So tonight is the big one. After losing 2-0 at home against the reigning European Champions, we face a the though prospect of going to the Allianz Arena needing to score at least 2 goals to stay in the tie.
Impossible? No, but there’s no doubt the odds are heavily stacked against us.
We won 2-0 there last season and Bayern went on to progress on the away goals rule. We scored an early goal, they missed a few chances and things got nervy at the end when Koscielny scored with 5 minutes to go. We couldn’t nick that vital third goal but we showed that we’re no pushovers in Europe.
In our last 5 visits to Germany, we’ve won 3 games and drawn 2 which is an excellent record. It shows how resilient we can be and that when it matters, we can get a result.
I would be much more confident if we had our first choice back four, but Gibbs is injured. A defensive line of Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker and Gibbs is one of the best in Europe in my opinion. The four of them defend so well as unit and regular readers will know that I don’t rate Monreal, since he featured in the heavy defeats to Manchester City and Liverpool. And for me, he was also one of the major reasons we conceded the two goals against Bayern in the first leg.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Monreal is also injured meaning that our options are to put Thomas Vermaelen at left back, or to move Sagna to that position and play Carl Jenkinson at right back. Vermaelen has only just come back from injury so could be a risk and people forget that Jenkinson played in the Bayern game last season. What will Arsene do? I suspect he will play Vermaelen even though I think it’s a risk.
Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini are certain to anchor the midfield with a bit of fight and organisation and further up the field Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud are nailed on to start. So the last midfield position is between Tomas Rosicky and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and I have a feeling he might start with the Czech. He’s played in Germany before and sets the tempo in the big games, as well as being able to track back and throw his weight around in midfield.
Obviously, tonight hinges on the first goal. Like at Dortmund, we had to withstand a lot of pressure before nicking a goal at the other end. If we can keep a clean sheet anything is possible but like tonight, if Dortmund scored first you just know that would have opened the floodgates.
If we can keep it tight, then Bayern will feel the pressure and we can slowly edge our way into the game. But if they score early then our heads will drop and it will be one long, tough evening indeed.
In a way, if Bayern did score it wouln’t make a huge different in terms of an aggregate score as 3 goals would see us through. But obviously that is something we need to avoid.
They say you need some luck on nights like these and tonight is no different. If the Gods of fate are playing fairly then we are definitely due some luck in the Champions League. One top of the harsh decision to send of Szczesny in the first leg, we also had a petty sending off at Barcelona (Robin van Persie) and another in the Champions League Final (Jens Lehmann) so we’re due some good luck.
Perhaps Bayern will have their goalkeeper sent off and some of their defenders will score a couple of unfortunate own goals. But maybe that’s asking a little too much.
As long as Arsenal put in a determined, focused performance and give it everything they have, then that’s all you can ask for. And if we do manage to surprise everyone and progress, then that’s a bonus.
You can say many things about Arsene Wenger but one thing I will say is that no matter which team we face, I believe that Arsenal can always win. I have never gone to watch Arsenal thinking they had no chance of winning that game. Because of the style of play Arsene adopts, I always think we can score goals.
So tonight we’re going to need a bit of faith and a bit of luck.