Arsenal host Bayern Munich this evening at the Emirates in their first leg clash in the last-16 of the Champion’s League after being dumped out of the FA Cup last weekend by Championship side Blackburn.
After Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at home, Arsene Wenger then lost his cool in his press conference on Monday morning under pressure from journalists over his future at the club.
The fans across all sections and persuasions are disillusioned and demystified with the club they love as their team head into their toughest test of the season so far, under the glare of the world’s watching media.
1) Response from players
Wenger and Arsenal have had a disappointing season all round and Saturday’s FA exit clearly hurt the manager and his players. He and the fans will be looking for a response.
They are now out of every competition but the Champion’s League and they face the Bundesliga leaders and last year’s finalists. Mark my words; there will be a reaction from the players. Whether it’ll be a winning one remains to be seen but there has to be a reaction.
2) Showing up for big games
Equally, Arsenal have a way of showing up for the big games – defeat to Blackburn is an apt example of how a number of the Gunners’ fringe players and even some of their regular first-teamers seem to coast through games with complacency.
But they do have a knack of getting into the mood against strong opposition. On that note, they have a superb record at home in the knockout rounds of the Champion’s League. They’ve won every home clash in the knockout rounds since 2008 when they drew 0-0 with Milan. They’ve beaten Roma, AC Milan, and Barcelona at the Emirates in recent years.
Some will say stats are just stats but Arsenal do tend to give it a go for the big games and they don’t really come much bigger than this team at this time.
3) Us versus Them mentality
We’ve seen it with Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan – the former Chelsea boss manager is certainly the best at fostering a unity in his team that it’s ‘us against the world’.
Right now, especially after the weekend and Monday’s press conference, the mood in the Arsenal camp will be tense. The manager and his players must feel like defenseless cornered animals taking shots fired from every direction.
The Arsenal beast is wounded and it’ll come out fighting. The fans are hurting and the usually subdued atmosphere at the Emirates will be tense and pent-up with frustration.
I’ve been told myself a my colleague will likely not be allocated seats in the press box as usual for the game due to the high volume of press that are attending the game from across the globe. The world is watching and it’s all eyes on Arsenal. Their pride is at stake.
4) Last hope of silverware
As mentioned, the Gunners are now out of the FA Cup, the League Cup, and are now 21 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester United. They’re still pushing just to make the top-four this season and it’ll take some heroics to achieve that at the very least.
We’ve seen it with Chelsea last year who finished sixth in the league but won the Champion’s League in Munich. Arsenal have got even less hope of silverware than the Blues did – they were still in the FA Cup, which they went on to win. Arsenal only have the Champion’s League and they’re the underdogs undoubtedly.
They’ve got all they’re eggs in one basket now. This is their only and last chance to end their trophy drought this season.
5) Big guns will return
It’s also important to note that Arsene Wenger left his star players on the bench on Saturday – Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott, and Lukas Podolski were all rested and the former three came on with 20 minutes to go on Saturday.
It wasn’t really a first-team side that lost 1-0 to lower league opposition; it was the sick-notes, the flops, and the youngsters aside from two or three first-team regulars. The big guns will be in the side tonight and they’ll be gunning for their team. The complacent coasters from Saturday will be left on the bench or in the stands tonight and the stars will be looking to shine brightly on the world stage.
image: © wonker