Can Arsenal win the Champions League?

TALKING POINT: The Gunners face Besiktas in Turkey on Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League qualification play-off but are they capable of going all the way?
By Greg Stobart

If there is a football equivalent of Groundhog Day, it is Arsenal's annual challenge in the Champions League.

A play-off victory is usually followed by comfortable progression to the knockout stages before the Gunners are knocked out by the first decent side they face. It happens year after year.

Arsenal have reached the group stage of Europe's premier competition for the last 16 seasons and on Tuesday face Besiktas in the fourth qualifying round in Turkey as they look to repeat that feat, with the second leg in north London next Wednesday.
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Arsene Wenger says he is "desperate" to ensure that his side seal their place in the group stage this season as they face a Turkish club in the play-off for a second year in a row following victory over Fenerbahce 12 months ago.

But the Frenchman's priority for the campaign has to be an assault on the Premier League title.

Arsenal can become English champions for the first time since 2004, especially if they complete their squad with the signing of a defensive midfielder and a central defender before the transfer window closes.

The Champions League offers a huge financial incentive, prestige and some big games at the Emirates Stadium - but it will not end in glory at the final in Berlin next summer.

Arsenal simply don't have a squad capable of overcoming the very best teams on the continent.

They have been eliminated in the last 16 in the last three seasons - by Barcelona, Milan and Bayern Munich - and almost everyone is expecting a familiar story this campaign.

Arsenal cannot win the Champions League while the likes of Yaya Sanogo, Olivier Giroud and Mikel Arteta play regularly.

The north Londoners have enviable attacking quality in Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, but the squad is incomplete and, more importantly, they lack the winning mentality to triumph in Europe.

Win the Premier League first, then you can start thinking about one day becoming champions of Europe for the first time.

Wenger's suggestion in his pre-match press conference on Monday certainly appeared to be based around the kudos of playing against Europe's best rather than any dreams about winning the competition.

"We want to compete at the top level and want to fight with the best in Europe," the Frenchman said.

"That's the point of this competition for us, not the financial consequences. What's very important is that you want to play against the best."

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In all likelihood, Arsenal will only get two matches against 'the best' once they get to the knockout rounds.

They don't have the defensive quality or organisation to prevent an attack like Real Madrid's from blowing them away. At the very top level, they are good but not great - and it's not enough to win the Champions League.

Arsenal's Premier League opener against Crystal Palace served as a reminder as to just how difficult the season will be, with the Gunners relying on a last-gasp Aaron Ramsey strike to secure all three points.

This season is all about the league for Arsenal.

A decent run in Europe would be a a bonus, but Gunners fans... don't even dare to dream of Champions League glory.

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