Arsene Wenger to Take Arsenal to Champions League Glory? Don't Bet Against It

Ian Rodgers@irodgers66World Football Staff WriterDecember 18, 2012

Whisper it, but Arsenal are looking like a team again
Whisper it, but Arsenal are looking like a team againLaurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Arsenal to win the UEFA Champions League this season? Arsene Wenger to emerge from his most testing season at The Emirates with a night of glory at Wembley in May?

The general consensus would view these questions with a mocking scowl. But the Gunners have the same chance as London rivals Chelsea did last season.

The Stamford Bridge club appeared to be on their way out of the tournament last season following a disappointing 3-1 defeat at Napoli in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

However, following the dismissal of manager Andre Villas-Boas and the return to form of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, Chelsea saw off the Italian club in the return leg with a 4-1 extra-time victory.

When Villas-Boas was axed by club owner Roman Abramovich in March this year, Chelsea were on a run of just three English Premier League wins from 12 games. Roberto Di Matteo stepped into the breach and the rest is history.

Arsenal have been on a similar track this season.

Unrest among the supporters turned the heat on manager Wenger with the North London club failing to win silverware since 2005.

The frustration reached its peak last week when the Gunners crashed out of the Capital One Cup, arguably their best chance of ending their barren run of trophies, at the hands of League Two side Bradford City.

However, after their performance in the 5-2 win at Reading on Monday night, the pressure on Wenger and the team has eased.

One swallow does not make a summer, though. But a run of winnable matches through the Christmas and New Year period could hand Arsenal a major lift for the second half of the campaign. And a ‘friendly’ pairing in the Champions League draw this week could act as a further incentive for Wenger’s team.

Are Arsenal finally getting their act together this season?

Much will depend on the form of midfielder Santi Cazorla in the coming weeks. The Spaniard, 28, scored a hat trick at the Madejski Stadium to cap an great individual display which mirrored those of Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott.

Cazorla was unplayable while Walcott terrorised the Reading defence. It was almost vintage Arsenal.

Defensive lapses saw Reading threaten a comeback on Monday, something which Wenger must attend to in January. But hope springs eternal for Arsenal supporters and a pairing with Paris Saint-Germain or Cazorla’s former club Malaga could act as a springboard towards the Champions League final.

This is the Gunners' 13th successive season in the knockout stage of Europe’s elite tournament, a record which cannot be sniffed at.

Arsenal have been unfortunate with their draws in recent seasons. Manchester United, AC Milan and Barcelona have all been responsible for ending Wenger’s hopes of reaching their first final since 2006.

Then, the Gunners were the first London club to reach the Champions League final before Chelsea became the first team from the English capital to win it last season.

Could it be time for the trophy to travel across London?