London (AFP) – Arsene Wenger has challenged Arsenal to aim for top spot in their Champions League group as they prepare to face Basel on Wednesday.
Wenger’s side have made it through the group stage for the past 16 years but have failed to get beyond the last 16 in the previous six attempts.
The Gunners’ main problem has been their inability to finish in top spot in their group, leaving them open to face some of Europe’s superpowers in the first knockout round.
But, after fighting to a draw at Paris Saint-Germain in their opening Group A game and drubbing Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday, Wenger hopes Arsenal can stay in good enough form to win the group and avoid Europe’s elite.
“It’s our target but the truth is on the pitch,” he said on Tuesday. “We had a good game on Saturday but let’s show that we can go from good game to good game and put the effort in, in every single game.
“That’s what it is about, as you said in recent years we came always out of the group stage.”
Arsenal did not help themselves last season by losing their first home game in the competition against Olympiakos.
“Last year, let’s say it was difficulties because we made it difficult for ourselves and we have learned as well that in the group stage it’s not only important to qualify but, if possibly, qualify as top of the group,” Wenger added.
“It gives you many more chances after to go through.”
While PSG will be considered to be the main rivals to Wenger’s ambitions of winning the group, the 66-year-old acknowledges Basel can cause an upset.
“They are a team who are used to playing in the Champions League,” he said.
“It’s not a newcomer or a beginner in the Champions League, they have huge experience in the competition.
“This experience goes through the generations and this is why they’re not intimidated. I don’t expect them to be intimidated at all.
“On the other hand, they have nothing to lose. That’s always dangerous.”
Granit Xhaka, a former Basel player, could make just his third Arsenal start as he is likely to be drafted in for the injured Francis Coquelin.
The Switzerland international replaced Coquelin after he suffered a knee injury against Chelsea.
Meanwhile, Basel coach Urs Fischer will take heart from his club’s fine form against English sides when they travel to the Emirates Stadium.
The Swiss Super League champions have lost just one of their last four games in England, having drawn at Manchester United in 2012 before winning at Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea.
Their only loss in recent times came against the Blues at Stamford Bridge back in May 2013 and Fischer believes they can enjoy more success on English soil if they stay focused.
“We will see what is going to happen,” he said. “In the end it is important for us to look at us, not what other people are saying or writing.
“We have to look at ourselves but the past is a positive thing for us.”
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