal shell-shocked, as Ludogorets raced to a two-goal lead. The Gunners hadn’t come back from two goals down to win a Champions League match since 2009, so when Granit Xhaka and Olivier Giroud drew them level by the break, they would have settled for a point. But then, with just three minutes remaining, Mesut Ozil set off on a mazy dribble that brought one of the great UCL solo goals of all-time.
The toughest tests Wenger’s side would have to navigate in the group stage came against PSG. The capital club’s big spending had taken them to four consecutive UCL quarter-finals. In both games they would find themselves a goal behind and, while only an Alex Iwobi own goal would deny them at home, to emerge with draws in both games proved the Gunners’ staying power and ultimately secured them first place in the group.
Chile international Alexis Sanchez was directly involved in five goals in his side’s six UCL games (2 goals, 3 assists) and has been regularly leading the way as the most creative player in all of Europe this season, consistently supplying chances for his colleagues as well as finding the net on a regular basis himself. His form will be key to Arsenal’s UCL hopes in the knockout stage.
Wenger has not seen his side progress past the last 16 in the previous six seasons, so when PSG’s late slip-up saw his side top their group for the first time since 2012, the last opponent he was expecting to draw was German powerhouse Bayern. Arsenal lost to the Germans at this stage in 2012-13 and 2013-2014, so will have to break a few cycles if they are to make it to the last eight.