Arsenal face the most impossible of tasks this week...
After losing 3 – 1 at home to a superb Bayern Munich team in February the odds are firmly stacked against Arsenal progressing to the next round of the Champions League. But other than the small glimmer of possibility that suggests it not over until it’s (actually) over - Do Arsenal have a hope in Munich? Let’s have a look at a few things……
To say that Bayern’s league form this season has been impressive would be a massive understatement. Bayern have dropped a total of 9 points from 25 games and sit 20 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga – with 9 games to go. They have won their last 8 games and are unbeaten in their last 16. Bayern have scored in every league game this season and have kept a clean sheet in 68% of their games.
Over the last 8 games – Bayern have scored 24 goals and conceded just 4. However despite winning their last 4 home games - Bayern’s league away form is actually stronger - as their only league loss this season came in 2 – 1 home defeat to Leverkusen (small mercies).
Arsenal’s form on the other hand tells a completely different story . After 28 games - Arsenal are 5th in the Premiership with 47 points - meaning that they have already dropped 37 points in the league with 10 games remaining. Their form against teams placed higher than Arsenal doesn’t make for pretty reading either – Arsenal have only taken 4 points from a possible 21.
However whilst Arsenal have a poor home defensive record (yet rank 2nd in the league for their home attacking play) they also have the best away defensive record in the Premiership (but rank 8th in the league for their away attacking play). So at home Arsenal score yet concede – but away they can defend but cannot score. It goes without saying at this point that to beat Bayern in Munich Arsenal will have to combine the best parts of their home and away form – but as it has been regularly said about Arsenal this season – the only thing that has been consistent about them is their inconsistency. With no weekend premiership fixture for Arsenal they will have had a 10 day break to prepare for the game with Bayern. A different team will need to emerge from the break (than the one that went into it) if they want to stand any chance of upsetting the odds.
But this is a cup tie.....
Anything can happen in a cup tie – unfortunately it’s not like this game is delicately poised at 0 – 0. The game plan is pretty obvious here. Arsenal have to attack whilst staying responsible at the back to stand any chance of progressing. But it’s not like Arsenal haven’t been in a tough European situation before. At the same stage in the Champions League last season – Arsenal were taken apart in a heavy 4 – 0 away defeat to AC Milan before very nearly pulling off one of the greatest Champions League comebacks in history by winning 3 – 0 at home. But with Bayern being one of (if not the) form teams in Europe at the moment - could producing (what would have to be) a performance of the season be asking too much from Arsenal? We all love the story of an underdog but even this could be going a step too far. I would hope that if Arsenal do go down – that they go out of the competition with all guns blazing - because the consequences of going out with a whimper don’t really bear thinking about. Arsenal need to produce a performance that the fans, players and manager can be proud of.
Do Arsenal have a hope in Munich? Yes. But it will require a performance from Arsenal that we have only seen glimpses of this season – and a performance from Podolski to remind Bayern of what could have been.
My prediction (neck on the line time): Bayern 1 – Arsenal 2 (with Podolski scoring at some point)
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