The European Cup, the original name for the Champions League, began in 1955 but Arsenal did not compete in it for the first time until the 1971/72 season following their title triumph the season before.
Here we take a look at how the Gunners have fared in the competition over the years, including the highs and lows of their best, and worst, performances.
Have Arsenal Ever Won the Champions League?
The Gunners have appeared in the European Cup/Champions League many times and played over 200 games in the competition but they are yet to win it. Sorry, Arsenal fans!
Champions League Finals
Indeed, the north London giants have only ever made a single UEFA Champions League (UCL) final and that was back towards the start of the century, a fact that is sure to make many Arsenal fans feel decidedly old! For all the huge success achieved by the club over the years and especially during the Arsene Wenger era that is a poor record, to say the least.
Stage of Elimination
The structure of the tournament has changed a number of times over the years, most notably when it expanded massively following the rebranding as the Champions League. This means that some stages and rounds did not exist every year but the table below still shows a full round-up of the Gunners’ campaigns.
|Stage||Number of Times||Percentage|
|Round of 16||9||42.86%|
|Group Stage 2||2||9.52%|
Note that the information is correct ahead of the 2022/23 season. Percentages are based on all European Cups and Champions Leagues that Arsenal have qualified for.
Arsenal’s Best Performances
2005/06: Their Only Appearance in the Final
Arsenal’s best performance in the competition is, of course, their one and only final appearance. The 2005/06 season was far from a vintage one for the Gunners as they only managed to scrape into fourth place in the Premier League, just two points above Spurs and a massive 15 adrift of Liverpool who came third. They were knocked out of the FA Cup in the fourth round by Bolton and beaten by Wigan in the semis of the League Cup.
However, they saved their best for arguably the biggest stage and the Champions League as they sought to become the first London side to win it. They topped their group with ease, taking 16 points from 18 and going unbeaten against Ajax, Thun and Sparta Prague. In the Round of 16 they faced the huge test when they faced the mighty Real Madrid, but Arsenal won the first leg 1-0 in Spain and earned a hard-fought 0-0 draw in the return.
By the quarter final, they were the only remaining English side and things scarcely got easier as they had to play Juventus. However, Thierry Henry scored in the first leg and helped them to a 2-0 win before they again saw out the return fixture, this time away from home, with another very solid 0-0. Another Spanish side, Villarreal, awaited in the semis and once again the Gunners evoked the spirit of the George Graham sides of old by winning 1-0 in the first leg at home and then grinding out a 0-0 draw in the reverse fixture to make their first Champions League final.
A match against a star-studded Barcelona in the final at the Stade de France was the reward for Wenger’s men and they were very much second favourites. Lionel Messi had made his debut for the Catalan giants back in the 2004/05 season but for this huge game he missed out due to injury, whilst Xavi and Andres Iniesta were on the bench. Still, managed by Frank Rijkaard, this Barca side featured Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto’o, Deco and the brilliant centre back duo of Carlos Puyol and Rafael Marquez.
The game did not start well for the Gunners as their mercurial German keeper, Jens Lehman, became the first player to be dismissed in a Champions League final when he was red carded in just the 18th minute. Arsenal were up against it from that moment onwards. However, they clung on and took the lead in the 37th minute thanks to a Sol Campbell header after a free-kick.
Barca would gradually have more and more of the ball as Arsenal dropped deeper and whilst Wenger’s men held their lead until the 76th minute, it was no surprise when the favourites equalised. Henrik Larsson played in Eto’o and the Cameroon ace scored easily. Arsenal had enjoyed some chances on the counter but now, at 1-1, it seemed there could only be one winner. Juliano Belletti, who would go on to join Chelsea, scored the winner in the 80th minute, Larsson again with the assist.
2008/09: Made the Semi Finals
With this defeat the Gunners became just the third club to have lost the final in all three major European competitions. Aside from this final they have never really come close to lifting the biggest prize in European club football. Their best result aside from this was when they made the semis in the 2008/09 campaign, getting thumped over two legs 4-1 by Manchester United who would go on to lose to Barcelona in the final.
Arsenal’s Worst Upsets
The Gunners have been pretty consistent over the years in this competition, making the last 16 almost half of the time. However, there have certainly been some very poor performances over the years, with one or two terrible results and occasional seasons of real under-achievement.
Perhaps their worst 180 minutes of football came in 2017 when they were put to the sword by Bayern Munich, losing 5-1. Twice! In the last 16 the Bavarians beat Wenger’s side by that embarrassing scoreline both home and away to record an incredible 10-2 aggregate success.
Last 16 exits against the likes of PSV (2006/07) and Monaco (2014/15) were very disappointing, whilst their (second) group stage defeat to Spartak Moscow in 2000/01 by a 4-1 scoreline was also rather embarrassing. Strange as it may seem but their 4-1 loss over two legs to Man United in 2009, when they had their second-best run in the Champions League, was also humiliating given it came against the Red Devils.