Arsenal are potentially one win away from a return to the Champions League – but that win will have to come away at the home of fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday night.
Thankfully for the Gunners faithful, Mikel Arteta’s men do go into the North London derby with a four-point cushion, meaning that even if they beat them, Spurs will have to hope their neighbours also drop points in at least one of their final two games away at Newcastle or at home to Everton on the final day.
If they don’t, it will be Arsenal who have secured fourth after a thrilling race for Champions League qualification that has seen fourth spot change hands a number of times over the course of the campaign.
It would mean the Gunners make their long-awaited return to the most prestigious competition in club football after six years watching others play in the biggest games.
Arsenal’s history in Europe is a complex one, as for so long under Arsene Wenger they were ever-presents in the Champions League without ever actually having lifted the trophy. They came agonisingly close in 2006, but two late Barcelona goals ensured it was to be a heart-breaking night in rainy Paris for the Gunners.
Mirror Football has taken a look at what happened to the 11 players who started Arsenal’s last Champions League game against Bayern Munich all the way back in March 2017. The Gunners were beaten 5-1 in both legs against the German giants.
Goalkeeper – David Opsina
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A respected Colombian international shot-stopper, Ospina can now be found between the sticks for Serie A titans Napoli. The 33-year-old spent five years at Arsenal and was in goal for both games against Bayern, shipping 10 goals in the process.
He has enjoyed an impressive amount of domestic success since he first touched down in London, with two FA Cups and one Community Shield to show for his time at Arsenal alongside Coppa Italia glory in Naples during the 2019/20 campaign.
Right-back – Hector Bellerin
A beloved figure at Arsenal to this day, Bellerin has won three FA Cups and three Community Shields during his lengthy stay in North London. He recently added to his trophy haul once again, though not in the colours of Arsenal.
Instead, it was done in the green and white of boyhood club Real Betis where he has spent the majority of the 2021/22 campaign out on loan. Given the success of his replacement Takehiro Tomiyasu, it is unclear as to whether Bellerin has much of a future back at the Emirates.
Centre-back – Shkodran Mustafi
Arguably one of the least successful signings in Arsenal’s modern history, Wenger paid £35million for the German’s services in 2016 and despite all the errors he remained part of the set-up until February of last year.
He briefly returned to his home country to ply his trade for Schalke, but once they were relegated from the Bundesliga he swiftly upped sticks once more to join La Liga outfit Levante where he remains today.
Centre-back – Laurent Koscielny
The French defender spent nine years in North London where he managed to amass cult-hero status among the fans only to throw it all away with a controversial announcement video for the club he left Arsenal for in Bordeaux.
Koscielny refused to go on the Gunners pre-season tour of the United States in the summer of 2019 before being filmed throwing the Arsenal shirt to the floor to unveil the Bordeaux strip underneath.
He was also red-carded in this very game against Bayern just before the hour mark after bringing down Robert Lewandowski inside the penalty area.
Left-back – Nacho Monreal
Still a very popular figure among the red half of North London, the Spanish left-back was a reliable option for the majority of his time with the Gunners.
Monreal spent six years in North London, winning three FA Cups and three Community Shields alongside a PFA Player of the Month award in November of 2017 before calling time on his Arsenal career to return to Spain where he remains, currently lining up for Real Sociedad.
Midfield – Granit Xhaka
The only player to line up that night that is still part of the Arsenal first-team to this day, this game came during Xhaka’s debut season with the Gunners.
While he has gone on to endure a turbulent career at the Emirates, this season has seen Xhaka redeem himself in the eyes of some fans thanks to his stellar performances in the middle of the park as well as a thunderous strike in the win over Manchester United.
Midfield – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
In truth, the England international has never fully achieved the lofty heights that were expected of him when Arsenal paid Southampton £12m for his services while he was still a teenager.
The Saints academy graduate was tipped to be part of Arsenal’s new British core alongside the likes of Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey – it failed to play out as many supporters hoped.
Oxlade-Chamberlain eventually left in the summer of 2017 to join Liverpool for a fee worth around £40m and while he has a Premier League and Champions League winners’ medal in his collection, he has struggled to have as much individual impact at Anfield as he would have hoped.
Midfield – Aaron Ramsey
Arguably the only player from this line-up who qualifies as an Arsenal legend, Ramsey spent the majority of his career in North London before eventually leaving for the bright lights of Turin.
Unfortunately for the Welshman, he failed to reach heights for Juventus that he had done for Arsenal and was allowed to join Scottish giants Rangers on loan in January of this year.
Three FA Cup trophies to his name alongside two FA Cup final winning goals ensures Ramsey will forever be remembered fondly by the Arsenal faithful.
Right-wing – Theo Walcott
The man who notched Arsenal’s only goal of the game against the Bavarians, Walcott’s Gunners legacy is a difficult one to analyse.
The forward scored more than 100 goals in the famous red and white and therefore his time in North London can hardly be scoffed at, there is still the lingering feeling that Walcott could have achieved more with the club.
He eventually left in the January of Wenger’s final season at the club to join Everton for a fee of around £20m, but would struggle at Goodison Park and eventually re-join Southampton 15 years after he first left Saint Mary’s.
Striker – Olivier Giroud
Giroud was so often seen as not enough in the eyes of the Arsenal faithful and while that school of thought may have ultimately been correct – it came back to haunt them once he left the club.
The Frenchman was sold to Chelsea to make room for the incoming Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but would go on to score a crucial goal for the Blues against Arsenal in the Europa League final at the end of his first full-season at Stamford Bridge.
He has since left London altogether and is currently helping Italian giants AC Milan try to end their lengthy wait for an elusive Serie A title – it would be the Rossoneri’s first for more than a decade.
Left-wing – Alexis Sanchez
The Chilean international truly lit up North London for the three-and-a-half years he was an Arsenal player, but it was all to end in tears once Sanchez left the Gunners for their fierce rivals Manchester United.
However, the story goes that Sanchez asked his agent if he could go back to Arsenal after just one training session with his United teammates – a dire start to a move that did not work out for either party.
Sanchez left United with just five goals in 45 appearances and eventually returned to Serie A with Inter Milan, first on loan before penning a permanent deal to keep him at the San Siro.