Arsène Wenger's "first objective" may be for Arsenal FC to progress from Group H, possibly against AZ Alkmaar on Wednesday, but his long-term target remains to finally reign in Europe.
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Arsène Wenger's "first objective" may be for Arsenal FC to qualify for the knockout rounds, but the Frenchman's long-term target is to finally get his hands on the European Champion Clubs' Cup. "We have been in the final, the semi-final, and I think we will eventually win it," said Wenger ahead of Wednesday's Group H visit of an AZ Alkmaar side whose coach has fond memories of north London.
Arsène Wenger, Arsenal manager
We want to finish first in the group, but to be qualified in early November would be good, and that is our first objective. Although we have not won the Champions League, I consider us as an élite club because we are in the eight top-seeded teams in Europe. We have been in the final, the semi-final, and I think we will eventually win it. It does not concern me that I have never beaten Ronald Koeman. I see it as Arsenal against Alkmaar. He organises his teams well, they fight well, but I've never been obsessed with these things. I'm confident we can do it, but we have to show that we can focus and play for each other every three days and prepare for all the games with the same attitude.
Ronald Koeman, AZ coach
It is a nice feeling to be back at this fantastic stadium. I remember one moment very fondly, my success with PSV when we got a 1-1 draw that was enough to knock Arsenal out. Now we face the most difficult of the six matches in the group. We got a good result at home, so we are confident. We know our qualities but we respect Arsenal. They will put us under a lot of pressure, but the important thing is how we deal with that pressure. Individually the players will have to be at their best and we have to take the opportunity to rest when we can because Arsenal cannot keep up the pressure for the whole game.
31/10/09 Arsenal 3-0 Tottenham Hotspur FC
(Van Persie 42 60, Fàbregas 43)
• Arsenal are yet to score in the first 15 minutes of any game this season.
• The win means Wenger has collected 1,000 league points as Arsenal manager.
31/10/09 FC Groningen 0-1 AZ
• Jeremain Lens marked his 50th appearance for AZ in style, coming off the bench to head the only goal of the game within five minutes of his introduction.
• It was only AZ's second win in eleven matches in all competitions over 90 minutes; they have lost six in that sequence.
Out: Gaël Clichy (back) Johan Djourou (knee), Denilson (back), Tomáš Rosický (knee), Theo Walcott (knee), Jack Wilshere (ankle), Carlos Vela (knee), Łukasz Fabiański (thigh), Nicklas Bendtner (groin)
Misses next match if booked: Gaël Clichy, Robin van Persie
• Clichy was unexpectedly ruled out on Tuesday morning. "We fear a stress fracture of the back," said Wenger.
• Bendtner limped off shortly before half-time against Tottenham with a groin injury.
Out: Mounir El Hamdaoui (muscle)
Misses next match if booked: none
• The north London club looked set to take a firm grip on Group H in the reverse fixture on Matchday 3 when Cesc Fàbregas gave them a 36th-minute lead, only for David Mendes da Silva to volley an equaliser in the third minute of added time. The draw leaves Arsenal on seven points, one clear of Olympiacos FC and five above third-placed AZ.
• In seven competitive home games against Dutch opposition, Arsenal have only posted two victories. Four of the fixtures finished all-square with their only defeat coming in the first meeting – a European Champion Clubs' Cup quarter-final in 1971/72 when AFC Ajax won 1-0 at Highbury to complete a 3-1 aggregate triumph.
• AZ have lost all four previous games in England, conceding 12 goals. The most recent reverse was a 4-2 loss at Newcastle United FC in the 2006/07 UEFA Cup round of 16.
• AZ's Koeman is unbeaten as a coach against Arsenal, guiding Ajax to 1-1 home and 0-0 away draws against them in the second group stage in February 2003. Then, as PSV Eindhoven coach, Koeman's side eliminated the Gunners in the 2006/07 first knockout round with a 1-0 home win followed by a 1-1 draw in London.
Did you know?
The 1-1 draw at the DS-Stadium on Matchday 3 was the teams' first-ever meeting.
For more background on the match in the official press kit, click here.