x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Champions League: Wenger sets sights on top spot for Arsenal despite securing last-16 qualification

Arsenal qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League with a game to spare - but Arsene Wenger insists his side will not ease off in their final group game.

Arsenal forward Lukas Podolski celebrates his goal against Montpellier at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal forward Lukas Podolski celebrates his goal against Montpellier at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsene Wenger insists he will not let up in his quest to win Arsenal's Champions League group by fielding an understrength side for their final game, despite having secured qualification to the knockout stage.

The Emirates Stadium side dispatched French champions Montpellier with relative ease, with Lukas Podolski firing in a superb volley after Jack Wilshere's first goal in two years.

The 2-0 victory, combined with Schalke's late win over Olympiacos ensured Arsenal's progression to the last 16 with a trip to the Greek side yet to come.

"We needed two good results - our result and the Schalke result - and we got both so obviously we're happy," said Wenger after the match

"I found Montpellier well organised, strong in their challenges and quite aggressive so for us it was a question of being patient, not making mistakes, using our experience and wait for a chances.

"The first half we had problems in the transitions to go from defence to attack and in the second half it was better.

"We moved the ball quicker, made more incisive runs and scored two goals.

"There was one for Wilshere, which I am pleased about because after such a long time out it is great to see him getting stronger and stronger. The second was fantastic by Podolski."

Arsenal opened the scoring four minutes into the second half, after former Montpellier striker Olivier Giroud knocked down a Thomas Vermaelen ball into the path of Wilshere.

Fifteen minutes later they doubled their advantage, with Giroud again the provider - this time playing a one-two exchange with Podolski before the German volleyed home.

Arsenal are now through the group stages for the 13th season in succession - a feat of which Wenger is "very proud" and one he wants to cap with a victory at Olympiacos.

"We will play to win, to finish top of the group," he said.

"If you look at some groups, like the one with Dortmund and Real Madrid, you don't really know whether it is better to finish first or second.

"But overall statistically it is still better to finish top because you feel you've done your better if you finish top of the group.

"We will try to win at Olympiacos and Montpellier can beat Schalke at home. We will take a full-strength team."

Montpellier counterpart Rene Girard's attention also returns to domestic action after a night in which his side were consigned to finish bottom of Group B on their debut season among Europe's elite.

"I think over the 90 minutes we played well but lacked a bit of consistency," manager Girard said.

"We were good in the first half in terms of aggression and forward runs, but we were just lacking something going forward.

"We particularly saw that in the second half and we began to physically struggle towards the end of the game.

"Perhaps it was one game too far for us this evening given the number of injuries and players we had missing.

"In terms of tonight, we gave everything we could and I was very happy with our attitude. But if we can't score goals, then it does of course become more difficult."

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