Arsenal legend Thierry Henry believes that the Gunners need to qualify for the next stage of the Champions League or risk losing their image as a leading English club (via The Sun). Writing in his column for the paper, Henry highlighted how the current situation faced by Arsenal was entirely their own fault and urged them to dig themselves out of the hole for the benefit of the Premier League as a whole.
English clubs in general have fared badly this season, with only Manchester City guaranteed to qualify ahead of Matchday 6. Henry directed criticisms at the other clubs as well, but focused mainly on Arsenal’s situation, calling for the players to step up and fill the void left by Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez.
“The Gunners should have cruised through and if they go out, they will have no-one to blame but themselves,” he wrote.
“Losing Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla is a major setback but it is time for other players to step up and show they are good enough. It helps that they know exactly what they need to do on Wednesday. There is no relying on other teams doing them a favour or being caught in two minds about how to play. The job is straightforward. Go out and attack, win by two goals or go into the Europa League.
“For five years Arsenal have pointed to the fact that they have often been knocked out by the eventual winners. But that shouldn’t excuse anything. If you are a competitor, it makes no difference if you are knocked out in the second round or the semi-finals. You are out.”
As the Champions League currently stands, we need to beat Olympiacos 2-0, or by any margin if we score three or more goals. If we fail to do so, the Greek side go through. They will be well aware of this and will naturally set up extremely defensively at home so the pressure will be on our players to provide the breakthroughs in this game.
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Henry went on to add, “None of the English teams appear to be in the same class as Bayern and Barcelona. For me, it doesn’t matter who you get drawn against in the last 16 because if you are going to win the Champions League you will have to beat the best teams.
“No-one gave Juventus a prayer last season but they overcame Real Madrid and came within a whisker of beating Barca in the final. Maybe an English team can do the same — even if it seems highly unlikely right now.”
While we certainly seem nowhere near the elite teams right now, we did beat Bayern when we were at full strength. The players need to keep reminding themselves of that and focus on beating whatever opposition we are drawn to face. Of course, all this is dependent on us getting past Olympiacos in the first place.