• Champions League

Wenger: We believe this can be our year

ESPN staff
February 25, 2015
Can Arsenal break their last-16 curse?

Arsene Wenger says Arsenal believe this can finally be their year in the Champions League.

Arsenal head into the first leg of their last 16 tie against Monaco at the Emirates Stadium tonight on the back of some impressive domestic form, reaching the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and moving third in the Premier League.

With Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla all fit and firing, Wenger feels Arsenal can make an impact on the competition he has never won.

"Now it is more difficult than 10 or 15 years ago because there are more candidates, especially more in England," said Wenger, who took Arsenal to the 2006 Champions League final, where they lost to Barcelona in Paris.

"But it is a cup competition, that means belief, commitment and being in a good period when you play the game."

Wenger continued: "I believe, yes, we are in a better shape. Mentally as well, I am convinced of that. I look around Europe today and there are 10 teams who believe they can win it, so let us just focus on ourselves.

"I do not question the hunger. It is more belief. We feel as a team that we are on the way up and we can use the Champions League to confirm that."

Arsenal have not made it past the last-16 stage of the competition since 2011, with Monaco vice-president Vadim Vasilyev claiming they will be under pressure as a result.

But, after avoiding the European heavyweights in the second round, Wenger accepts his side will be expected to make the last eight.

"It's part of the mind-games for Monaco to say that but I have no problem with the pressure," said Wenger.

"I want the pressure. I love it. The worst thing in your career is to play without pressure. I want to play games when there is a lot at stake.

"For me this tie is 50-50. We have more experience in this competition but Monaco won their group and we only finished second.

"After 17 years in this competition the one lesson I have learned is that 'easy' a is a word you have to ban in the Champions League.

"Every time at this stage of the competition you go out or go through on one goal.

"In the past four years we have gone out in the last 16, twice to the eventual winners, and always on goal-difference or by one goal.

"In the last four years we have gone out because we have conceded a goal at home in the first 30 minutes which has eventually knocked us out.

"So we know that every single minute is absolutely important. Too many times lately we have just gone out in the last 16. This time I want to stay in, even if it is only just.

"Many times we have gone close in the Champions League. We have been to one final, two semi-finals and four quarter-finals.

"Now I want to go right to the end. But we can only to that step by step."

Arsene Wenger is embracing the added pressure after avoiding the European heavyweights © Getty Images
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