Arsenal are back in the Champions League after a long period of time. The Gunners had not been seen in the competition for a long time, in part due to poor performances in the league, which led to their missing out on UCL qualification. It almost led to a point when many simply forgot that Arsenal used to play in the competition.
But last season, manager Mikel Arteta had the team almost win the league, though they lost out to Manchester City in the last stages. One upside, however, is that they are back in the Champions League after many years of waiting, and the Gunners will be raring to make it worthwhile.
When was the last time Arsenal played in the UCL?
Arsenal last played in the prestigious competition six years ago, in the 2016–17 campaign. Since then, the Gunners have been absent from the competition, instead plying their trade in the Europa League.
That season saw Arsenal experience their heaviest defeats ever in the competition, losing 5-1 both home and away to Bayern Munich in the Round of 16 stage. The aggregate score was 10-2, and it was a foreshadowing of things to come. Arsene Wenger was the manager at the time, and he would soon leave the club.
Since that heavy defeat, Arsenal have not managed to qualify for the competition again. Before, they had participated in the tournament 19 consecutive times, and it will be six years before they come back to the biggest stage. In that time period, three English clubs—Liverpool, Chelsea, and Manchester City have won the prestigious trophy.
Arsenal have also not experienced much success at the continental stage, only managing a single UCL final in 2006, which they lost 2-1 to Barcelona.
Which teams will Arsenal face in the group stage?
Mikel Arteta’s men will therefore be gunning to have a good UCL campaign to celebrate their return. And they have a good chance as well, having a fairly easy group.
The North Londoners have been sorted into Group B, where they will face Europa League winners Sevilla, Dutch runners-up PSV Eindhoven, and Ligue 1 club Lens.
On paper, Arsenal have a great chance to qualify for the knockout stages from this group, if not top it. Only Sevilla have a good chance to compete against them, considering they won the Europa League, which Arsenal was knocked out of. PSV were runners-up in the Eredivisie last season and are currently top this season, so they could give some trouble. Lens are the worst team in the group, as the French club is currently in last place in Ligue 1.
While the Premier League runners-up have no expectations of winning the competition, they will be hoping to go as far as possible.
Arsenal will begin their UCL campaign this Wednesday when they first face PSV at the Emirates. It will be a great night for the home fans, who will be glad to hear the UCL anthem after six long years.