Belfast Telegraph

Basel 1 - Arsenal 4: Arsene Wenger thrilled as Gunners seize upon PSG's shock slip to claim coveted top spot

By Paul Burrows

Arsenal manager Arsenal Wenger was delighted with his side's performance in a 4-1 Champions League victory over Basel than clinched top spot in Group A.

Lucas Perez was on target twice within eight first-half minutes to get the Gunners up and running at St Jakob-Park and completed his hat-trick two minutes after the break

Alex Iwobi added a fourth for Wenger's side 53 minutes in, with on-loan Roma striker Seydou Doumbia netting a consolation for the hosts with 12 minutes remaining.

Wenger said: "We made a great result to be top of this group which is what we wanted.

"We did the job I think in a convincing way, we were mobile, we started very well, we scored goals on all our accelerations and overall we had a convincing performance."

With the last 16 draw taking place on Monday, Wenger was pleased to go through as group winners, but remained apprehensive about his side's next opponents.

He added: "It's difficult to know (the advantages of finishing top) - you feel a bit less guilty. If you have a bad draw (it can be) when you're first or second.

"At least we have done our job and let's see what happens."

Wenger reserved some praise for Spanish striker Perez, saying: "I think he took advantage of the fact that we created good chances, but he's a goalscorer. He scored over 20 goals in Spain and that's no coincidence.

"So overall I think that he's shown that he has a good smell for a goal in the box."

Champions League debutant Rob Holding explained the Gunners squad were keeping an eye on the score between Paris St Germain and Ludogorets at the break, but were not worried.

"We'd seen the scores as they were coming in so we knew if we kept doing our job it'd take care itself, which it has done with the (2-2) draw down there (at Parc des Princes) so we're happy to come top," he said.

"We've got a great squad here. There's quality all over in every position and when you get your chance to step in you've just got to perform to the best that you can."

Team-mate Laurent Koscielny was happy the Premier League side trumped their Ligue 1 rivals to top spot.

He said: "We had a small chance to finish first tonight. After (playing) PSG, we said 'we have one game to finish first' and we did the job tonight and PSG have not.

"It's important to finish first because we have the second game at home - so we will see the draw."

Arsenal set about their task early on and it was Alexis Sanchez who crafted the opening goal for Perez, lofting a perfect pass to Kieran Gibbs, who squared for the Spaniard to tuck home his maiden Champions League strike.

His second followed eight minutes later, this time Ozil playing in Gibbs and Perez stuck away his second, again from point-blank range, after the England full-back's drive was pushed out by goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik.

Basel skipper Matias Delgado headed over when well-placed but it was Arsenal who went in two goals to the good, with the news from Paris no doubt filtering through the away dressing room.

And they wrapped up their three points just two minutes after the restart as Gibbs' heavy pass was missed by Sanchez but collected by Perez, who slotted home to round off his first Arsenal hat-trick.

The fourth came from another flowing move but this time it was Mesut Ozil who resumed his usual position of providing the assist, breaking in behind and squaring for Iwobi to finish from close range.

Wenger would have been nervous when Sanchez was fouled and went down in a heap, but the Chilean picked himself up to rattle the crossbar with the resulting free-kick.

Sanchez was replaced by Mohamed Elneny moments later, while Theo Walcott would be introduced in place of Ozil with a little over 15 minutes remaining.

Substitute Doumbia pulled one back for the hosts with a clinical finish, but Basel ended the night bottom of the group and miss out on Europa League qualification to Ludogorets.

For Arsenal, they advance with an unbeaten record from their six games and will be hoping the draw is kind to them when it takes place here in Switzerland next week.

BASEL: Vaclik, Lang, Suchy, Balanta, Traore, Die (Zuffi, 74 mins), Xhaka, Elyounoussi (Calla, 59 mins) Delgado (Doumbia, 54 mins), Steffen, Janko. Unused subs: Vailati, Gaber, Bjarnason, Hoegh.

ARSENAL: Ospina, Gabriel, Holding, Koscielny, Gibbs, Ramsey (Giroud, 70 mins), Xhaka, Iwobi, Ozil (Walcott, 74 mins), Lucas Perez, Sanchez (Elneny, 70 mins). Unused subs: Cech, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Monreal, Mustafi.

Referee: Manuel De Sousa (Lisbon)

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