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Arsene Wenger tips Arsenal for Champions League challenge

Ross McLean
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Arsenal Training Session
Arsenal have reached the Champions League knockout stages for the past 13 seasons (Source: Getty)

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger insists the added maturity within his squad gives him increasing confidence that the Gunners can break free from the shackles of knockout stage obscurity and mount a sustained Champions League challenge this season.

The north London club begin their European campaign with a showdown against big-spending Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday having been a picture of consistency in the Champions League.

The Gunners have reached the knockout stage of the competition for 13 successive seasons, although for the past six campaigns they have stumbled in the round of 16.

Having signed the likes of Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi during the summer transfer window, Wenger is adamant that his squad boasts the attributes necessary to progress further in the competition.

Asked whether he feels Arsenal have a greater chance in the Champions League this term, Wenger said: “I think so, yes. I was used to playing with a much younger squad because when we built the stadium we did not have the resources.

“Today, I have a team with more experienced players. We have some exceptions but the squad is between 24 and 30 basically and that is where you have a good combination of physical strength and experience.

“But we want to keep giving a chance to young players and get the mixture right.”

Wenger confirmed that centre-half Laurent Koscielny is available for the clash after sustaining a heavy blow to his face in the latter stages of Arsenal’s Premier League victory over Southampton on Saturday.

While refusing to confirm whether fellow Frenchman Olivier Giroud will feature, Wenger intimated that the 29-year-old striker is close to being handed a starting berth after phasing him in gently following his Euro 2016 exertions during the summer.

There were also assurances from Wenger that contract talks are set resume with key duo Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, who both have two years left on their current deals, which expire in 2018.

Discussions opened in May although negotiations were put on hold over the summer. Wenger added: “Ozil and Sanchez, we will start to talk for their extensions.”