Arsenal need to be cautious as Bayern smell blood

With the Champions league showdown three days away and Arsenal's defeat at home in the FA Cup, discusses why Wednesday's clash is crucial to the Gunners.
Arsenal are having a bad season. Correction, Arsenal are having a series of bad seasons. Seven consecutive trophy-less campaigns followed by what looks likely to be a miserable eighth, the Gunners are a side distraught. As for Arsene Wenger, who will complete 17 years at the helm at the club (if he sees out this season, that is), the criticism is pouring in following the 1-0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers in the 5th round of the FA Cup.

Normally, such a result at the Emirates Stadium would come as a shock but with Arsenal having been eliminated by League One outfit Bradford City in the Capital One Cup, there was an air of inevitability to the outcome. Arsenal have now endured the unfortunate and embarrassing experience of being removed from both cup competitions this season by lower league oppositions. 

           Losing to Blackburn was yet another setback in an already
                                                      disappointing season

That brings us to the much awaited encounter on the 20th of this month. Fans and pundits alike have voiced their concerns since the side lying 21 points behind league leaders Manchester United drew the star-studded German giants Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16. Safely confining Arsenal’s Premier League ambitions to a 4th place finish; one can admit that yet again, the side’s only hope for silverware is the Champions League trophy, technically speaking rather than realistically.

You're always taught never to lose hope but in terminal cases, much like Arsenal's at the moment, false hope may only serve to prolong the suffering. True, football is a game which owes a lot of its lustre to upsets, shock results and underdog victories but one just feels that the Gunners are nowhere close to adding to that lore during their clash with Bayern. The Munich side are 18 points clear in their domestic league, having not conceded a single goal since the winter break. The Champions League has been a happy hunting ground for the Bavarians, having scored 15 goals in the group stage.

The hallmark of Bayern’s efficiency has been there for everyone to see in the past few seasons. Being economically sound at a time when most clubs are in debt, the German team has always attracted the top talent from the world over and boasts of players fit to be champions. The only thing they need to be weary of is the 'chokers' tag they've been branded with along with the German national side. Last season, despite dominating most of the Champions League final against Chelsea (that too at the Allianz Arena), they were edged out on penalties. The four-time winners need to be cautious of another London side this season in the form of Arsenal.

But realistically that is all the respect Arsenal is going to get come Wednesday night. You can expect the Germans to test the waters for a few minutes and then as the cracks start to show in the Arsenal defense, the away side will definitely go for the kill. Their efficiency promises to triumph over the North Londoners' lack of the same, as highlighted in their latest FA Cup match.

Efficient, Organised and Ruthless: The last team Arsenal wanted to face in the Champions League

Arsene Wenger, the French visionary who has managed Arsenal from 1996, has visibly lost the plot in the last few seasons. The initial first few years of the trophy drought were acceptable owing to the supposed 'transitional phase' the squad were said to be going through but his team’s general form and composure in seasons of late has been unacceptable when compared to his earlier standards.

Wenger has not been successful in keeping quality players at the club and has transformed it into a hunting ground of sorts from where cash-splashing clubs conveniently prise away brilliant talent. His scouting too has taken a beating, with recent signings not living up to their sparkling reputations. It is high time he signed some experienced and seasoned 27-28 year old players who can churn out results rather than perform well but show nothing for it. Signings like Andre Santos are damaging Wenger’s reputation at the club. A lot needs to be changed on that front.

Following the 1-0 defeat to Blackburn and with the do-or-die encounter with Bayern on the horizon, Wenger came out in the open and defended his decision of leaving out the trio of Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott from the starting lineup. He went on to admit that his side was not good enough to win on the day against the Championship outfit but reasserted the importance of the Champions League encounter coming up, declaring that it is a chance for his team to show that they have ‘character’ and are ‘men’ who can fight for each other.

Sorry Mr. Wenger, but going by your team’s performances and gauging your opposition’s overpowering might, Wednesday night may see your ‘boys’ being handed a lesson in football and organization by the ‘men’ from Munich!

If Arsenal loses to Bayern at the Emirates, it won’t be the first time they have gone down to a German opponent this season. They were comprehensively beaten 2-0 at home in their group match against Schalke in October. However tough as it may sound, Wenger has to make sure his side don’t fall prey to a second German team in the form of Bayern. This well and truly could be the last straw for the Arsenal manager.

A heavy defeat in either leg might prompt the supporters to openly call for his head, having had enough of the team's faltering nature over the seasons the club has shifted from Highbury to Emirates. The situation the manager is in at the moment is precarious to say the least, with not only his job but his legacy as well very much on the line.

One cannot help but sympathize with the whole Arsenal situation. In past seasons, they at least had their dazzling style of play to fall back on and used that cosole their fans for their lack of results and trophies, often pointing out that they must strive to win the 'right way'. With big players opting for greener pastures, Arsenal is now left with a squad lacking the technique as well as desire to succeed at the top level.

Due to such a trend in Arsenal’s performances over the past few seasons, supporters have started to lose their faith in the veteran Frenchman in the dugout, getting used to their team’s fate. One can definitely bank on Bayern feasting on such shortcomings with the lethal options at their disposal.

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The figure of Jack Wilshere down on his haunches after Arsenal’s poor displays is becoming an exceedingly frequent sight. In a team devoid of ideas on most occasions, he has been a shining light and has offered some optimism to the Emirates faithful. Expect him to put in his 100% against the Bavarians but one feels it just won’t be enough to grind out a positive result. Arsenal look toothless without him but then just how much of the load can his young shoulders carry at this stage?

One of the bright lights of Arsenal’s season has been their smashing comebacks against the likes of Reading and Newcastle, throwing up outrageous score-lines like 7-5 and 7-3. The team from Munich will definitely be more compact than the shoddy defensive sides of the Premier League against whom Arsenal have scored so freely and despite losing one of their able defensive generals in the form of Holger Badstuber, they have been a wall no team has been able to break down in this calendar year with the dependable Jerome Boateng, Dante and Daniel Van Buyten holding the fort. Another alarming statistic that will make Arsenal hearts sink further is the fact that Bayern have conceded only 14 goals in their last 82 Bundesliga matches; a truly remarkable feat.

Looking at Arsene Wenger’s long tenure as well as the Gunners’ seven-year trophy drought in the rear view mirror, the upcoming Champions League encounter will affect a lot more than just the two teams’ progress in the competition. Arsenal supporters pray for a miracle because otherwise the team from Munich is going to leave London with a sure-shot advantage which will be as difficult to break down as the Berlin wall.

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