Welcome back. In football, there’s ‘in-form’, then there’s Bayern Munich. The German champions, under the stewardship of the creative Catalan coach Pep Guardiola, visit Emirates stadium tonight having won nine out of nine Bundesliga games so far this season.
Whereas we lost at Dinamo Zagreb and at home to Olympiakos in Champions League group F, Bayern beat the latter 3-0 in Greece, before battering the Croatians 5-0 in Germany.
So despite our very encouraging Premier League form heading into tonight’s fixture, and based on the above, you’d probably be forgiven for assuming we have very little chance of a win tonight. Especially when you throw in the fact that on their last two visits to Arsenal, the Bavarians won both games with, if we’re honest, consummate ease.
All that said, we’ll be at full first-team, if not squad, strength this evening and if we play to our potential, can beat any team in Europe in my opinion. Arsene Wenger spoke about a study confirming the importance of scoring the first goal in the Champions League recently, so getting the balance right between keeping it tight at the back and breaching Bayern’s defence will be key.
With that in mind, I wonder if Arsene will set us up tactically more like when we beat Bayern 2-0 at the Allianz Arena in March 2013, when we defended diligently in numbers and broke forward at pace at every opportunity, rather than the more gung-ho attacking whirlwind we were at the start of our last game hosting Bayern and indeed the recent win over Manchester United.
We need to win of course but a winning goal, as Saturday’s victory at Watford reminded us, doesn’t have to be scored early. What’s more important, is that we don’t concede first and Petr Cech’s presence in our side is one big reason I think we have a greater chance of securing a win against Bayern tonight than in previous meetings.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference yesterday, Arsene highlighted his side’s confidence after back-to-back 3-0 successes in the league, bemoaned our two group game losses and spoke about the need to play at our best if we’re to beat Bayern, saying:
The confidence level is there, the needed result is there as well – we know exactly what is required [because] a 0-0 is not even a good result. To score goals, we have to attack. It is true that [we have delivered big results] before, but we want to do it again because we feel a bit that the pain inflicted [in the Champions League] was a bit by ourselves. Maybe subconsciously we thought ‘anyway we will win these [first two games’. Now to correct that we need a great performance. What we want to do is play up to our level – that will be needed because we play against a big team.
I have to say I’m very, very excited about tonight. A lot has been said about perhaps prioritizing the Premier League, having made such a poor start in Europe, by resting players etc but not so much about the possible positive effects on the side a win over such highly-rated opponents would produce confidence and momentum-wise.
I mean, when we host Everton on Saturday, surely it’s better going into that game a little more tired but a lot more confident, than if we’d rested several players tonight and been soundly beaten. As Arsene often points out, belief is easily eroded but very difficult to re-establish.
Meanwhile, Aaron Ramsey, who will have to be typically industrious in getting back to help out Hector Bellerin against one of Bayern’s best attackers this season, the Brazilian Douglas Costa, has been discussing the game and his hope the team can get the home support ‘on our side’, saying:
We’ve done really well away from home [against Bayern Munich]. It’s about starting the game well and getting the momentum and the crowd on our side early on. That’s what we’ll be looking to do to hopefully go on and get the win that we’re looking for. We’ve had some really good performances and results against Bayern, so we’re looking forward to tomorrow. These are the games that you want to be involved in, play in and test yourself in, so we’re looking forward to that. As a professional player you always go into every game wanting to give your absolute best. Unfortunately in the last two Champions League games we were not quite there to get the win, but our focus is now on Bayern and we are really looking forward to playing and going out there to express ourselves.
After scoring his first goal of the season against Watford, tonight would be the ideal time for Aaron to capitalize on the rediscovery of his shooting boots and help fire us back into contention in this group.
See you tomorrow.