Arsenal can complete stunning Champions League transformation with three transfer moves


Champions League football is back on our screens tonight.

Liverpool and Manchester City will be flying the flag for Premier League teams this week, whilst Manchester United and current holders Chelsea are in action next week.

Although, the pick of the last-16 ties is Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Madrid with Sergio Ramos going up against his former club and Lionel Messi returning to Spain for the first time since leaving Barcelona.

Of course, Arsenal‘s wait to be back at Europe’s top table now stands at half a decade and it’s five years to the date since they last competed in a round of 16 first-leg tie.

That was against Bayern Munich and fans won’t want reminding of the scoreline at the Allianz Arena, nor the overall aggregate scoreline in what turned out to be the final time Arsene Wenger took charge of an Arsenal away game in the Champions League.

And the Frenchman was at a loss to explain his side’s second half capitulation having gone in at half-time level and with an all-important away goal.

“It is difficult to explain. I felt we had two good chances to score just before half-time,” Wenger told BT Sport. “I felt we were unlucky for the second goal. The referee gave a corner for us at first.

“Then we concede the second goal and then the most important was that we lost Koscielny. We collapsed.

“Overall I must say they are a better team than us, they played very well in the second half and we dropped our level. We were a bit unlucky we dropped our level and they were better than us.”



Arsene Wenger's final Champions League away game as Arsenal manager did not go to plan. (Image: TF-Images/Getty Images)
Arsene Wenger’s final Champions League away game as Arsenal manager did not go to plan. (Image: TF-Images/Getty Images)

But what is of interest to supporters is how much the team has changed since then.

As spotted on Arsenal Reddit, the side that took to the field in the hope of overturning a 5-1 deficit in the second leg at the Emirates Stadium three weeks later shows Granit Xhaka is the only survivor five years on.

Furthermore, the Switzerland international is the only player still at the club this season that started the away leg against the Bundesliga giants whilst Mohamed Elneny was an unused substitute.

David Ospina, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alex Iwobi were also in the starting lineup that night and have all since departed for pastures new.

Hector Bellerin too started both games, but he’s spending the campaign on loan with Real Betis and could be playing Champions League football with the La Liga outfit next season if he completes a permanent transfer.



Granit Xhaka and Hector Bellerin featured the last time Arsenal were in UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg action. (Image: Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Granit Xhaka and Hector Bellerin featured the last time Arsenal were in UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg action. (Image: Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images)

In fact, the Spaniard as well as Xhaka and Elneny could very well no longer be at Arsenal the next time the club are playing in European football’s elite competition.

The latter’s contract expires at the end of the season, whilst AS Roma are poised to renew their interest in Xhaka having missed out on his signature last summer.

So in the event that the aforementioned trio leave the club within the next six months, it means no first-team player will have had any experience of Champions League knockout football in Arsenal colours.

As a result, a stunning five-year transformation will be complete.

And there’s every chance Arsenal’s Champions League absence will end in time for the 2022/23 campaign.

Currently two points off a top-four spot – ahead of Manchester United’s game with Brighton tonight – the Gunners know that winning their games in hand will put them in the ascendency.

Much has changed in the world since Arsenal were last in the Champions League and a complete overhaul of the first-team squad could be next on the list.





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