Champions League last 16: Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker feels missing out on winning group could actually be beneficial
Gunners' 2-0 loss at Napoli on Wednesday cost them progressing as a top seed
Thursday 12 December 2013
Arsenal's 2-0 defeat at Napoli on Wednesday night cost them winning Group F and progressing to the last 16 of the Champions League as a top seed, but Gunners' defender Per Mertesacker is looking forward to facing one of Europe's top teams in the next phase.
The Gunners needed only a point against Napoli to be sure of winning Group F, but instead came painfully close to exiting the competition, with the Italians nearly getting the three-goal winning margin they required to qualify at the expense of Arsenal.
The club will now be paired with either Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or Paris Saint-Germain when the draw is made on Monday morning in Nyon, Switzerland.
The centre-back Mertesacker, however, remembers that Arsenal won 2-0 at Bayern in the last 16 of the competition last season, and feels the Premier League leaders are more than capable of beating the giants of European football.
"We got Bayern Munich last year and nearly went through. If you want to achieve something in the Champions League, you have to take every opponent seriously and I think it is better for us when we have a good lot, when there is a draw that we can concentrate on," Mertesacker said.
"When you look at the teams that finished top, if you pick one out, for me, I don't mind.
"You never know what can happen with a good draw and a serious opponent, you can get so much out of a defeat or a disappointment.
"I hope that we learn a lot from Naples and we are aware of the next opponent."
The crucial fixtures keep on coming for Arsenal, with a visit to fourth-placed Manchester City, who sit six points behind the Gunners in the league, and then Chelsea at home nine days later.
Mertesacker said: "It is always difficult especially now after 15 games in the league and the Christmas period is coming.
"You think you have a good chance to achieve something this season but you have to keep your momentum and that is really important.
"Now everybody is pulling a bit, questioning our group, and if we can maintain that level so we have to stay together and think that 'yes, we are strong enough'."
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