'Less guilt' for Arsenal after winning group

Mesut Ozil

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger says he will feel “less guilt” if his side get a tough draw in the Champions League last 16 after they topped Group A.

The Gunners have exited at the first knockout stage for the past six years, having finished second in their group in five of those campaigns.

But they topped their section thanks to a 4-1 win in Basel and Ludogorets’ shock 2-2 draw at Paris St-Germain.

“We wanted to do our job and got lucky with the PSG result,” Wenger said.

Champions League – who’s going through?
Group A: PSG and Arsenal
Group B: Benfica and Napoli
Group C: Barcelona and Manchester City
Group D: Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich
Group E: Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen
Group F: Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid
Group G: Leicester and one of Porto or FC Copenhagen
Group H: Juventus and one of Sevilla or Lyon
Ludogorets, Besiktas, Borussia Monchengladbach and FC Rostov have confirmed their places in the Europa League

Arsenal will avoid Monaco and Barcelona, who eliminated them in 2015 and 2016 respectively, as well as Atletico Madrid and Napoli in Monday’s draw.

However, teams they could still be paired with include Bayern Munich, who knocked them out in 2013 and 2014, and one of Borussia Dortmund or Real Madrid.

“We can still have a difficult draw,” said Wenger. “But there’s less guilt when you finish first in the group because you feel you have done your job and you play the second leg of the first knockout tie at home.

“It is what we wanted but, at the moment, the difficulty of the draw will not be much different.”

Arsenal’s win in Switzerland came thanks to a Lucas Perez hat-trick, the Spaniard more than doubling his Gunners goal tally after making a Β£17m move from Deportivo La Coruna in August.

He twice tapped into an empty net, and got his third with a neat finish from just inside the 18-yard box.

“The first two were quite easy goals, created by the team,” said Wenger. “But the third goal is a real striker’s goal.

“He scored over 20 goals in Spain last year and tonight he showed why. He has a real eye for goal.”

Champions League Group A table

Analysis

BBC Sport chief football writer Phil McNulty

Arsenal’s success in topping their group is a tribute to their growing resilience, which saw them draw home and away to PSG in games where they were forced to suffer and battle for long periods.

They also showed the swagger when they needed it to ruthlessly put Basel away to fulfil their side of the bargain while Ludogorets delivered the big favour in Paris.

The different facets the Gunners have shown in coming out on top of the group suggests increasing maturity in Arsene Wenger’s team and more justification for his belief they can make their mark in the Champions League this season.

Bossing the back pages

The Guardian, Metro, Daily Star and I newspapers all led with Arsenal on their Wednesday back pages.

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