With his squad now more experienced, Arsene Wenger says Arsenal need to match ambitious talk with strong Champions League performances
Arsene Wenger has challenged Arsenal to do their talking on the pitch when they begin their Champions League campaign against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.
The Gunners reached the final in 2006, when they lost to Barcelona, but have failed to progress beyond the last 16 in the last six seasons.
Wenger, who has entered the last year of his contract at the Emirates Stadium, is under particular pressure to mount a serious challenge for the latter stages as question marks remain over his long-term future.
And, though the 66-year-old says his personal circumstances have no bearing on their aims for this term, he is keen to see his side produce some of their best football against the continent’s elite.
“I just focus on the next game. I think I’ve played over 170 games in the Champions League – you want to do well in the next one. My personal case is not at stake in that,” he said.
“Last year, we were second in the group because Bayern [Munich] were in front of us. We did beat Bayern at home, but they were more consistent. What we need to do to win the group is to get a good result here tomorrow.
“Better than all my speeches is the way we play and the dynamic we can put into the games. If you look at the results over the weekend, our championship is very intense. We’re used to playing with that intensity in the Champions League. But better than talking is playing well.
“I was used to much younger squads when we didn’t have the resources. Now I have a team of more experienced players. The squad is between 24 and 30, basically, which is where you have a good combination of physical strengths and experience.”
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Wenger is happy to begin Arsenal’s Group A campaign against the Ligue 1 champions as he believes it will serve as an important test of their early-season condition.
“The two teams are looking for their rhythm. PSG have a few of the same problems as us, but I’m not worrying for them too much,” he added.
“I like to come to Paris, it’s my country and a city I love. PSG is a good test for us, it’s a team above everyone else in France right now, and France always produce good teams and good players.
“It’s exciting to come to us and have a good comparison with where we are to everyone else.”
Wenger confirmed that defender Laurent Koscielny, who took a heavy blow to the face during Saturday’s 2-1 Premier League win over Southampton, will be fit enough to play a part.
“He’s alright, he had a big knock but recovered quite well. I was concerned he wouldn’t be available, but he is alright,” he said.
“He has a strong stature. He’s one of the best defenders in the world.”
Wenger also revealed that Olivier Giroud, who has made just two substitute appearances in the opening four league games, is “close” to being fit enough to return to the starting line-up.