Belfast Telegraph

Arsenal are all out of balance: Wenger

Arsenal 2 - Paris Saint-Germain 2

By Ian Herbert

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger last night admitted that his side had lost their winning habit after surrendering a lead against Paris Saint-Germain to record a third successive draw in 17 days but said there was "no reason to panic".

Wenger, who says his side now have a "90 per cent chance" of finishing second in their group and could face a tougher round of 16 tie, insisted they had done well in their group stage by not losing a game. But he admitted Arsenal - who were second best to the French club - had failed to maintain pressure in the game.

Wenger said: "We have not lost, but we have lost a winning momentum. I have to be careful on the choice of my words. I say 'stuttering' and it comes back at me.

"We are unbeaten in 18 games. Sometimes you go through spells when you win a bit less. But we have to continue without losing and transform draws into wins. But there's no reason to panic."

Of the display against the French, he said: "We let PSG play too comfortably in the opening period. We had a very strong start in the second half and were dominant, but then we dropped off. We didn't maintain the pressure and paid for that."

Though a succession of second-place finishes have led to the Gunners being eliminated in the round of 16 for the past five years, there are no guarantees that topping the table will create an easier first knockout game. Bayern Munich and Real Madrid both currently lie second in their respective group.

"We've not lost a game in this group," said Wenger whose side now need a better result from a challenging trip to Basel two weeks from now than PSG secure from a regulation home tie with Ludogorets.

"Overall we've done the job well. Will we be lucky enough to finish first, I don't know, and we'd have to wait for the draw. You can't guess whether it's good or bad. The advantage if you finish first is to play the second game at home. What is more disappointing is we wanted to win the game, and we didn't.

"We didn't create enough opportunities. In the final part of the game, when we wanted to win (there were opportunities for Edinson Cavani). When you're 2-1 up and score an own goal, you're entitled to think you could have won. Maybe 2-2 is the fair result, overall. If you look at the number of chances we created, I'd concede it was a fair result."

Of a clash between Cavani and Aaron Ramsey on the stroke of half-time, in which the striker raised a hand at the Welshman, Wenger said: "I think it was not too much. Not necessarily, no."

This looks like being the fifth year in succession Arsenal have finished second in the group and they have then failed to progress past the round of 16 in the previous six seasons.

Cavani opened the scoring inside the first minute when the sides met in Paris and then went on to miss a number of chances to put the game to bed.

But the Uruguay international made no mistake as he slid in to turn Blaise Matuidi's low cross past David Ospina to put PSG in front, as Wenger's assertion that his side have been "stuttering" of late evident for all to see.

The Gunners offered very little in the first half but they were all but gifted an equaliser on the stroke of half-time as Grzegorz Krychowiak was robbed of possession on the edge of his own box and, when Mesut Ozil slid in Alexis Sanchez, the Poland international fouled the forward to concede a penalty, with Giroud keeping his cool to slot home.

Lucas came close to re-establishing the visitors' lead just after the interval, picking himself up from a Laurent Koscielny foul to curl a free-kick onto the top of the crossbar.

Giroud had a shot deflected clear as Arsenal looked to present more of an attacking threat but it was an unfortunate own goal which put them ahead.

Carl Jenkinson's low cross came to Ramsey, whose effort was cleared by Marquinos only to cannon back off the unwitting Marco Verratti and past Alphonse Areola.

With Arsenal looking comfortable, they were rocked when Lucas headed Hatem Ben Arfa's corner past Ospina courtesy of a deflection off Alex Iwobi.

Wenger threw on Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in search of a winner but PSG saw the game out and now appear odds-on to maintain their spot at the head of Group A.

Defender Kieran Gibbs admitted the draw felt more like a defeat. He said: "When you're 2-1 up with 20 minutes to go you want to finish the job, so obviously it's disappointing.

"But it's something we can learn from and we want to improve. I felt we could have been a lot better technically, and more dangerous. But to get a draw was what we deserved.

"You could see when we picked up momentum we looked dangerous. It's just about how we did that more consistently. We have the players and the quality, it's about how we impose that."

ARSENAL: Ospina, Jenkinson (Oxlade-Chamberlain, 81 mins), Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs, Sanchez, Ramsey, Coquelin (Walcott, 80 mins), Iwobi (Xhaka, 77 mins), Ozil, Giroud. Unused subs: Cech, Gabriel, Monreal, Elneny.

PSG: Areola, Meunier, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Maxwell, Verratti, Krychowiak (Ben Arfa, 67 mins), Thiago Motta, Lucas Moura (Jese, 89 mins), Cavani, Matuidi. Unused subs: Trapp, Kimpembe, Nkunku, Augustin, Ikone.

Referee: Felix Brych (Germany)

Man of the match: Lucas Moura

Match rating: 8/10

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