By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger admits that his team were "spectators" for much of last year's first leg against Barcelona - but he expects a different story when the teams meet again this week.
The Catalan giants put on a footballing exhibition at Emirates Stadium last March, dominating possession and territory while carving out chances almost at will. Manuel Almunia thwarted Barcelona time and again but his team-mates chased shadows during a chastening first-half experience.
Arsenal improved after the break and eventually forced a 2-2 draw before briefly threatening a shock in the Nou Camp. But, understandably, it is Barcelona's opening salvo in north London that sticks in the memory.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Wenger acknowledged that his team were cowed by their illustrious opponents last time out but he insists they have learned their lesson.
"The main fact last year is that in the first half of the home game we were a little bit spectators and a bit inhibited and I believe today confidence-wise and mentally we are a completely different team," said the manager.
"We have made our way forward by challenging in the Premier League, we are in all competitions and if you look at the predictions in pre-season, nobody in England predicted we would be today where we are.
"We have made our own way with our own strength and mental belief and there’s a good opportunity tomorrow to show we can be stronger than the predictions, and who doesn’t like that in football?
"Certainly yes [last year's defeat to Barcelona improved Arsenal], because we came out of the second game with a lot of frustrations because we missed the turning point of the game when we were 1-0 up over there," he went on.
"We are a stronger team now because this team has attitude, focus and every day since I am manager for a long time, I have not seen many teams with such consistent focus every day to improve. The main reason we have improved is because of the attitude of the players."Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 15 Feb 2011