Daily Archives: December 21, 2012
When Arsenal was drawn in Group B against French champions, Montpellier, Greek champions, Olympiakos and German heavyweights, Schalke 04, many Gooners out there thought that it was going to a one-way traffic from Match Day one to Match Day six.
The Gunners began their Champions League campaign well, with two victories against Olivier Giroud’s former employers and the modern-day Spartans, but Arsene Wenger’s team faced a test in the two-legged affair against Schalke, and failed miserably. The Germans embarrassed the Gunners in their turf and did well to fight back from a two-goal deficit in Gelsenkirchen.
After intense Champions League group phase fixtures that spanned for the best part of three months, England’s contingent in Europe’s elite competition has been reduced to two, after the defending champions and the oil-rich mercenaries fell in the first hurdle. With Arsenal unable to face English rivals, Manchester United, and group winners, Schalke, the odds weren’t in the Gunners’ favor as they braced themselves up to face either Juventus, Dortmund, Barcelona, PSG, Malaga and Bayern Munich.
I’d fancied a draw against Malaga, PSG or Dortmund because I wasn’t ready to see my team lock horns with Juventus, Bayern or Barcelona.
Juventus has been in phenomenal form in the Serie A, and like Arsenal, they went on a 49-game unbeaten run that ended abruptly in the hands of Inter. Bayern Munich had a great campaign last season but ended up in the runners-up position in every competition they played. This season, they have gone from strength to strength and are currently 12 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga.
Barcelona have a 90 goal-a-year Lionel Messi in their ranks. ‘Nuff said.
After yesterday’s draw, this tweet from Nigerian comedian, Bright Okpocha, or Basket Mouth, as he’s fondly known, was worth sharing,
As expected, some Gunners have voiced their opinions on the draws, and Arsenal’s German contingent have come under the spotlight. The Big Friendly Giant, Per Mertesacker, played Bayern a lot of times in his Werder Bremen days and he has had his fair share of victories, draws and defeats against the Bavarians.
The BFG believes that Arsenal can find their rhythm before the game against the German giants,
“We will face a good team in Germany, they are top of their League and went through to the knockout stage in a phenomenal way.
“They only conceded seven goals in the first half of the season. [But] they have a little break now and can rest a bit.
“Maybe it’s a good opportunity for us to face them in February because we will be in our rhythm. We will hopefully go through the Christmas period in a strong way. We can do that.”
Bayern Munich is a team that’s oozing of quality and Arsenal will have to put up one hell of a show to get past this German outfit. As Mertesacker mentioned, the German juggernauts have conceded only seven goals in the first half of the Bundesliga season. If that’s not amazing, then I don’t know what that word means.
Lukas Podolski is a player that would relish this clash more than anyone else in the Arsenal camp. After Podolski had been hugely impressive in his first stint with FC Cologne scoring 46 goals in 81 appearances, he was a much sought-after property after the 2006 FIFA World Cup with a host of German clubs as well as Liverpool and Real Madrid hunting for his signature. He favored a move to Bayern Munich for €10m and was tipped for great things.
In his first season with Bayern, Prinz Poldi scored only seven goals in 34 appearances, the Germans delved into the transfer market to sign perpetual goalscoring machines of the first kind, Miroslav Klose and Luca Toni. The Klose-Toni partnership reaped instant dividends, relegating Podolski to the bench. The Polish-born German had his injury problems as well and after three disappointing years in Munich, he went back to familiar surroundings as FC Cologne came back for their prodigal son.
Speaking to Arsenal Player, Podolski has stated that both teams have a chance to win the two-legged affair.
Everybody has his/her opinions of Arsenal’s chances of qualification while playing a very strong Bayern side but I’ll like to share a few thoughts regarding this game.
Firstly, If Arsene Wenger delves into the transfer market this January to purchase some players of outstanding quality, they could stand a chance against Bayern Munich. I’m an Arsenal fan quite alright, but I won’t be biased to tell you that our squad is better than Bayern Munich’s current crop of players.
Wojciech Szczesny and Manuel Neuer are great goalkeepers and could cancel each other out. In defense, Philip Lahm and Bacary Sagna are among the best right backs in the business but Arsenal’s center back pairing of Thomas Vermaelen and Per Mertesacker can match Bayern Munich’s Jerome Boateng and Dante pound for pound. David Alaba is better than Kieran Gibbs in my opinion.
In midfield, Bayern Munich has more balance, strength, doggedness, grit and determination but they are not anywhere close to Arsenal’s midfield in the art of creativity, flair and technique. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez and Young Mueller baby are world beaters on their day, but the midfield triumvirate of Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta is a force to be reckoned with as well.
Shamefully, Arsenal is no where near Bayern Munich in attack. The attacking trio of Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and Mario Gomez decimate teams with consummate ease and the 44 goals scored in just 17 Bundesliga games is a big testament of Bayern’s attacking prowess. Arsenal’s attack on the other hand has been toothless on numerous occasions this season, and Wenger is still on the hunt for that center forward that world lead this club to glory.
Sorry to burst your bubble, that center forward isn’t Olivier Giroud.
Another big point I would like to make would be the unpredictability of the Champions League.
When Napoli ousted Andre Villas-Boas’ Chelsea in Naples this February, the trigger-happy coach sacker-in-chief, Roman Abramovich, ended AVB’s reign as Chelsea boss and tasked his deputy, Roberto di Matteo to see off the campaign while he searches for the next manager
he’s going to sack… who will be at the helm of affairs of the team.
Chelsea did well in the second leg before seeing out the challenge Benfica posed. Everyone believed that the clash against Barcelona was the end of the line for the Londoners but even with a red card to that racist ex-girlfriend shagger and a penalty handed to the world’s best player, Chelsea scaled through to play Bayern Munich in the finals.
Lady Luck smiled at Chelsea in the finals again, as Robben spurned a penalty during the game and the German’s lost the match on penalty shootouts. Despite being a team that will be playing Thursday night football next year, the current defending champions of the Champions League is Chelsea, and trust me, it hurts.
In the past, Arsenal has had some great European nights and many football heavyweights have been humbled by the Gunners. In the 2005/06 Champions League campaign, Arsenal eased past Real Madrid and Juventus before losing to Barcelona in the final.
Many Gooners will never forget their team’s 5-star performance against Barcelona in the 2010/11 season before the 3 – 1 loss suffered in the Nou Camp where Szczesny ruptured a tendon in his finger and van Persie received a red card for kicking the ball out. Despite those shortcomings, Wilshere created a chance for the world’s best striker, Nicklas Bendtner, right at the death but his poor technique let him down.
Had Bendtner converted that chance, it would have been 3 – 2 on the night and 4 – 4 on aggregate with the Gunners qualifying for a quarterfinal clash with Shakhtar Donetsk courtesy of the away goal rule. But it was not to be – a pretty familiar feeling at Arsenal.
This season’s Champions League has shown the competition’s unpredictability as well.
Ajax thrashed Manchester City at the Amsterdam ArenA, Celtic beat Barcelona in Parkhead and even this mighty Bayern Munich side lost to Aliaksandr Hleb’s BATE Borisov in Belarus.
Bayern Munich will come into the game with confidence as well as a well-deserved winter break but going into a game with over-confidence has its flaws. Just ask the Arsenal first-team that visited Valley Parade to play Bradford a few weeks ago.
The last time both sides met in 2005, Claudio Pizarro was the star attraction, as his brace in Munich was enough to give the Bavarians a 3 – 1 lead heading into Highbury. Thierry Henry scored the only goal when both teams locked horns in England but it wasn’t enough as Arsenal crashed out of the competition.
There’s a lot of football to be played before this clash, and at the moment, Arsenal has bigger fish to fry, starting with a tricky fixture against Wigan Athletic.
Feel free to share your thoughts as well.
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