With Arsenal bowing out of the FA Cup last weekend, the UEFA Champions League remains the Gunners only hope of silverware this season and a slender hope at that. The Gunners face the extremely difficult task of overhauling a talented Bayern side at home with a defence hampered by injury.
It is fair to say that Arsenal go into this tie as underdogs. Bayern have started the year in emphatic form conceding no goals and consequently winning five from five matches. Given both teams form, it would be fair to say that possession will be relinquished to the Germans in favour of a counter-attacking football with the likes of Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski on the flanks. It remains to be seen if Giroud will be dropped given his indifferent form over the past few weeks, although I feel he will still be picked.
In midfield it is quite obvious that Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla will be starting, although their roles could vary depending on tactics and formation. Expect Cazorla to take up his favoured position as the attacking midfielder with Wilshere playing as the box-to-box midfielder and Arteta taking up his acquired role as defensive midfielder.
Lastly and most frustratingly is defence. With Monreal cup-tied, Gibbs injured, Koscielny doubtful and Santos on loan it is hard to pin-point how Wenger will select his defence. It is very likely that Jenkinson will have to face up to the talented Franck Ribery, which is sure to be an area of concern. In the centre it is likely that Vermaelen will return to his favoured position and Sagna shifted out to the left, despite his heroics against Sunderland. Mertesacker takes the other vacant spot after rejoining the squad.
Overall, it all depends on what Arsenal turns up on the day. We have seen before that if Arsenal click, they can tear teams apart, but in saying this the reverse is also true. Personally, I feel Arsenal best chance remains on the counter. Bayern are in superb form and will most likely retain a majority of possession despite our best efforts, therefore we need to be able to break fast and take our few chances when we are presented with them.
on whether Arsenal are underdogs…
We are the underdogs – you just need to read the English press to understand that.
We have pressure because we want to do well and we want to win. I believe that whether you are favourites or underdogs, what counts is to play well, make a good pass when you have the ball and defend well when you don’t have the ball. All the rest, in our job, you have to take a distance from it.
What is important is that when you play to win a competition, at some stage you have to play a big team.
If I listen to your questions, we are not favourites but I trust our quality, our spirit and our mental strength. So see you tomorrow!
Jenkinson Mertesacker Vermaelen (c) Sagna
- Arsenal and Bayern Munich have met four times before in the Champions League, with the Bavarians winning twice, Arsenal one and the other being a draw.
- Their last encounter dates back to the 2004/05 Champions League last 16 when Bayern won 3-2 on aggregate.
- The Gunnes have only lost two of their 17 knockout games at home in the Champions League (v Chelsea in April 2004 & v Manchester Utd in May 2009). However Wenger’s side are under scrutiny at present after the embarrassing FA Cup elimination at the hands of Championship side Blackburn.
- Arsenal have won six of their last seven home Champions League games against German opposition, the only defeat coming against Schalke in this season’s group stages.
- Bayern Munich have lost on each of their last four trips to England in the Champions League. The Bundesliga side’s last win in England dates back to April 2001 at Old Trafford in the Champions League quarter-finals.
- Bayern Munich have scored in each of their last 12 Champions League games, the last team to stop them from netting being Basel in February 2012.
- Domestically they have conceded only seven goals, where as the Gunners have had a massive 29 goals against.
Arsenal 1 Bayern Munich 2