Arsene Wenger has said that Arsenal should take "massive satisfaction" in having reached the knockout stages of the Champions League for a 13th consecutive season - a record which their big-spending English rivals cannot match.
Only Real Madrid, with 16, can better the Gunners' European run of progression from the opening group phase, which was secured last night with a 2-0 home win over Montpellier.
While grabbing top spot in Group B from Schalke and with it seeding for the last 16 is by no means secure ahead of next month's trip to Olympiacos, Wenger will at least not have the concerns of new Chelsea interim boss Rafael Benitez in guaranteeing elite European football again in the new year, while Barclays Premier League champions Manchester City have failed to progress for the second season running.
"If you look at how many teams have done that in Europe, you will find very few and that shows it is not easy," said Wenger. "It is a massive satisfaction because I am so many times with my back to the wall, accused of not spending fortunes.
"It is important as well to show that we can do it, with the way we do it, that is with the club in a good financial situation and with the players coming from our youth development. There are many different ways to be successful and I am very happy that our way is one of them."
Arsenal have struggled for consistency in the Premier League since the October international break, and are not among the favourites to win Europe's biggest club prize at Wembley in May. However, last season Chelsea were in a similar position and yet went on to knock out Barcelona and claim the UEFA Champions League crown with a penalty shoot-out victory over Bayern Munich.
Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny sees no reason why the Gunners should not believe they can emulate Chelsea's achievements. "I hope we can do what they did last season, but do a little bit better in the Premier League as well - you only take part in competitions to win them," said the Poland international, just back in the side following an ankle injury. "There are fantastic teams in Europe and ones probably more likely to win it than us, but I am in this competition to win it."
Szczesny continued: "Arsenal have qualified for the last 16 every year for the last few years and I don't think us qualifying is a surprise but Chelsea and Man City not doing well is a massive surprise. At the moment, though, we are just enjoying that we got through.
"Of course, we hope to get a good result in Olympiacos, but to finish top is not in our hands, because we have to rely on someone else to get results as well. I am not sure, however, if it is the most important thing to finish top, because in the last 16, whether you finish first or second, you come up against the best teams in Europe - we finished top last season and played AC Milan away and lost (the first leg) 4-0 (away)."
Wenger feels Arsenal have shown green shoots of recovery, after suffering successive defeats on their return to action following the international break. "We have done our job recently and that of course is a big positive, now we just want to go on from there," he said.
England winger Theo Walcott's shoulder injury is not severe, but he will miss Saturday's late kick off at Aston Villa although should return to the squad at Everton next Wednesday. Wenger is considering another short-term loan move for club legend Thierry Henry, who has finished his Major League Soccer season at New York Red Bulls. However, he maintains it is far from a done deal.
"I don't rule it out because he's in good shape, but I haven't made up my mind yet and I haven't spoken to Thierry about it. He is concerned as well," Wenger said. "I just answered a question honestly that I have not completely decided how I will sort it out in my head."