Philipp Lahm has conceded that the Champions League title-holders hoped to avoid the Premier League leaders.
Arsenal and Bayern Munich are familiar foes in the round of 16, having been paired together in the previous edition of the competition, with the Germans advancing on the back of a strong performance at the Emirates to eventually triumph in the final.
The treble-winning outfit have been drawn with the most difficult possible opponent this time around, as Galatasaray, Olympiacos, Zenit and Milan represented their other potential fates ahead of Monday’s selection ceremony in Nyon.
In north London the list of would-be adversaries made for grim reading with Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona having slotted in alongside the Bundesliga giants, and indeed Pep Guardiola’s charges have been chosen to face off with those of Arsene Wenger.
And Lahm, whose side fell 3-2 to Manchester City last Tuesday at the Allianz Arena after taking what appeared to be an unassailable early lead, isn’t particularly enthused at the prospect of meeting Arsenal again to start the knockouts.
"They are the strongest team that we could have drawn, and it's certainly not what we were hoping for," he told reporters.
"Arsenal have made some quality new signings and will prove a real challenge for us, but our goal is obviously to reach the next round."
The Gunners have already reaped a victory in Germany this term, having downed Borussia Dortmund at the vaunted Westfalenstadion in the group stage, and also ran out 2-0 winners in Munich last season to leave Bayern Munich in need of the away goals rule to progress to the quarter-finals.
Mesut Ozil has joined Per Mertesacker, former Die Roten man Lukas Podolski and Serge Gnabry since the two-legged tie played over February and March as part of the German corps at the Emirates, who save the young Granbry, are quite familiar with Lahm and company.
Arsenal have seen their lead atop the Premier League shrink after this weekend following a 6-3 drubbing at the hands of Manchester City at the weekend but plenty of football remains in between the present and the opening of the round of 16, which will begin at the Emirates on February 19 for Wenger’s side.
The draw isn’t ideal for either club, as Bayern Munich will be tasked with dispatching their toughest potential opponent and the Gunners will face an opponent coming off of an historic treble, yet nonetheless makes for a tasty encounter to come.
And from an Arsenal perspective, is facing such a test so early on such a tragedy? If they’re truly primed for a run deep into the tournament, running aground of the best Europe has to offer is simply a reality.
So maybe, just maybe, the north Londoners are at an advantage here.
Lahm, though he was undoubtedly alluding to the potential to draw a less illustrious club in ruing Arsenal having come to the fore, certainly sent out an indication that the powers that be see a genuine threat in the Gunners.
Of course, much could change before the two line up against each other seven weeks into the new year, but for now Wenger’s men should draw strength from what appears a difficult hand to be dealt on the surface.
image: © wonker