8th December 2015: Wenger and Flamini chat Champions League

Hello again. So Arsene Wenger was joined by Mathieu Flamini when he faced the media at a press conference this evening, ahead of tomorrow evening’s game against Olympiacos.

The boss seemed in relaxed mood and expressed his belief that should Arsenal manage to progress to the last 16 this season, we’d be a threat to any of the other qualifiers. He said:

We can be dangerous if we go through because we come from far. Overall if you look at the numbers since the start of the Champions League group stage, we have played with 10 men in Zagreb, we scored an own goal at home to Olympiacos, every single game we were a bit unlucky but if we get through we will be dangerous that is for sure. At the moment we have two or three super-favourites [for the competition] and whoever gets through will have to chase them. As long as you don’t win the competition – at any stage to go out is bad. That is basically it. On the other hand, we have gone 15 times out of the group consecutively so you could say that is a good habit.

The ‘super-favourites’ Arsene refers to are obviously the holders Barcelona, Bayern Munich and possibly Real Madrid – on their day – but given we can’t draw the Germans in the first knock-out round, as long as we avoided Barca, I’d take anyone.

But before we get carried away, there’s the small matter of winning for the first time against Olympiacos on Greek soil, and winning by the necessary scoreline of course (anything bar 1-0 and 2-1 will do), but the boss was quick to highlight his team would be mentally prepared to deal with any course tomorrow night’s game might take, saying:

We have to put every scenario in our head, it is important we focus on the performance. The results come if we play well so let’s focus on that. When the goal comes I don’t know, but if we play well we have a chance to score. Mentally, you prepare yourself to adapt to every situation and give the right response to every situation you face. We will have to adapt to what is happening on the pitch and to all of the scenarios, accept them and respond. Ideally, you would like to not have to be patient but we might need to be. What is important is that basically the same for every game in Champions League you attack well and defend well, that is the best way, go into the game with a desire to win it and knowing you need to do both sides of the game well. Of course, we have a history where we have positive results. We know we can do it so the best way to do it is with a top-quality performance and that is what we want to focus on.

Meanwhile, Flamini says Arsenal’s vast experience in the competition can help us progress. He said:

Of course this is an important competition for me personally and for the club. We have a good test to prove we have the quality to go through and continue our adventure. Everyone is focused and I will try to help my partners. We are experienced for the big games and I believe we can progress.

I suppose the biggest concern about potentially exiting Europe’s premier competition isn’t that we’ll be out for another year, but the fact we’ll have to play in the Europa League and the adverse effect that competition may have on our domestic title chase.

I think we have to give it our all tomorrow and the team should be focused on scoring at least three goals. Obviously 2-0 would suffice but if we can get three, we’d have room to concede twice and still be in with a chance.

Back with a preview tomorrow.

Until then.

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