Wenger enjoys guilt-free Champions League celebration

LONDON • Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal can approach the knockout phase of the Champions League free of guilt after seeing his side capitalise ruthlessly on Paris Saint-Germain's slip to claim Group A with an emphatic 4-1 victory on the banks of the Rhine.

FC Basel were swept aside with ease in Switzerland courtesy of Lucas Perez's first hat-trick since he moved to the Premier League side in the summer.

The fine victory, combined with PSG's wasteful 2-2 draw at home to Ludogorets Razgrad at the Parc des Princes, ensured Arsenal topped their group for only the second time in seven seasons.

The Gunners finished with 14 points from their six games ahead of PSG on 12.

That also means that Arsenal will definitely avoid Barcelona, Napoli, Atletico Madrid and Monaco in the last 16.

There remains the possibility of a collision with Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or Borussia Dortmund, but Wenger took heart from ending as group winners.

"We can still have a difficult draw, so it will still be difficult, but you go forward with less guilt when you finish first," said the Arsenal manager.

"You feel you've done the job and you know you will play the second leg (in the last 16) at home. So we have achieved that.

"But the draw is not much different in terms of the potential opponent, certainly at the moment. Let's see what happens in the draw."

His team excelled in Basel, with some of their approach play untouchable.

There were 33 passes in the buildup to Perez's second goal, the most mustered for reward in the competition to date this season.

"I feel we had a good start, we were quite mobile and technically very agile as well, and quick," added Wenger, who will discover who awaits in the last 16 in Monday's draw in Nyon.

"Since the start of the season our squad system has worked well, but this was still a convincing performance tonight."

The Frenchman also paid special tribute to Perez, who scored the first three goals of the match before team-mate Alex Iwobi added a fourth. Seydou Doumbia netted a consolation for the home side.

"The first two looked easy goals but the third was a real striker's goal," said Wenger. "He has a good eye and makes good movement in the box, and that's why he scores."

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 08, 2016, with the headline 'Wenger enjoys guilt-free Champions League celebration'. Print Edition | Subscribe