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Arsenal need a good Champions League run

The real symptom of Arsenal’s decline is not in their performances against title rivals, where they still manage to get the odd win, but in the Champions League. Since they made it to the final in 2006 they have beaten one formidable opponent in the out rounds, AC Milan in 2008. Then they knocked out the holders 2-0 on aggregate, and it was no flukey win, they dominated them in the San Siro. Other than that they have had a shock exit against PSV, and been beaten by Barcelona and Bayern Munich twice as well as United and Liverpool. They beat Villareal and Roma in 2009 but neither were great sides. By this I mean teams who you would not be shocked if they won the Champions League. The only great side they beat were holders AC Milan, this is in eight years.

The start of this season seemed to promising, with new signing Sanchez offering speed running in behind which was so lacking last year. Ozil was meant to be better in his second season, Ramsey injury free and the FA cup win a sign of things to come. Already this optimism seems to have faded. They are out of the League Cup, 11 points behind a Chelsea side already looking like the side to beat and looking like being in their familiar spot of battling for forth.

To look for the FA Cup for success seems a bit desperate given they won it last year. To make this season a memorable one they need a Champions League run and to knock out a formidable team in Europe. To accomplish this their big game playing imports must step up to the plate. Before the sale of Van Persie they could rely on him to score big goals, their performance in the league against big teams declined in the season after he left. In his last season he scored a hat trick against Chelsea, against Manchester United, a key equaliser against Spurs and a vital brace at Liverpool. Since then they have bought Podolski, Ozil and Sanchez all of whom are players who have a history of scoring in the biggest games, with the hope of replacing him.

Podolski has near 47 international goals, Ozil and Sanchez have both starred in El Classico, one of the biggest fixtures in world football. It is too soon to judge Sanchez, but Ozil and Podolski have not really delivered on the big stage for Arsenal yet. Podolski has had his moments, such as at Anfield in his third league game and with a goal at Bayern Munich, but seems to only be a bit part player despite his phenomenal international record. Ozil has flattered to deceive. For example when they were beaten at Old Trafford last season he was a player who had won their a few months ago, so ought to have led players without that experience, but vanished. They will all need to step up if Arsenal are to break their big game duck in the Champions League.

With 2 wins and 1 defeat they look good money for qualification. In recent years they have finished second and met a great side in the last sixteen. Twice this team has been the eventual winner. However in 2005/06 they beat Real Madrid then Juventus, so it may require a win against a great side in the last 16 to generate momentum for a good Champions League run, which currently looks the only way they can improve on last season.

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