Champions League: Jack Wilshere focused on Arsenal topping the 'group of death'
The Gunners are on a winning run since their opening day defeat to Aston Villa
Thursday 19 September 2013
Arsenal got their Champions League campaign off to the ideal start with victory in Marseille last night - a result that leaves Jack Wilshere hopeful of topping Group F.
In the build-up to yesterday's clash at the Stade Velodrome, manager Arsene Wenger said his side had been given the "hardest group" of this year's competition.
It is easy to see why, given the quintet includes last year's runners-up Borussia Dortmund, Rafael Benitez's Napoli and French giants Marseille.
Last night's win on the French south coast could therefore prove vital, with Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey scoring the all-important goals in a hard-fought, if fortuitous, 2-1 victory.
That result, allied to Dortmund's 2-1 defeat in Naples, makes Wilshere believes that they cannot just progress from their group, but also win it.
"Dortmund losing does open it up a bit," the England midfielder said.
"We have got two home games now [against Napoli and Dortmund] and they are tough teams, but if we play to our full potential in front of our fans, we should be able to win those games.
"If we win them both, we are sitting on nine points going into the last three games and that is a good position to be in.
"We also have Dortmund and Napoli away and away games are always tough but we want to finish top of the group.
"In the first game, if you can't win it you make sure you don't lose it but we won so it is a great start.
"We know it is only a great start because it is a tough group - Napoli beat Dortmund so any team can beat any other in this group so we have to be ready for the next game."
Given Arsenal's current form, you would not bet against them progressing in style.
An opening-day home defeat at the hands of Aston Villa is the only blot on the Gunners' copybook, having won all their other matches.
Most impressive is their away form, with last night's win in Marseille a club-record 10th in succession on the road.
"At the end of last season we knew we had to get that fourth position and I said at the start of the campaign we had to take that into this year," Wilshere said.
"We started off badly, losing at home, but we picked it up since.
"We won at Fulham away, which is not easy, and we have had some good away wins. The last 10 away games we have won but they have not been easy.
"Some games we had to hold out right until the end and in other games we have killed it off early.
"We are on a good run at the moment but we know we have got to keep that going."
Stoke are next up at the Emirates Stadium this weekend, before trips to West Brom and Swansea - a run of fixtures Wojciech Szczesny is confident of succeeding in.
"We've won the last six games, four of them away from home," the goalkeeper told Arsenal Player. "We know the momentum is with us.
"The games are coming thick and fast because we play in every midweek game so I'm sure we can keep that going, keep the momentum going and keep getting results.
"I think it's just the desire of the whole team to defend well. We've not conceded a lot of goals away from home.
"We've been defending really well and then scoring goals on the counter attack so it's just consistency of our defensive performances I think.
"When you defend very well for 90 minutes, you are going to get a couple of chances to score on the counter-attack and that's what we've been doing away from home."
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, meanwhile, has claimed Mesut Ozil could not "stand the pressure" at the Spanish club and that the German midfielder looked to fashion his £43million transfer deadline move to Arsenal.
Quoted in Spanish media outlet AS from a meeting ahead of Real Madrid's General Assembly on Sunday, Perez said: "Ozil asked to leave the club environment and here, no-one should be upset.
"He could not stand the pressure of Madrid."
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