Barca the benchmark for Wenger

Hampshire Chronicle: Arsene Wenger believes Barcelona remain the best team he has faced Arsene Wenger believes Barcelona remain the best team he has faced

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hopes Bayern Munich will not leave a lasting impression on him in the same way the great Barcelona did four years ago.

The Gunners take on European champions Bayern in the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday night with the Germans heralded as the best side on the planet at the moment.

Wenger believes the most complete team he has faced in his long and distinguished career were a Barcelona squad where Arsenal's record goalscorer Thierry Henry was not even in the starting line-up.

"I was most impressed by the Barcelona team at the peak, through the speed of their passing and the speed of their game," Wenger said.

"The first time we played them at the Emirates, the first half an hour was the best I've seen.

"Hopefully I will not have the same impression on Wednesday night. Until now, in my experience, in my life, that's the best team I've played against."

Arsenal held on to draw 2-2 with the Catalans in the Champions League quarter-final first leg, before being eliminated 6-3 on aggregate following a 4-1 loss at the Nou Camp in which Lionel Messi scored all four goals.

Barca won the European Cup in 2009 and 2011, but lost in the semi-finals to Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan, the eventual winners, in 2010.

Many have suggested Bayern have assumed Barca's mantle as the world's best, but Wenger refuses to write off the Catalans just yet.

He added: "They are not finished, Barcelona. They still won the championship in Spain.

"The consensus of opinion adapts always to the last result. I don't think they are finished.

"They have still Neymar, Messi, they have (Cesc) Fabregas, (Andres) Iniesta. They are not average players. They are top-class players. They can surprise everybody again this season."

Wenger admits it is impossible to argue against Bayern being the world's best on current form and knows there is a small margin for improvement.

"Last year they won the German league, the German Cup, the Champions League and the (Club) World Cup," he said.

"Maybe in the style there is always room for improvement but if they just do the same achievements this season they can say they have improved, because it's more difficult to do it again."

Wenger is certain his side can prevail, though, with resilience in defence absolutely key.

He added: "I can talk all day. But it's down to our performance on Wednesday night.

"They have six or seven players who can create a chance at any moment. The quality of our defending will play a big part."

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