Bayern Preview: One of Those European Nights
It’s fair to say that we have seen a different Arsene Wenger this season. While playing his usually breathtaking football with intricate passing and technique at its peak, Wenger has shown a different perspective this season with some games were he goes all out to defend a lead and win ugly – a trait not usually characterised with Arsenal. There was even a game when the Gunners tore a script from the Stoke booklet to score three goals against the Potters through set pieces.
I’ve also been surprised to know that Wenger has learned a lot from his mistakes in the past and he has passed on that mentality to his players. There have been countless seasons when Wenger was faced with the dilemma of a domestic Cup fixture just before a European knockout clash and he’d inexplicably choose to ‘rest’ some his first team lads with half an eye on the European encounter.
The Gunners failed to top what proved to be a tough group and their rewards for that was a double date with arguably the best team in the world. With the Bayern clash around the corner, Wenger picked a strong team in the FA Cup fifth round clash with Liverpool and his team were victorious on the day, giving themselves a measure of revenge for the spanking they had received from the same club a week earlier. They went on to lose to Bayern in a game marred by Mesut Ozil’s missed spot kick and Wojciech Szczesny’s red card.
Last weekend, the Gunners had a classic case of deja vu as they faced another Merseyside opponent in the FA Cup before the daunting second leg against Bayern. Wenger was spot on with his selection, and even better with his substitutions during the game as the Gunners booked a semifinal berth against Wigan at Wembley.
With the FA Cup done and dusted till April at least, Arsene Wenger and his hordes are going to the Allianz Arena to play a Bayern Munich side in a rich vein of form and they are firing on all cylinders in the Bundesliga, creating records on the go. The Gunners have already been written off by journos, pundits and nay sayers. ‘A two nil loss at home against a side like Bayern is a step too far’, they say.
But I love these sort of odds. Nothing to lose and nothing to play for but pride.
Funnily enough, the Gunners were in the same exact situation last season after losing 3-1 at home to ‘almighty’ Bayern. How did they respond? A spirited away performance that saw the German juggernauts resort to time wasting to save their bacons as the Gunners ran the show in Munich. Unfortunately, the 2-0 victory wasn’t enough for qualification but that win was a catalyst in the Gunners surge for a fourth place finish as they went on to claim eight victories in 10 games.
Some people say that ‘lightning can’t strike twice’ but football footballers should look at the underdogs, Wigan Athletic, that beat the overwhelming favorites, Manchester City, in the same competition. I can bet that Zeus sent the same thunderbolt twice.
I’m not taking anything from Bayern – they have been awesome this season and the prospect of playing them sends chills down the spines of the opposition players. But at the end of the day, it still boils down to what happens after 90 minutes.
To team news, Lukasz Fabianski is about to play back to back games for quite some time with Szczesny’s suspension in the first leg. There will be an alteration in the defense after the devastating news that Kieran Gibbs won’t be available for this clash. I don’t want to fathom the prospect of playing Nacho Monreal to face the red-hot Arjen Robben so I’m hopeful that Wenger would deploy the Verminator on that position while Mertesielny continues in the heart of the defense.
In midfield, Mikel Arteta has served his suspension and he will be available for selection alongside the Flanimal. This game would be an interesting one for Mesut Ozil and he would want to kill the ghosts that haunted him against Bayern a fortnight ago. In attack, I expect Santi Cazorla and the Ox to maraud the flanks but the major change would be the return of Olivier Giroud to his rightful place ahead of Yaya Sanogo.
I trust my club and I believe this is gonna be one hell of a game. However, I take solace in the mere fact that my team has performed admirably in some European grounds like San Siro, Santiago Bernabeu, Signal Iduna Park and most recently, the feared Allianz Arena.
Let’s just hope that it would be one of those European Nights.