Arsne Wenger is confident Arsenal can violate their last-1 6 hurdle in the Champions League after bolstering his squad in the summer but first theygo to Paris Saint-Germain
Arsne Wenger believes Arsenals heavy investment this summer and greater experience throughout their squad leaves them better placed to force passageway into the latter stages of the Champions League than in recent seasons as he prepares to lead the club into a 19 th successive campaign in the competition.
The Premier League club, who have exited Europe in the last 16 in each of the past six seasons, have been handed the daunting undertaking of vying with Paris Saint-Germain in Group A. The French side, so dominant in their domestic league since being purchased by Qatari Sports Investments in 2011, have been quarter-finalists four campaigns in succession and were the highest-ranked side in the section. However, Arsenal will approach Tuesdays game at Parc des Princes with some optimism because Unai Emerys team are hampered by a number of injuries. They have also stuttered in their past two Ligue 1 games and are still adjusting to the new managers methods.
Whereas PSG have lost two of their more talismanic players in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Luiz to Manchester United and Chelsea respectively, Wenger spent close to 100 m in the summer bolstering his squad. The vast majority of that went on experienced performers such as Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Prez players the manager is convinced can demonstrate their influence in Europes elite club competition.
I was used to playing with younger squads because, when you build a new ground like the Emirates Stadium, you dont have the resources, said Wenger, who has entered the final year of his contract but refused to be drawn on whether this would be his last campaign in the Champions League.
Now I have a team with more experienced players. There are exceptions, obviously, but the majority of the squad is basically between 24 and 30 in age. Thats where you have a good combination of physical strength and experience.
They are not 19 or 20 years old. This is one of my strongest squads, certainly. And certainly one of the oldest as well. I always believed we had a chance, even when we had young players but, certainly, I havent had a squad of players[ like this] for a long time; full of players who have enough experience to vie. They will benefit from the presence of the France defender Laurent Koscielny after he recovered from the facial trauma sustained in Saturdays victory over Southampton.
Wenger ought to be able to hand Olivier Giroud a start up front here in a tie that pits him against the club that tried to tempt him away from London three times in 2011, 2013 and 2014 to spearhead the Qatari-funded project in Paris. He is a close friend of the PSG president, Nasser al-Khelaifi, having worked on the owners television station, Al Jazeera turned BeIn Sport, and has now been admitted to advising them when it emerged they were interested in buying a football club.
Asked why he was never seduced to return to France to oversee PSG, Wenger said: Because I love where I am. I know well the PSG proprietors but I feel always I remained loyal to Arsenal Football Club because I think its a club that has the qualities I love. And thats why. This is an important game but I dont think it goes beyond two good sides playing against one another. Theres no symbolism to it , no symbolic meaning to this match. We merely want to pick up the three points.
They will have a better possibility than originally envisaged against an uncharacteristically fragile PSG side who have laboured at times since Emery replaced Laurent Blanc over the summer.
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