There are many challenges to overcome for any club that wants to win the Champions League. The best slay the dragon, while the mere mortals go off quietly in a whimper. For Arsenal, their history is filled with whimpering. The North London club has never won Europe’s biggest prize, despite coming close in 2006, when they reached the finals only to lose to Barcelona.
In 2014, the Gunners face a daunting task. Down 2-0, Arsenal must travel to Allianz Arena where the defending European Champions Bayern Munich await them. It is one thing to face a 2-0 deficit. It is completely another when the best team in Europe holds that two goal edge. Especially when away goals matter so much in this competition.
The first leg back on February 19, was a controversial affair as Arsenal keeper Wojiech Szczesny was sent off in the 37th minute after he tripped Arjen Robben, thwarting a clear scoring chance. Prior to that, Arsenal had control of the match and possession, frustrating Bayern at every turn. But Die Roten took charge after Szczesny’s banishment and used the extra man to their advantage.
Goals from Toni Kroos in the 54th minute and Thomas Muller in the 88th minute decided the match and gave Bayern the edge heading to Bavaria.
It wasn’t if Arsenal didn’t have their chances. Mesut Ozil missed a penalty in the 8th minute that could have painted a completely different picture for Arsenal. The Gunners know they will have to capitalize on every scoring opportunity, as Bayern don’t concede many chances.
Not all hope is lost for Arsenal though. Last season, the Gunners fell 3-1 at home to Bayern Munich, only to make the trek to Allianz, and come away with a 2-0 result. However, the away goals sent Bayern through to the quarterfinals, and on their way to a European title.
Arsenal have played one match in Germany in the Champions League campaign, defeating Borussia Dortmund 1-0 at Signal Park during the Group Stage. Arsenal are undefeated in their last five trips to Germany. Their last loss was back in 2005, a 3-1 setback to Bayern Munich in the first knockout stage of the Champions League. Bayern advanced 3-2 on aggregate that season.
But this is a different Bayern team. Perhaps the greatest Bayern Munich team in club history. Manager Pep Guardiola has plenty of options in his lineup, as he can dictate the pace however he wants to. Kroos was named Man of the Match in the first leg, but it easily could have gone to Robben for his pace along the flank.
Mario Gotze is a creative force that Arsenal had no answer for in the first leg. The scary part is that Franck Ribery is fully fit and could see the pitch in the second leg for Bayern. Most teams only dream of having this problem. Gotze and Ribery are both talismanic figures in the midfield, and both cause huge headaches for the opposition.
What will make Arsenal’s task arduous is the back four of Bayern Munich is one of the best in the world. Philipp Lahm, Dante, Jerome Boateng and David Alaba are as sturdy as they come and with the possibility of Rafinha and Daniel Van Buyten coming off the bench, Bayern are capable of shutting down the most ferocious attacks.
Arsenal will need the very best efforts from the likes of Olivier Giroud, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil and Santi Cazorla if they are to pull of a miracle. With injuries to the likes of Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Kim Kallstorm plus the suspension of Szczesny, Arsenal are in a deep hole that they may not be able to get out of.
The tie may not be over, but it is important for Bayern Munich not to look ahead. They were caught looking forward last season and it nearly cost them. There is no doubt Bayern Munich are the superior side but sometimes superior sides don’t necessarily go through. Guardiola’s toughest job will be to keep the players focused with the task at hand. The positive aspect to that is Guaridola does have experience with that, thanks to his days in Barcelona. Arsenal may not go down meekly, but Bayern Munich will go through comfortably 3-1 in the second leg and 5-1 in aggregate to reach the quarterfinals.
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