Arsene Wenger must ignore former boss and attempt to repeat history

Arsene Wenger at Training - 18/02/2014

Former Arsenal manager George Graham has advised Arsene Wenger to play a weakened side in the return-leg against Bayern Munich.

Speaking to BBC Radio Five Live’s Sportsweek programme, former Arsenal manager George Graham suggested Arsene Wenger should forget about the Champions League (where they trail 2-0 to Bayern Munich) and focus on their domestic campaign.

One of the questions facing Arsene is whether they play their best team and try to win the tie, which is near impossible, or concentrate on the league,” Graham said in quotes later published in the Daily Mail.

Personally I'd play a weakened team because I think the second half of the first leg was like a practice match for Bayern.”

That may be so, but Graham is forgetting – or perhaps dismissing – one vital thing. Arsenal can overturn a two-goal deficit in Munich, because they did it only last season.

Gunners fans will not need reminding that having lost the corresponding leg 3-1 last year, they then travelled to the Allianz Arena and won 2-0.

And while that score-line was not enough to see them qualify, this time it would level things up and from there…who knows.

The joy of football is in its unpredictability. Yes Bayern played very well in North London last week, but they could perform equally as badly as the last time Wenger’s men visited their home, and Arsenal have a stronger team this year than they did then.

Graham’s suggestion springs from common sense. With the Premier League as tight as it has ever been, resting key players for the matches ahead could see Arsenal pip the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool to the trophy they are so desperate to reclaim.

But Arsenal need only go into the second-leg reminding themselves what they achieved last time. If they fall short, at least they know they will have done everything they could to beat the reigning champions.

To submit before the first whistle even blows? One senses that is not the Wenger way.

image: © Jenny Leigh

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