We kick off our Champions League Group A campaign against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday night - and Chris Harris previews the match below:
“We play in a championship where you look at the results over the weekend and it's very intense. We are used to playing with the intensity you need in the Champions League.” - Arsene Wenger
Arsene Wenger was stuck in traffic on his way to his first Champions League press conference of the season, but he didn’t seem to mind.
- 'We have a better chance in Europe now'
- Team news: Koscielny latest ahead of PSG
- 'Verratti is their little magician'
- Gallery: Arsenal train ahead of PSG game
- 'In Zlatan, they lost more than a player'
- Wenger on Ozil, Alexis and PSG
As his vehicle crept through the Paris rush hour, the manager peered out of the window to admire the city he knows so well.
Wenger is no stranger to the French capital but, still, this was an unusual experience. He’s never taken Arsenal to the Parc des Princes before and it’s been 22 years since he last managed a side there.
“I like to come to Paris,” said Wenger. “It's a city I love, it's my country, a country I love.
“PSG are a good test for us. They're a team who are, in France, the team above everyone else. In France they always produce good football teams and players, so it's exciting to come to this city and compare to where we are this season compared to everyone else.”
It’s also been 22 years since we last played PSG here. In March 1994, a month before Youri Djorkaeff earned a 1-1 draw in Wenger’s last visit as Monaco coach, Ian Wright and David Ginola were on target in another 1-1 draw in the European Cup Winners’ Cup.
We lifted that trophy five weeks later and then lost it in Paris a year later in a painful defeat to Real Zaragoza. The words ‘Nayim from the halfway line’ still rankle fans of a certain age.
|Arsenal: Ramsey (hamstring), Mertesacker (knee), Welbeck (knee), Jenkinson (knee)PSG: Kurzawa (thigh)|
Thanks to Wenger, we’ve been fighting for bigger prizes in Europe since then, and although the Champions League remains elusive, the manager feels his squad is better equipped than ever to go deep into the competition.
“The squad is between 24 and 30, basically. That's where you have a good combination of physical strength and experience,” said Wenger.
“We play in a championship where you look at the results over the weekend and it's very intense. We are used to playing with the intensity you need in the Champions League. That's what we want to do.
“Last year we were second [in the group] because Bayern Munich were in front of us. I think we did Bayern at home, and lost away. But Bayern were more consistent. We had a bad start last year, losing to Dynamo Zagreb, then we had a hiccup at home against Olympiakos.
“Bayern were a bit more consistent than we were. What we need to do to win the group stage is make a good result here.
“But better than all my speeches is the way we play, the dynamic we have and the intensity we put into the game. Playing well is better than talking, and making the results which we want to show on Tuesday.”
ONE TO WATCH
Laurent Koscielny’s stock has never been higher than it is right now.
By common consensus the best France defender at Euro 2016, Laurent has been imperious since resuming club duties at Leicester last month. We haven’t lost since he came back and, just in case his defensive work wasn’t enough, Laurent marked his 31st birthday on Saturday with a stunning goal against Southampton.
That overhead kick - normally the preserve of the best strikers - spoke of a player at the peak of his powers. So it’s a good job Laurent has recovered from the whack he took to the face on Saturday and will line up in Paris this evening.
“Is he one of the best in the world? I’d like to say yes,” said Wenger.
“No one is indispensable, but he has taken on a new status with us. He has experience, self-confidence. He's always had talent, and that hasn't always been recognised in France because he left Lorient, not a big club. So he didn't have the reputation he deserved.
“But he's made his name in English football. I think he's one of the best in the world. I hope he proves that on Tuesday.”
It’s been a summer of change for PSG. Gone is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, their talismanic striker. Gone is Laurent Blanc, their most successful manager.
Unai Emery is now at the helm and post-Zlatan life has started inauspiciously with a defeat and a draw in PSG’s last two Ligue 1 games.
The return of Thiago Silva after a hip injury will help, while full backs Serge Aurier and Maxwell, plus playmaker Javier Pastore, have also shrugged off injuries.
But it’s clear that, like us, PSG have yet to hit their peak form.
“Yes, that's fair,” said Wenger. “Both sides are looking to find the right tempo and rhythm to their play.
“Like us, I think PSG were missing a number of players. They had certain players who joined up a bit later and they missed a number of players at the back.
“They were at the same hotel as us [on our pre-season tour] in LA and Thiago Silva got injured there. He's an important player for them. But they're clearly superior in the domestic league, so I expect a slightly different PSG in the Champions League.
“PSG are very good in the middle of the park, so we need to try and stop them feeding the forwards. That's where the key to the game will be. They have a lot of technical ability in midfield. We need to close the space and stop the supply line to the forwards.”
More quizzes and polls to follow soon
Copyright 2023 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.