Per Mertesacker admits Arsenal lightyears away from winning the Champions League

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Per Mertesacker must have been part of the aggregation of Arsenal fans breathing a huge sigh of relief when the north London outfit were pitted against AS Monaco in the draw for the last-16 of the Champions League.

However, the brawny German was left shaking his head in his post-match interview following the Gunners' surprise exit from the competition after a brave, but ultimately disappointing elimination at Stade Louis II on Tuesday evening.

We were deservedly punished 

In his post-match interview, the defender was particularly quick to congratulate Monaco on their achievement saying that "they deserved it by playing well in the first leg".

This admission that his side deserved to exit at the last-16 stage was not echoed by his manager Arsene Wenger, with the Frenchman revealing that, according to him, "Monaco were not worthy winners" when one considers that the principality club recorded zero shots on target in the return leg on Tuesday.

However, the defender went on to say that "(we) had one bad game and that was enough to get knocked out. (In the first game) we lacked that mental level you need to compete at the highest level".

This is a sentiment that will frustrate and anger many Gunners fans who have grown accustomed to the Gunners' inability to realise that the Champions League is a two-leg affair, and playing well in only one of the two matches is not sufficient to progress in Europe's elite club competition. 

According to the 30-year-old, this lack of consistency over the two-legs is what has cost them dearly once again and the main reason why the Gunners are "far away from winning the Champions League". 

Using Monaco trip as a springboard 

Again, the defender seems to sound like a broken record when claiming that the Gunners should take heart from their attempted historical come-back against Monaco on Tuesday.

It is a speech Gunners fans have grown accustomed to hearing; their side losing out on a quarter-final place on away goals, but the team taking positives from this loss to "finish the season strongly".

The German was quick to echo his manager's thoughts in his post-match interview, telling reporters that "Monaco is another win that gives us the ­confidence you need at the end of the season when you are more tired".

However, he was equally quick to warn his team-mates against any form of complacency as the race for Champions League qualifications hots up, saying that qualification was a "big target" and that "there are a lot of teams involved, but we want to qualify directly for the Champions League". 

So, whilst the Gunners captain was forced to admit that the north London club are lagging far behind the likes of power-houses Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the Champions League, he has also called for optimism ahead of a decisive run of nine games which could, as so often has been the case, make or break Arsenal's season... 

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Per Mertesacker
Arsene Wenger
AS Monaco
UEFA Champions League

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