Monday 11 December 2017

Wenger: Champions League failure is a wake-up call for English sides

Arsene Wenger
Arsene Wenger

Jim van Wijk

ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger fears England has fallen behind the rest of Europe after his side bowed out of the Champions League despite a valiant 2-0 win over Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.

Following Manchester United's exit to Real Madrid, there will be no Premier League sides in the quarter-finals of Europe's elite club competition for only the second time since the introduction of a group stage in 1994-95.

Chelsea, who beat Bayern in last season's final, and English champions Manchester City both failed to progress through to the knockout stages.

Wenger said: "It is a long time since that happened, that means the rest of Europe has caught up on us.

"We have to take that into consideration when we think about the future of the Premier League.

"It is a massive disappointment for English football, for a number of years we are not used to that.

"It is a massive wake-up call for us because we had Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and us all out before the quarter-finals."

Wenger could not help but reflect on a sense of what might have been after answering some of the critics with a battling display to topple Bayern on their home ground.

Trailing 3-1 from the first leg, it was always set to be Mission Impossible for Wenger's beleaguered side in Bavaria and so it proved despite a heroic performance to beat the runaway Bundesliga leaders.

Oliver Giroud fired in after just three minutes and Bayern were kept at bay by some fine saves from stand-in goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, preferred to fellow Pole Wojciech Szczesny.

Defender Laurent Koscielny headed in to level the tie on aggregate with four minutes left, but there was to be no fairytale ending as the Gunners were knocked out on the away goals rule.

"We were under pressure I believe because a bad performance could have been terrible for the morale of the team and for pride as well, but the regret I have is that there's potential in the team, and we are out of the competition," said Wenger, who left captain Thomas Vermaelen on the bench.

"We went close and I am of course very proud of the performance of the team.

"As well [I am] very disappointed for everybody who follows Arsenal that we couldn't get that third goal.

"I think there was room to score and when you look at the game you have many regrets of our first game.

"Qualifying is 180 minutes and our first 90, we were not at our best.

"I believe that it was very feasible to knock Bayern out and even we got the belief of that when we watched the game again, the first game, we had a plan that we respected, it went a bit fast on some occasions, but overall I felt that we had the quality to be there."

Bayern Munich manager Jupp Heynckes, meanwhile, admitted it had been a below-par display from his side.

"We did not play well and were given a black eye," he said.

"It was a rare off night for us, but you cannot expect us to win by three or four goals in every game."

Press Association

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