In the film Groundhog Day, after Bill Murray’s character lived the same day over and over and over again, he eventually lost his will to live and began to try and end his life so his repetitive torment would finally be over. Only it didn’t work, and the same day began anew regardless of his fatal actions. Well, this appears to be the position in which Arsene Wenger currently finds himself in the Champions League.
Arsenal have been eliminated from the Champions League in the round of 16 the last six consecutive seasons. Not the group stage, not the quarterfinals — the round of 16. Each time for the last six years in a row.
The consistency of this disappointment would have a negative impact on anyone’s outlook on the competition — perhaps leading them to focus more on the Premier League, where Arsenal finished second to Leicester City, of all clubs, last season — and Arsene Wenger, who has never won the Champions League in 20 years with Arsenal, is no different.
Opening this season’s Champions League campaign against the formidable PSG, Wenger opted for a curious starting XI. He left Champions League winner Petr Cech, big offseason signing Granit Xhaka, and striker Olivier Giroud on the bench, and started six midfielders.
Arsenal then went on to concede a goal just 42 seconds after kickoff.
If this was an attempt by Wenger to give up on his Champions League life and the certain doom it always leads to, the universe conspired against him just as it did to Phil Connors. After scoring that historically quick opening goal, PSG’s Edinson Cavani suddenly found himself unable to finish several golden chances and goalkeeper David “Not Petr Cech” Ospina came through with a surprisingly brilliant performance. Alexis Sanchez scored an equalizer in the 77th minute and Arsenal left Paris with a valuable/suicide hindering point.
In Groundhog Day, when one of Phil Connors’ suicide attempts failed, he tried another, more horrific method. Wenger has already stated that Ospina will continue to start over Cech in the Champions League and, who knows, maybe he’ll start 10 midfielders from Arsenal’s youth academy against Basel. And Arsenal will probably win as the universe pushes them towards another round of 16 exit.
Of course, in Groundhog Day, Phil Connors was finally able to move forward with his life when he fundamentally changes his outlook on life and allows true love to replace his bitter self-assurance. But until Wenger goes through a similar transformation, there will be more broken alarm clocks on Champions League matchday mornings in his future.