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Kim Little said Arsenal’s Champions League performances were “not good enough” in the first half of the season but that the team are a different beast going into their quarter-final first leg against Wolfsburg under the lights at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
Arsenal scraped into the last eight on head-to-head goal difference with Hoffenheim after twice losing heavily against the reigning champions, Barcelona – 4-1 in Spain and 4-0 at the Emirates. The team also endured a surprising 4-1 defeat at Hoffenheim in their final group game.
“Our performances have been much better in the last two months and the results have followed that,” Little said. “Towards the end of last year our performances in the Champions League weren’t good enough and we need to be mindful of that.”
Arsenal nosedived after defeat by Chelsea in the FA Cup final and the second loss against Barcelona ruptured momentum. Jonas Eidevall’s side lost three of their next four games before a 90th-minute equaliser from Tobin Heath against Manchester City in the league restored some confidence.
“I think we were disappointed with both our results against Barcelona and mostly our performance,” Little said. “Our results told one picture, but I think we all know as individuals we didn’t perform how we wanted. Tomorrow we’ll be braver and more proactive and learn from that experience so that when it comes to these slightly different games we’ll make sure we turn up and perform to our best, which is what will be required.”
Since the 1-1 draw with City, Arsenal have won seven games and drawn two, against Manchester United and their title rivals Chelsea. That run, boosted by the return of injured players and the January signings, has ensured the team remain in the hunt in three competitions. But Eidevall cautioned that just taking part is not enough.
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“[We need to] be present, to take our chances,” the manager said. “It’s great that we’re in the position we are in, in three competitions, but we have to understand that at a club like Arsenal that’s not enough. We want to win trophies, that’s what we need to push for and that’s when we can be happy with results. That’s what separates the big clubs from the smaller clubs.”
Wolfsburg are not Barcelona but they are a strong team and have huge Champions League pedigree, having reached five of the past nine finals, winning twice.
“Wolfsburg is a top team, of course, but we play against top teams in the league: Chelsea and Manchester City are also top European teams, with their squads,” Eidevall said. “Barcelona has been an anomaly. Wolfsburg has a lot of fluidity. They are very, very good on the counterattack and we haven’t played a team so far this season that has been that good on the counter. At the same time, I don’t think they have been exposed to our style of football either.
“I believe in being proactive. If we set our gameplan right, then they should be changing to deal with our style.”
The removal of the away‑goals rule this season helps attacking and proactive football, Arsenal’s Swedish coach believes. “Now it’s easier, it’s less challenging for the brain: be as good as you can over 180 minutes,” Eidevall said.
“One of the better things with getting rid of away goals is you can keep attacking at home. If you’re winning 2-0 you can go for the third but before, you knew that you could be opening yourself up if you were too offensive. So hopefully we see more attacking football.”
Source: This post first appeared on The Guardian