Arsenal striker Robin van Persie looks forward to Champions League draw

New captain Robin van Persie has saluted his young side after they overcame one of the toughest weeks in Arsenal’s recent history to fire the Gunners into the group stages of the Champions League.

Arsenal’s 2-1 win in Italy on Wednesday night completed a 3-1 aggregate success over Udinese and put Arsenal into the group stage draw that will take place at 5pm today.

And while that whets the appetite for the months ahead, Van Persie was keen to reflect on the game that could have massive significance for the Gunners after a troubled start to the season.

“It has been a hard week with Cesc leaving and Samir leaving and we have been in the papers for the wrong reasons sometimes, but I think that we played well and that is a positive sign,” said Van Persie who scored the all-important equaliser in Udine after the Italians had taken a first-half lead.

“Now we have to show it every few days because that’s football, we can’t live off this night for the rest of the month or the rest of the year. Now I’m looking forward to Manchester United [on Sunday].

“It was tough against Udinese, we had to dig deep, but we can be proud of ourselves because we had a really good performance,” he added.

“We were a bit shaky in the first half, especially when they had chances and they scored. But we came back really well. Our first goal finished them off a bit mentally, it was tough for them to regroup after that.

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“I think we surprised a few people and hopefully we can do that more often.”

Arsenal may have to do that in the group stages, although their ranking among the top seeds in Pot One in the draw means they cannot face Europe’s biggest sides such as holders Barcelona, Real Madrid, and 2010 winners Internazionale.

There is plenty of quality in Pot Two, however, including AC Milan, Spanish duo Valencia and Villarreal, and the Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk who finished above the Gunners in last year’s group stage.

Arsenal will face one side from each pot, and Pot Three also contains some dangerous names such as Dutch champions Ajax, French champions Lille, and the Russian title-winners and Andrey Arshavin’s former club, Zenit St Petersburg.

Pot Four contains the lowest ranked sides, but Italian debutants Napoli, Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb and Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund are all opponents most teams will be looking to avoid.

Turkish club Trabzonspor have been included in Pot Four at the expense of Fenerbahce, after the Turkish title-winners were removed from the competition following match-fixing investigations.