Arsenal face a struggle to finish top of their Champions League group after they were held to a draw by Paris St-Germain at Emirates Stadium. The Gunners were seeking the win that would put them in pole position in Group A after years of finishing second and six consecutive eliminations in the last 16 in the knockout phase. And it looked like Arsenal were on their way despite going behind early on to Edinson Cavani’s sliding finish from Blaise Matuidi’s cross. Olivier Giroud scored from a penalty just before half-time after Grzegorz Krychowiak fouled Alexis Sanchez. And Arsenal were ahead on the hour when a penalty-box rebound struck Marco Verratti and flew in.
PSG were always dangerous and Lucas’ header, which took a touch off Alex Iwobi, gave them a fully-deserved equaliser 13 minutes from time. Cavani then missed two good chances and although Arsenal and PSG are level on points, the French champions have the advantage on head-to-head away goals with one round of games left after a 1-1 draw between the teams in Paris earlier in the group. Arsenal’s inability to top their Champions League group has cost them dearly as they have failed to get past the last 16 in the past six years – and they now face the same fate again. The odds now seem stacked in favour of Unai Emery’s side, but the side that finishes top could yet end up facing the likes of Real Madrid or Bayern Munich. PSG face Ludogorets at home in their final game, the team Arsenal beat 6-0 at Emirates Stadium, while Wenger’s side travel to Basel.
There is still an opportunity for late twists but it is starting to look like second again after this enthralling draw. They will be entering familiar territory after reaching the last 16 every season in the Champions League’s current format, which has been in existence since 2003-04. Arsenal have suffered in finishing second. Those exits at the last-16 stage in the past six seasons have included two losses to Barcelona, two to Bayern Munich and one each to AC Milan and Monaco. Arsenal may not have been at their best here but they once again showed the resilience that manager Arsene Wenger believes is starting to become their trademark. Arsenal were outplayed until they got a penalty in first-half injury time and while they hardly sparkled in the second half they at least dug deep to earn a point that could yet prove vital.