Over the next week we’ll be reviewing Arsenal's 2014/15 campaign - and we continue with a look back at the Champions League run.
A fourth-placed finish in last season’s Premier League meant Arsenal had to qualify for the Champions League in a two-legged tie against a combative Besiktas side.
A goalless draw and Aaron Ramsey’s sending off in Turkey gave the Gunners plenty to do in north London, but up stepped Alexis Sanchez - not for the last time. The Chile forward pounced on a loose ball and smashed past Tolga Zengin to secure Arsenal’s place in the group stage, despite Mathieu Debuchy’s late red card.
"Wenger blooded more young talent, giving Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Stefan O’Connor first-team debuts"
The Gunners were drawn in Group D alongside Borussia Dortmund, Anderlecht and Galatasaray, and Debuchy’s suspension meant Hector Bellerin was given a baptism of fire as he made his Champions League debut in the 2-0 opening-night defeat in Dortmund.
However, Arsenal responded well and Danny Welbeck scored his first senior hat-trick as the Gunners put four past Galatasaray at Emirates Stadium. Wojciech Szczesny’s sending off gave David Ospina his second Arsenal appearance and the Colombia goalkeeper impressed during his 30-minute cameo.
Two dramatic ties against Anderlecht followed. Trailing 1-0 going into injury time at Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, Kieran Gibbs volleyed Calum Chambers’ deep cross home and Lukas Podolski smashed in from close range 60 seconds later to complete a last-gasp comeback.
The reverse tie could not have been more different. Mikel Arteta, Alexis and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain fired Arsenal into a comfortable three-goal lead before the hour mark and the Gunners looked to be cruising. However, a quickfire Anthony Vanden Borre double and Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 90th-minute equaliser meant Arsenal would have to wait to secure their last-16 place.
Two weeks later Arsene Wenger’s side did exactly that, beating Dortmund 2-0 at the Emirates thanks to Yaya Sanogo’s first Arsenal goal and another Alexis strike. With a last-16 place confirmed Wenger blooded more young talent, naming seven academy products on the bench and giving Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Stefan O’Connor first-team debuts in Arsenal’s 4-1 win at Galatasaray.
The Gunners were given a favourable draw against Wenger’s old club Monaco in the next round, but did not capitalise. Arsenal were 2-0 down before Oxlade-Chamberlain curled home, but Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco struck less than a minute later to give Wenger’s side a mountain to climb at Stade Louis II.
Arsenal almost reached the summit. Giroud gave the Gunners an early lead on the night before Ramsey doubled their advantage, but Monaco’s defence stood firm to knock Arsenal out of the Champions League on away goals.