In the words of Kylie Minogue, better the devil you know – Arsenal know all too well the threat posed by the current Champions League title holders after being knocked out by the German giants last term.
However, what we learned from that two-legged clash was that the Gunners are capable of beating the Bundesliga champions and they’re capable of beating them on their own turf at the Allianz Arena if, crucially, they put in the kind of display they did earlier this year.
They won the second leg 2-0 and came oh-so-close to getting that third late on but, alas, it wasn’t meant to be but that was something of a rebirth for the Gunners who went on a ten-match unbeaten run in the Premier League following that game.
This term Arsenal have been flying high and in fine form – the arrival of record signing Mesut Ozil has been a lift for the club as whole but the rejuvenation of Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud as well as the stability of the back five this term is what sees them top of the Premier League table, two points clear of Liverpool and Chelsea.
Whilst it would have perhaps been preferable to have topped the Champions League group last week, if you’re going to go all the way in the Champions League then you have to beat the best in the business and that is exactly what Bayern Munich represent.
The other positive, in my estimation, is that if Arsenal beat the current champions of Europe, they’ve strike fear into the hearts of whomever they face after that and, as a silver lining, if they exit the competition to the holders, they can focus on their domestic league campaign knowing they were beaten by the best.
For example, Manchester United may overcome Olympiacos and Chelsea do the same against Galatasaray in the next round, they’ll still likely have to play a team of the stature of Bayern Munich, PSG, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund or even each other in the next round – there are, of course, easier routes to the final but, crucially, there are no easy routes.
If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best and, on current form, Arsenal have shown they’re capable of doing just that. Imagine the confidence, belief and euphoria that would ensue from knocking out the Champions League titleholders – it could be kind of momentum that takes the Gunners all the way to the final in Lisbon and, if not, they may as well bow out now and focus on domestic titles rather than mess around wasting their energies only to meet a top team in the quarterfinals or semifinals and be no better off.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald