Why Arsenal must follow up Chelsea rout with dominant Basel win
Arsenal must prove they are a different animal this season with a commanding win over Basel after heroics against Chelsea
Arsenal were extremely impressive as Arsene Wenger’s players delivered a morale-sapping blow to Chelsea’s title hopes with a resounding 3-0 win on Saturday.
The decisive manner of their performance at Emirates Stadium came as a welcome surprise given their disappointing record against their west London opponents in recent years – Arsenal hadn’t beaten Chelsea in the Premier League in their last nine attempts prior to Saturday evening.
Wenger’s squad finally ended Chelsea’s five-year hold over their London rivals and the Gunners manager looks to have the necessary squad depth to launch a sustained Premier League title challenge after falling short over the past couple of years.
Arsenal have emphatically answered questions over their title credentials but there is the small matter of a vital Champions League tie at The Emirates on Wednesday night after a 1-1 draw with Paris Saint-Germain in their group-stage opener earlier this month.
Like in the Premier League, the north Londoners have failed to fulfil their potential on the European stage and have faltered at the round of last 16 in the past six seasons.
Wenger’s long wait to win an elusive Champions League crown remains a blotch on his Arsenal legacy.
Having beaten Chelsea in what was a real statement of intent for the 2016-17 Premier League season, there will still be some cynics who wouldn’t raise an eyebrow if Arsenal conspired to drop points against Basel on Wednesday night.
The Swiss side are one of the Champions League’s trickier opponents. Basel have troubled Arsenal’s Premier League title rivals Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea in European competitions in recent seasons.
Wenger, naturally, is well aware of Basel’s record against English sides.
“It’s a team that dominated the Swiss championship for many years and have had excellent results in England. They’ve beaten everybody in England – Man United and Chelsea and Liverpool,” Wenger told his media conference at London Colney on Tuesday afternoon.
“I don’t expect them to be intimidated at all. On the other hand they have nothing to lose as well. That’s always dangerous.”
It is worth remembering that Wenger’s men made an ordeal of qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League last season after losing their opening two group-stage games against Dynamo Kyiv and Olympiakos before a 5-1 loss at Bayern Munich on match-day four.
A repeat of their start to the 2016-17 Champions League campaign would disrupt the building momentum at The Emirates after four successive Premier League victories. Even their stalemate with PSG didn’t disrupt Arsenal’s stride.
Should the Gunners falter against Basel after such a commanding and mature performance against one of their biggest rivals, it would fuel talk of ‘same old Arsenal’.
So it’s no surprise that Wenger was keen to preach the importance of consistency in games of such stature of Chelsea and Basel ahead of Wednesday night’s clash.
“It’s our target [to top the group] but the truth is on the pitch,” Wenger said. “We had a good game on Saturday but let’s show that we can go from good game to good game and put the effort in in every single game. That’s what it is about.”
If, as Arsenal supporters hope, the 2006 Champions League finalists have turned a corner after a summer of big investment, then Wenger’s side should dismiss the challenge of Basel with ease given the form of key players such as Alexis Sanchez, Granit Xhaka, Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi.
But should Arsenal fail to secure three points then the jury is still out on Wenger’s current crop.