I had an inner debate over whether I really needed to do a preview for this game. It’s practically a dead rubber; the odds of Arsenal coming back and turning things around are so minute we might be better off forfeiting and taking a 3-0. There’s an almost record number of tickets available for the game on Arsenal’s ticket exchange, which is unheard of for European game against such a great club. It’s a game few are bothered with. If this was FIFA or Football Manager, you’d just skip it entirely. Even the bookmakers are laughing at people backing Arsenal.
You get the idea. Arsenal have a second leg to play against Bayern Munich with the Germans 5-1 up. Arsenal have to win 4-0 to progress to the quarter-finals, breaking all sorts of records in the process. In 2004, Deportivo La Coruna beat AC Milan 4-0 to overturn a 4-1 scoreline from the first leg and nobody has managed to pull off a similar feat since. That was a great Deportivo team. This isn’t a very good Arsenal team at the moment.
Believe it or not, Wenger has the right idea about how to approach this game:
“We have of course to go for it, attack and go forward with determination and flow and try to score goals.”
That’s all we can do in this situation. We have to go for it and try to win the game. It’s unlikely we’re going to score four, but winning the game would be a welcome reprieve from our big game misery this season. No matter how irrelevant the win would be in the long-run, it’d be a nice change of pace from the usual woeful performances against any remotely decent opposition. If nothing else, I’d be able to produce a more cheerful report at the end of it.
Bayern, of course, aren’t going to sit back and allow us to stick any goals past them, let alone four. Since thrashing us 5-1, they’ve stuck eight past hapless Hamburg, dismissed Schalke 3-0 in the DFB Pokal and won 3-0 against Koln at the weekend. They’re hitting their imperious stride at just the right time in the season. They may not be totally up for the trip to the Emirates but make no mistake, they can quite easily cast us aside.
Our preparation for the game hasn’t been ideal, what with the whole furore surrounding Alexis Sanchez and his deteriorating relationship with the manager. The controversy was a useful distraction from our shortcomings against Liverpool and it rumbled on into the new week. Wenger was keen to smooth the whole thing over, but wasn’t clear on whether the Chilean will start against Bayern. Mesut Ozil returned to training after apparently being ill all week, but with only one session in his legs Wenger has decided to leave him out. So it’s possible we’ll be without are two most talented players.
Otherwise, there were no new injuries from the Liverpool game. Wenger will want to pick a team capable of winning the game but will also have an eye on the Lincoln game on Saturday. You look at the state of the team at the moment and wonder what you can possibly do. Perhaps Aaron Ramsey will come in for one of Coquelin or Xhaka. Walcott or Lucas could get starts. Gibbs might come in for Monreal. Honestly, I’m not sure what we’ll do.
As for Bayern, the legendary Phillip Lahm is suspended, while there are doubts over Renato Sanches and Douglas Costa. Jerome Boateng remains a long-term absentee. Carlo Ancelotti otherwise has a big and healthy squad to select from.
The game has a low-key feel to it. The stadium is unlikely to be full and the fans that are there aren’t going to be making much noise. There’s no belief of something special happening. Arsenal are the sort of team that would go 4-0 up and then concede a goal in the 90th minute. They have a thing for heroic failure. But hey, any sort of heroism right now would be greatly appreciated.