As all of you know, the words “Arsenal” and “Round of 16” go hand in hand together, like two peas in a pod that are subsequently kicked into a net by Arjen Robben. Lost in all of this is the fact that not only have Arsenal missed out on those final eight teams since 2010, but have watched lesser known clubs go farther than them in the process. Now, if I really wanted to be an obvious troll, I’d remind everyone that Tottenham Hotspur are the last team in North London to reach the quarterfinal, but that’s not what this is about!
So, without further delay, here is a totally serious and not at all hyperbolic ranking of some of the clubs that have progressed further than the Gunners.
1) Schalke 04 - 2010/11
Yep, Schalke 04 of the Bundesliga managed to not only get to the quarterfinals in 2011, but they actually reached the semi-finals that season, receiving the honor of getting blasted by Manchester United, 6-1 on aggregate. There are some names you’ll recognize on this list of players, such as Manuel Neuer, Benedikt Höwedes, Joël Matip, and even Jefferson Farfán. This was also the first year of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar joining the German side, and he didn’t do too bad in scoring 13 goals in 30 appearances. Schalke managed to reach the semis that year by getting past Valencia and Inter Milan (someone still needs to call a taxicab for Maicon, by the way) before their eventual dismissal by the Red Devils.
Arsenal bowed out to Barcelona that year, 4-3 on aggregate.
2) APOEL FC - 2011/12
Little old APOEL from the island of Cyprus somehow managed to not only win their group in 2011/12, but reached the quarterfinal by beating Lyon, 1-1 (4-3) on aggregate. Of course their run ended when they ran into the buzzsaw known as Real Madrid, but still a hell of an accomplishment! Keep in mind that they also won their group that included the likes of Zenit St. Petersburg and Porto. The only reason that APOEL isn’t #1 on this list is because they didn’t get to the semis like Schalke, but the cool part about this club is that I looked at their roster and didn’t recognize a single player. There was a guy named Kaka on the team, but it wasn’t that Kaká. This player was a center back, and he wasn’t a bad one! Their leading scorer was Solari, who netted 13 goals in league play.
Arsenal left the competition that year at the hands of A.C. Milan, 4-3.
3) Leicester City - 2016/17
Full disclosure: Fairy tales are bullsh*t. I just needed to get that out.
Leicester City, who are owned by a scary man that decided his company should have a Final Fantasy summon as the logo, refuse to let their story die. Here they are, gearing up for a match against Atletico Madrid, while the rest of England sits at home wondering how the hell this actually happened. Leicester looked dead to rights about a month ago, but the sacking of Claudio Rainieri has injected life into the squad again. While the inevitable sale of Riyad Mahrez is around the corner this summer, don’t let that distract you that they’re still in the biggest club competition there is while Bayern Munich thrashed Arsenal on aggregate, 10-2.
4) Malaga - 2012/13
What could have been for Arsenal in this campaign. The final match was played at Wembley Stadium, a virtual home match for any of the London clubs. Alas, it wasn’t to be. While Arsenal decided that losing to Bayern Munich 3-3 on away goals was the best way to handle things, Malaga managed to reach the quarterfinals by eliminating Porto, 2-1 on aggregate. Players such as Jesus Gamez, Duda, Isco, and Julio Baptista all made great impact on this club. Martin Demichelis pre-Man City days graced this squad from time to time, and he was already 32 years old at that point. For you American fans, forever broken Oguchi Onyewu was also on this squad, but he made just two appearances.
5) Wolfsburg - 2015/16
Wolfsburg enjoyed one of their better campaigns in Europe just a year ago, and were actually pretty stacked with talent. Julian Draxler, Max Kruse, Bas Dost, Dante, and André Schürrle were some of the big names on this side. While they finished in eighth place in the Bundesliga on just 45 points and missed out on European qualification, Wolfsburg managed to win their group in the Champions League ahead of PSV Eindhoven, CSKA Moscow, and Manchester United. They wouldn’t go quietly into the night, either, in the knockout stages. While Arsenal got sh*tmixed by Barcelona 5-1, Wolfsburg knocked off Gent 4-2 before succumbing to Real Madrid, 3-2. Wolfsburg gave the Spanish giants all they could handle, even winning their home leg 2-0 before laying an egg at the Bernabeu.
6) Monaco - 2014/15
We all remember this one pretty easily. AS Monaco, suddenly deciding to splash the cash in 2013 and push to join the elite in Europe, opted to basically buy any player they could think of even though they had a bunch returning from loan. Seriously, look at this list:
One year later, On this squad, young soon-to-be stars such as Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, Bernardo Silva, and Anthony Martial were just starting to show their potential while established players like João Moutinho and everyone’s favorite player ever Dimitar Berbatov with his exquisite touch helped lead the charge. Monaco surprised a lot of people in the Champions League, winning their group that had Bayer Leverkusen, Zenit St. Petersburg, and Benfica. Monaco wasn’t done taking scalps that tournament though, actually meeting Arsenal in the fabled Round of 16. The French side went into the Emirates and pulled a 3-1 victory, ultimately hanging on to a 3-3 aggregate score and advancing on away goals, dooming the Gunners to another R16 bow out. The French side’s tournament ended in the next round, losing 1-0 to Juventus on aggregate.
What’s YOUR favorite small club that has made the Champions League quarterfinals since Arsenal last did so in 2010? Have your say in the comments!
The Short Fuse has been taken over today by Cartilage Free Captain, SB Nation's Tottenham Hotspur blog! For the humor-impaired, articles posted today are intended to be parody and do not reflect the views (or even the writing!) of The Short Fuse writing staff.