Arsenal face Bayern Munich this month in the knockout rounds of the Champions League and, whilst the majority of commentators, pundits and fans perceive the tie as a foregone conclusion, there is actually no tangible reason why Arsenal can’t win the trophy.
Here are five reasons to support the contrary…
1) Underdog syndrome
Firstly, Arsenal are not even expected to get past Bayern Munich in the last 16 knockout round coming up this month. The Gunners’ poor form in the Premier League and their shock defeat at Bradford in the Capital One Cup means absolutely no-one, except perhaps some die-hard Arsenal fans, are expecting them to progress past the next round.
But stranger things have happened – there has been some David versus Goliath incidents in this competition before. Anyone remember when Rubin Kazan beat Barcelona? Or when Basel beat Manchester United? Monaco beat Real Madrid and just last year APOEL Nicosia beat Lyon.
There are no certainties in football.
2) Bayern Munich
On that note, should Arsenal somehow manage to defy the odds and beat Bayern Munich across two legs, they could very well win the competition due to the momentum and belief that would foster in the team, the manager and the fans.
Bayern were last year’s finalists and are cruising at the top of the Bundesliga – they are surely one of the favourites to win the Champion’s League. If an upset does come to pass and Arsenal progress, they could very well book their place in the final.
It’s the same reason I fancy Bradford to win the Capital One Cup – the team starts to feel invincible, almost as if it’s their destiny to win and, subsequently, they never give up and it can become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
3) Chelsea fear factor
Synonymously, Bayern have a something of a self-fulfilling prophesy of their own to deal with. They will have been hurt by what happened in their own back yard against Chelsea last year. There will undoubtedly be some nerves and some doubts hanging over from the final last time around.
To compound that fear, Arsenal are another London club and, another pesky English club – both Chelsea and Manchester United have done a number over the German giants in the past and those memories will likely still haunt them.
All it takes is for Arsenal to take the lead or for one player to make a mistake and, having not been accustomed to losing this season, their resolve could be tested and the cracks in their armory could start to show.
4) AC Milan
Likewise, remember last year when Arsenal were humiliated by AC Milan at the San Siro? The Gunners lost 4-0, it was a devastating defeat and no one expected them to come back from that massive loss in the first leg.
But they very very nearly did – it was one of the most committed and gutsy performances I’ve seen from an Arsenal side probably since they beat Barcelona 2-1 at the Emirates the previous season.
Arsenal beat Milan, who in fairness were poor and fell to pieces, 3-0 in the second leg and just one more goal would have taken the game to extra-time. That should give Gunners fans a bit of hope and inspiration that, even if Bayern Munich spank them in first leg, it’s a two-legged affair and nothing is impossible.
5) Jack Wilshere
Whilst I’m aware that there are a number of top teams in the competition who have world-class players – Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Manchester United, and Borussia Dortmund spring to mind – Arsenal have Jack Wilshere.
When Arsenal travelled to the Nou Camp in 2011 with Cesc Fabregas still an Arsenal player, all eyes were on the Spaniard with the ‘Barca DNA’ but the real standout performer for me was the 19-year-old Englishman with the ‘Arsenal DNA’.
Jack Wilshere was immense playing opposite the most talented midfielders the game has probably ever seen. He matched the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta and that was two years ago. Arsenal have on their hands one of the most exceptional talents of his generation and players like that are capable of incredible things.
The team was then set up around Fabregas – now it’s set up around Wilshere and as long as he doesn’t have to carry 10 other players, the team only needs to do their jobs and he can make the magic happen.
Arsenal fans, do you share the positivity?
image: © andyjakeman