Three years ago Arsenal beat Barcelona in glorious fashion, forcing their critics to eat their words.

If it wasn't for a wild red card to superstar Robin Van Persie in the return leg, they may have beaten the European champs and moved on to the next round.

Fast Forward to the next year, Arsenal fall 4-0 down to A.C. Milan. Rebounding in style a 3-0 win at home was not enough to help them advance.

In last years tournament, Arsenal find themselves 3-1 down going into the Allianz Arena to face the team a Bayern Munich team who had breezed through the competition. Everyone said it was impossible, but when the stoppage time board came up and the aggregate sat 3-3, with Bayern on away goals, there seemed a glitter of hope.

But in true Arsenal style, it was just a tease and they were booted from the competition again.

Arsenal have shown they can play with the best of them, but with a thinning squad and a fan base ready to draw and quarter their manager, do they still have what it takes?

This years Arsenal team has something to prove, with the papers and critics branding them as team on the decline. Yet while the other top teams around them are strengthening and bleeding cash like it's going out of style, Arsenal have sat quietly racking up C-list players on free transfers.

It's not a bad plan when your squad is dropping like flies to month long injuries, but it's also not a recipe for a world championship. 

Arsene Wenger and Arsenal know they need to strengthen, but the deals just haven't been falling into place for a number of reasons. This lack of spending has fans and pundits the like breathing down their neck writing them off as a mid table side. In their opening match they would face last year relegation battlers, Aston Villa. The subsequent 3-1 thrashing at the Emirates saw the Villains return home victorious, with Arsenal walking off tails between their legs.

Reporters took note and tore into Arsene Wenger's side, writing them off from day one.

Arsenal were missing a number of key players heading into a very important North London derby. The likes of Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mikel Arteta, former captain Tomas Vermaelen, and the ever injured Abou Diaby were all absent from the massive rivalry but the Gunners still emerged on top. It may only have been the third game of the season for both clubs, but it will have felt like an F.A Cup final.

Wenger has stuck his neck out and said that his team can compete with what they have already on the roster. They have even contemplated holding onto outcast Nicklas Bendtner as a back up plan for when things get tough. The Villa result aside, their recent form may suggest Wenger might not be mad after all.

Taking 35 points in the last half of the 2012/13 season, more than any other team in the league, they managed to squeak into the Champions League on the final day. While boasting a pretty good pre-season and a thrashing of Turkish giants Fenerbahce in Champions League qualifiers they seem to have carried that form over into this season.

The Villa result was a little harsh, referee Anthony Taylor getting the axe after his awful display. But it may have lit a fire over at the Emirates, Arsenal responding by knocking some sense into rivals Fulham the following week.

Bacary Sagna has proven to be a utility defender putting in wonder performances in both the center and right side of defence, while Kieran Gibbs has even been pushed up into the midfield to fill the gaps left by Arteta. Aaron Ramsey meanwhile has been a revelation, his partnership with Jack Wilshere in the middle of the park showing glimmers of something wonderful to come.

Picking up back to back man of the match awards, Ramsey has been a menace in the holding area of the pitch. His work rate has been exquisite, acting as a dominant member of the midfield, while even getting forward and scoring two goals. The injury problems that have been following him his whole career appear to be gone and his potential is beginning to show. If his form continues, it may even free up a more attacking role for Arteta like the one he used to play at Everton.

With the intelligence of Arteta and the world class passing of Santi Cazorla leading the attack, Arsenal may not need any more recruits up front. Lacking striking options, Oliver Giroud has been a man in form, scoring when it counts and showing his physicality up front. Give Wenger a little more time with him and he could be a man in the mould of current target and compatriot Karim Benzema. 

Regardless of form, Arsenal do need a few signing.

The squad is thin and lacking in leadership. But Wenger would do well to avoid a frenzied spree like he did in 2011, and focus on quality over quantity. Arsenal fans want a big name, someone to take them from a diamond in the rough to a well oiled machine capable of snatching trophies from the worlds finest.

The team does have what they need to compete, but do they have enough to actually come out on top? Wenger and their form would seem to imply yes, but history repeats itself, and there is no trophy for fourth place.

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