Tuesday evening promises to be a mouth-watering one, as it will see Germany’s record league winners Bayern Munich pit their wits against Arsene Wenger’s men. It’s an encounter all Arsenal fans have been awaiting for since the draw, albeit with mixed feelings, with some terribly worried that a mauling is beckoning, while others, like me, think The Gunners can spring a surprise and progress past the Bavarians over the two legs.
Yes, the German side is a superior one in almost every footballing sense. They have won the European Cup on four occasions, reached the final nine times, have won the Bundesliga 22 times and the German Cup 15 times, and have an expensively assembled squad. They are a team with a much richer history and great stature, no doubt.
On the other hand though, Arsenal have no Champions Leagues to show-off for their efforts. They have reached the final only once, have won the domestic league 13 times, FA Cup 10 times and have a cheaply assembled squad! If such stats won football matches, we would definitely be out of it before taking to the pitch!
But on Tuesday, all that will count for nothing. Both teams will have to field a maximum of 14 players and that is the most important thing. Bayern are a great side, but they are no Barcelona. They are beatable. In fact, much more beatable than the Catalan giants we managed to beat a couple of seasons ago. This very season we witnessed BATE Borisov hit three past Bayern who were completely lacklustre! Last season we saw how Chelsea triumphed over the German giants and won the Champions League title in their own backyard against all odds! So why can’t we?
In past years, Arsenal have been written off before playing against big European sides, and we ended up making those lot eat their words. When Arsenal went to the Santiago Bernabeu in 2006, almost everyone thought we would be annihilated, but a solo goal from Thierry Henry was enough to settle the tie as the return leg ended goalless. Remember this was a victory against a side that possessed Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo Da Lima, Raul Gonzalez, David Beckham, Guti and so many others, while we had the likes of Mathieu Flamini, Philippe Senderos, the aging Freddie Ljungberg and the likes of Arturo Lupoli on the bench! Thierry Henry was the only player of genuine superstar quality in our squad, as the likes of Robert Pires had past his peak! That year we went on to beat Juventus who had big names like Alessandro Del Pierro, Pavel Nedved, David Trezeguet, Lillian Thuram, Patrick Vieira, Emerson and Cafu, beat them 2-0 at home before going on to draw 0-0 at the Stadio delle Alpi in Turin.
In 2008, we beat AC Milan 2-0 after we had drawn 0-0 at The Emirates. I think such sweet memories should be enough to make the Arsenal doubters take heart that ejecting Bayern Munich from the Champions League is certainly not out of reach!
Looking at our players, I genuinely think we have enough quality in the squad to beat anyone on our day and why can we not turn it on next week? I honestly don’t see that much of a difference between the midfield of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez and Toni Kroos and that of Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla. I think we can match them pound for pound. The forward line of Arjen Robben, Mario Gomez and Franck Ribery/Thomas Muller look a lot more stronger than ours, but I think Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski aren’t too bad either and can surely deliver the goods. We just need to get in their faces and we will surely frustrate them.
One of the most notable things is that we have a formidable home record. Since 2003, we have lost only once to foreign opposition against Schalke this very season! In fact, Bayern have not won any of their last five visits to England, and they will come knowing exactly that. I’m sure they will be wary of our threat. We are seasoned campaigners, we have the experience and the fact that we shall have both Podolski and Per Mertesacker in our ranks, Bayern will not be totally strange to us, will they?
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