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Charting Arsenal's Champions League Adventures Under Arsene Wenger

James McNicholasFeatured ColumnistAugust 30, 2013

Charting Arsenal's Champions League Adventures Under Arsene Wenger

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    Arsenal have a complicated relationship with the Champions League.

    Arsene Wenger regards it as the greatest competition in world football, yet it is the one blemish on his CV that he has never been able to lift it.

    Go to the next slide to begin a journey through Arsenal's history in the competition under Wenger.

1998-99: Ruined by Rebrov

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    As Premier League Champions in 1997-98, Arsenal entered the 1998-99 Champions League at the group stage. In order to boost attendance figures beyond Highbury's capacity, Arsenal were granted permission to play their home fixtures at the national stadium: Wembley.

    However, Arsenal failed to progress from the group stage, winning just two of their six European fixtures.

    Arsenal's scourge in the group was Sergrey Rebrov, who scored a crucial late equaliser in the clash between Arsenal and Dynamo Kiev in London. Rebrov would later go on to join Arsenal's rivals, Tottenham Hotspur.

1999-00: Gabriel Batistuta Wrecks Arsenal's Campaign at Wembley

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    In 1999-00, Arsenal played their home fixtures at Wembley Stadium. However, it failed to bring them fortune once again, as they were put to the sword by Fiorentina's Gabriel Batistuta.

    The Gunners did manage a creditable 1-1 draw in the Nou Camp, with Kanu grabbing a late equaliser to peg back Barcelona.

    However, they tumbled out of the group stage and into the UEFA Cup, where they progressed all the way to the final before losing to Galatasaray on penalties.

2000-01: Crushed by John Carew

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    In the new millenium, Arsenal finally progressed beyond the first group stage.

    The Gunners qualified from a tricky looking group including Lazio, Shakhtar Donetsk and Sparta Prague. In those days, there was a second group stage to follow the first, and Arsenal did well to get beyond that too.

    Having navigated their way through 12 group games, The Gunners finally reached the knockout stages. However, they came unstuck at the Mestalla Stadium. A late John Carew goal took Valencia through to the next game on away goals at Arsenal's expense.

2001-02: Dumped out by Deportivo

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    In this campaign, Arsenal once again progressed to the second group stage.

    However, despite a rousing 3-1 victory at Highbury over Juventus, in which Dennis Bergkamp was in inspired form, Arsenal could not find their way out of a challenging second group. Their fate was sealed with consecutive defeats at home to Deportivo and away to Juve.

    Although Arsenal triumphed in the Premier League, they could not match those achievements on the European stage.

2002-03: John Carew Returns to Haunt Arsenal

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    By now, Arsenal were getting the hang of getting out of the group stage.

    This campaign was notable for Gilberto Silva's remarkably fast goal against PSV Eindhoven. The Brazilian midfielder scored after just 20.07 seconds of the fixture had elapsed, setting a new Champions League record.

    The second group stage started well, with Thierry Henry netting his first hat-trick for the club away to Roma. However, Valencia were Arsenal's scourge again, with John Carew finding the netting twice in a crucial defeat to send Arsenal out.

2003-04: Wayne Bridge Collapses Arsenal Campaign

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    In 2003-04, the Champions League returned to the format we know today. There was just one group stage, followed by a two-legged knockout competition.

    As had become customary, Arsenal progressed from the group stage. For that they could thank a dramatic 88th minute header from Ashley Cole that defeated Dynamo Kiev and had turned Arsenal's European campaign on its header. After failing to win their first three games, Cole's goal changed everything.

    In Arsenal's next game, they secured one of Arsene Wenger's greatest European results, winning 5-1 in the San Siro.

    However, the campaign did not end in glory. Arsenal were Invincible in the Premier League, but in Europe they were undone by a domestic rival: Chelsea. Wayne Bridge's goal put Chelsea in to the Champions League semi-Finals at Arsenal's expense.

2004-05: Bullied by Bayern

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    Arsenal won their group despite winning only two of their six fixtures.

    However, their poor form caught up with them when they encountered Bayern Munich in the knockout stages. A 3-1 defeat at Bayern's Olympiastadion was enough to all but ensure Bayern's progression.

    Arsenal's 1-0 win in the return leg was not enough to overturn the deficit. Once again, the semi-finals proved a step too far for The Gunners.

2005-06: So Near, Yet so Far

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    This is the Champions League campaign that will live the longest in Arsenal fans' memories.

    It began promisingly. Arsenal won a weak group containing Thun, Ajax and Sparta Prague at a canter, dropping just two points in a meaningless final fixture.

    In the knockout stage, the Gunners were drawn against Real Madrid. They progressed, thanks to a stunning solo effort from Thierry Henry in the Bernabeu, and an impressive rear-guard action at Highbury.

    In the quarter-finals, former skipper Patrick Vieira was bested by up-and-comer Cesc Fabregas. A dramatic semi-final victory over Villarreal was secured by Jens Lehmann's penalty save from Juan Roman Riquelme.

    The final itself is almost too painful to recall. Arsenal lost Lehmann to a cruel red card before taking the lead through Sol Campbell. However, the tiring Gunners eventually fell victim to two late Barcelona goals.

    Arsenal may never get closer to lifting European football's greatest trophy.

     

2006-07: Pipped by PSV

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    After the near miss of 2006, this was a relatively disappointing campaign.

    Arsenal won their group in comfortable fashion, seeing off the likes of Porto and Hamburg along the way, but went out in the first knockout stage against Dutch side PSV.

    A late goal from future Chelsea centre-half Alex sent Arsenal back to the drawing board.

2007-08: Losing to Liverpool

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    As Arsenal finished 4th in the 2006-07 Premier League, they were forced to play in a qualifying round to ensure Champions League participation. The Gunners comfortably beat Sparta Prague 5-0 on aggregate to earn progression to the group stage.

    Arsenal sauntered through to the knockouts, picking up a record 7-0 win over Slavia Prague in the process. That game was so one-sided that even Aleksandr Hleb and Nicklas Bendtner scored.

    In the knockout stage, a youthful Arsenal overcame AC Milan thanks to goals from Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor. However, The Gunners fell at the next hurdle, losing to Liverpool in the quarter-finals.

    Despite the heroics of Theo Walcott, running the length of the pitch to set up Adebayor, Arsenal conspired to concede late goals to Steven Gerrard and Ryan Babel.

    Once again, a domestic rival had destroyed Arsenal's dreams of Champions League glory.

2008-09: Undone by United

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    Another season, another painful defeat to a domestic rival.

    Having beaten Steve McClaren's FC Twente to qualify for the Champions League, Arsenal progressed as far as the semi-finals before falling victim to a familiar foe: Manchester United.

    The Red Devils edged the first leg at Old Trafford by one goal to nil, but two United goals in the first 11 minutes of the second leg silenced the Emirates and killed the tie.

2009-10: Messi's Magic Destroys Arsenal

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    After qualifying at the Celtic's expense in a match featuring a controversial dive by Croatian striker Eduardo da Silva, Arsenal got as far as the quarter-finals before coming up against Lionel Messi and Barcelona.

    Messi took Arsenal apart, scoring four times in the second leg to put The Gunners to the sword.

    The little Argentine is a foe Arsenal became accustomed to facing over the following few seasons.

2010-2011: Barcelona Are Back

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    For the second time in successive seasons, Barcelona and Lionel Messi proved too good for Arsenal.

    Although the Gunners won the first leg 2-1 in their round of 16 clash, thanks to a goal from the mercurial Andrey Arshavin, Barca were able to turn things around in the second leg. After Robin van Persie was unfairly dismissed for two soft yellow card offences, Barcelona secured a 3-1 victory.

    The irrepressible Messi, of course, helped himself to two goals.

2011-12: Arsenal Shoot Themselves in the Foot in Milan

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    After waltzing through the group stages, dispatching an impressive Borussia Dortmund side along the way, Arsenal had blown it in their first knockout game. They somehow managed to lose 4-0 in the San Siro to an average AC Milan side. It was Thierry Henry's final appearance for the club, and it was a painfully disappointing night.

    However, The Gunners almost completed an incredible comeback. In the second leg, three first half goals had Milan rocking. Unfortunately, Arsenal couldn't find a crucial fourth and were left to rue the mistakes of the first leg.

2012-13: Beaten by the Champions

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    Arsenal exited with the 2012-13 Champions League with a modicum of pride.

    Although they were bossed by a superior Bayern Munich side, they can take some comfort from the fact Bayern went on to complete treble and lift the Champions League trophy themselves.

    Arsenal also became the only side to win at the Allianz Arena in 2013.

    What's next for The Gunners in Europe? Will they ever go one better than their 2006 appearance in the finals?

    Let us know in your thoughts below.

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