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Arsenal qualifies... but the hard work lies ahead

Arsenal has qualified from its Champions League group after only four matchdays - thanks to Mesut Ozil’s exquisite late winner against Ludogorets - but Arsene Wenger might well resist the temptation to celebrate on the flight home from Sofia.

WATCH: Ozil scores late winner for Arsenal

The Bulgarians led 2-0 inside 20 minutes and were unable to stem the flow of a far superior Arsenal side but in many ways the hard work still lies ahead. Finishing second in the group is as good as a death sentence for Arsenal and that will play on the Gunners' minds with Paris Saint-Germain now looming on the horizon.

The past six seasons have seen them eliminated at the first knockout stage after failing to claim top spot in the first phase. On four of those occasions they had the bad luck of drawing Barcelona or Bayern Munich. Wenger needs no reminder about how difficult life can be for those teams who cannot lift themselves to the top of the standings; to make their own luck to an extent. It’s been a task beyond their capabilities in recent times.

PSG won at the death in Basel – courtesy of Thomas Meunier – and that denied Arsenal total control of the group. No slip-ups against the French champions in the Emirates can be tolerated.

Arsenal may well have gained a good deal of encouragement with its draw in Paris on matchday one but Unai Emery’s side will not be overawed in London later this month. PSG has legitimate aspirations of Champions League glory; it is the arena in which Emery will be judged given that his predecessor was sacked for going out in the quarterfinals last season despite a domestic treble.

November has been the cruellest month for Wenger. Often the wheels of their seasons come off at this stage. It already has the feeling of make-or-break and should anything happen to Wenger’s first-choice players then they could wilt again.

Without Theo Walcott, Petr Cech and Spanish trio Santi Cazorla, Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal in Bulgaria they did not appear the same fluid outfit who have laid waste to the Premier League over the past couple of months.

Ozil completes stunning Arsenal comeback

Alex Iwobi made the trip but was rested. Deputies David Ospina and Kieran Gibbs were at fault for Ludogorets’ first-half goals while Carl Jenkinson also endured a hard night.

Olivier Giroud did well to stretch his scoring streak on this his first start of the season but it did come at the expense of Alexis Sanchez’s effectiveness for large parts. The Londoners were indeed grateful to the mastery of Ozil to dig them out of a hole after Granit Xhaka had pulled them back into the game in the first half via the German’s cross.

The Gunners enter a crucial stage of the season that will say plenty about their potential for success – not only in the Champions League but also on the home front. Their unbeaten run stretches to 15 games but big examinations now await.

Sunday brings the North London derby against Tottenham Hotspur and - after the international break - Manchester United and Jose Mourinho lie in wait at Old Trafford. Then it’s PSG where a win would guarantee top spot. If this season is to be their breakout, it’ll take a landmark result along the way to confirm it.