Something of a tough one tonight against the best team in Europe as Bayern Munich come to town in the Champions League.
Although I’m not alone in making the point that this is a much better Arsenal side than the last time these two teams met, it’s hard to escape the fact that Bayern too are much improved. They’re the Champions League holders, top of the Bundesliga with a lead of 16 points after 21 games, they’ve conceded just 9 goals all season and have a goal difference of +48. As well as that, they’ve invented time travel, produced a USB key which always goes into the computer at your first attempt, and rumour has it they’re working on a cure for Phil Collins.
There’s no doubt they’re favourites for this game, but perhaps the underdog role kind of suits us. It has for most of our Premier League campaign and let’s face it, we’re not under any real pressure tonight. It’s quite similar to the games when Barcelona came calling, at that time the most fluid, effective football team on the planet, and although Wenger admits Bayern are the best side around now, he reckons Pep’s previous were better.
Despite what happened at the Camp Nou, we took a 2-2 draw and a hugely enjoyable 2-1 with us to Barcelona, so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that we could do the same against the Germans tonight. It’s actually a year to the day since the last game, when Bayern took a 2-0 lead after 21 minutes before Lukas Podolski pulled one back early in the second half. But that familiar Arsenal failing, pressing too hard to equalise when we didn’t really need to, meant that they got a breakaway third and ultimately that goal decided the tie.
Arsene Wenger is very aware of how disciplined his side need to be tonight, saying:
It’ll be down to our defending on Wednesday. Their main force is going forward. They have five or six players who can create a chance at any moment.
While Jack Wilshere said:
We have spoken about the importance of staying in the game. If it is 0-0 at home we still have a big chance of qualifying, because the away goal is massive, especially in this competition when it comes to these big games. You saw it last year when we went out on away goals. So this year we have to be a bit more intelligent and stay in the game
In terms of the team you have to expect Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs to come back, along with Wojciech Szczesny, so it’ll be our most reliable back five. Mathieu Flamini will anchor the midfield with Jack Wilshere, while I think Giroud will replace Sanogo up front. The only real question for me is who plays on the right hand side and I suspect the manager might plump for the experience of Tomas Rosicky for this one.
I’d be very tempted to give Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain a run there, simply because he’s playing well and producing moments which are deciding matches in our favour. He was the difference against Crystal Palace in the league and Liverpool in the FA Cup, so it must be tempting for the boss. I just think that in a game where the onus is on us to keep things tight and to put as much pressure on Bayern when they have the ball, Rosicky does a job that the manager really likes. Anyway, we’ll see.
It’ll be interesting to see how Mesut Ozil plays in this one. It’s probably the most high-profile game of his Arsenal career so far and against a German team there’ll be something of a spotlight on him. While up front Olivier Giroud’s shortcomings against the big teams have been highlighted recently, but he did score at the Allianz Arena last season, and tonight would be a good time for him to get himself back on the footballing scoresheet.
Ultimately though, I’m with Wilshere on this one. I’d take a 0-0 to Munich. If we could sneak a 1-0 all the better, but we have to ensure we don’t let this tie get away from us in the first leg. On Sunday Liverpool exposed us quite a few times without too much trouble, so I think we’re still struggling a little bit in terms of our defensive confidence, but we’re strongest at home and fingers crossed that’s something we see again tonight.
In other news, the date and time for the FA Cup quarter-final against Everton has been announced, and the game will take place at 12.45 on Saturday March 8th. It remains to be seen how many tickets the visitors will be allocated, but I hope we give them twice as many as they want just to annoy that Liverpool Supporter’s Group who wrote that daft letter the last time.
Finally, young Spaniard Hector Bellerin has been recalled from his loan spell at Watford, which is a bit curious. Although he wasn’t starting every game, he’d made 9 appearances since November, and scrapping for your place in a team is part and parcel of the experience that young players gain from being away. Now Ju-Young Park is gonna be quite lonely there unless Almunia invites him for tea and pony rides. Which I’m sure he will.
Don’t forget, if time zones or work get in the way of tonight’s game, we’ll have full live blog coverage of the game for you. Up to the second live updates on your computer, phone, tablet or just about anything else that has an internet connection. Check back later with a post which has all the details, or bookmark our default live blog page and updates will begin automatically.
As well as that Paddy Power have a new account exclusive giving you a HUGE ENHANCED price of 10/1 on Arsenal to beat Bayern Munich in the Champion’s League clash – New Accounts Only – Sign up through the link below now. Tasty odds.
Right, that’s just about that. Final thing: REDaction are asking people to try and get to their seats a bit early tonight as there’s a card display planned – more details here.