Arsene Wenger admitted his frustration at his Arsenal team’s failure to secure top spot in their Champions League group, thus ensuring they would face the very best of the competition in the last 16 round next year.
Arsenal lost 2-0 to Napoli which, combined with Borussia Dortmund’s late win over Marseille, meant that they finished second in group F on goal difference, and were condemned to face one of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Paris Saint Germain or Bayern Munich in the second round.
The captain Mikel Arteta was also sent off for two yellow cards in the second half, just after Gonzalo Higuain’s first goal for Napoli. Wenger said that Arteta was “absolutely convinced he didn't make a foul and that it was very harsh.“ Jose Callejon scored the second for Napoli with virtually the last kick of the game.
Asked whether he felt any regret at having lost the game when a draw would have secured first place, Wenger said: “Yes of course. That is the frustration because you feel it was open to do better. But it could have been worse as well.”
He added: “Of course to finish second makes the potential draw more difficult. In the last four or five years we have always had a difficult draw. Maybe this year we will be a bit luckier. If you look at the teams, you know we will have a difficult draw. On other hand, we qualified for the 14th consecutive year for the last 16. Maybe number 14 will give us a bit of luck.
“For us it gives us a little breather now to focus on the Championship [Premier League]. We have a very difficult game on Saturday morning [against Manchester City]. We will see what comes out. Between now and February, a lot can change for us and the team we face. We can put that in the back of our minds now and focus on the Championship.”
Per Mertesacker said: “We were always on the back foot, we took a little break today I think but we will be back on Saturday. It's always the same, you give 10 per cent less mentally because we knew we were through. We were unlucky, but we deserve to go through as we played a good group stage.“