Arsenal v Bayern Munich – Preview

Arsenal v Bayern
Bayern Munich are the team in form going into this one, but with Arsenal you just never know. It is a clash between two of the biggest clubs in Europe, with some of the biggest and best history in football. Don’t underestimate this match. Only the Man United v Real Madrid tie has outshone this one, leaving it with less attention than it deserves.

Arsenal go into the game on the back of an early FA Cup exit, being defeated by Blackburn. Bayern Munich on the other hand come in to the game after strolling to a 2-0 win against Wolfsburg.

Bayern Munich are having a sensational season domestically, leading the current Bundesliga Champions, Dortmund by 15 points, after just 22 games. They have scored 57 and conceded just 7 in the league all season.

Neuer is proving himself as one of the best goalkeeper’s in the world right now, if not the best, and is yet to concede in 2013. We may as well give this bragging right to Bayern for now, by 10pm Tuesday they won’t be able to use it any more.

On a positive note for us, Neuer is nursing a hand injury and is set to wear a four-finger glove in order to keep two fingers strapped together. It sounds like it could be beneficial to us, but I really don’t know if it’ll make a difference.

Martinez is a doubt, but could be involved with a late test. He’s a key player for Bayern and his role will be to break down our attacks, something he does well. Hopefully he won’t play or start at least.

The attacking threats they carry are pretty decent too. One of the best around with the likes of Gomez, whose prolific scoring record is second to only the likes of Messi and Ronaldo, not to forget the width they possess with Ribery, Robben and Muller. Which 2 of these 3 will start, I don’t know. If we’re unlucky, all 3 will. But I don’t think Bayern will play a risk like that, they’re more likely to keep it tight.

They have come on leaps and bounds this year defensively. It was the question mark that was over them in previous years, but they have certainly improved conceding just 7 goals in the league, and very few in all competitions too. Like I said, 0 this calendar year, largely down to Neuer too.

Defensive improvements is something Arsenal need to do, but by Tuesday evening? A bit too close I feel. A makeshift back-four looks set to play, which makes us Arsenal fans pretty anxious. More than normal. With Gibbs out, Monreal cup-tied, Santos out on loan (thankfully), we have no left-back.

It would have been okay, Koscielny would play centre-back with Mertesacker and we’d put Vermaelen out at left-back. This is what Wenger had planned when he bought Monreal, in full knowledge of his ineligibility. However, Wenger revealed on Monday in Press Conference  that Koscielny was now a doubt. This is VERY worrying. The only alternative I can think of is to play Sagna left-back, and then Jenkinson or Coquelin right-back. UNLESS, Wenger thinks Sagna can hold is own at centre-back like he did against Sunderland, meaning Vermaelen can play left-back and then Jenkinson or Coquelin at right-back with Sagna more available to help and support. That second one seems very unlikely, granted.

Lets pray that Koscielny will be fit, and life will be easier.

Wilshere and Cazorla are the two players you put on your starting 11 first at the moment. They will obviously play, without any unforeseen injury between now and then. Who will Wenger play in there with them? Probably Arteta, but after his performance on Saturday I don’t know. It was less than satisfactory. He is however the vice-captain, so I’d put my money on him starting rather than Ramsey, or Diaby, can never be definite with Wenger though.

Upfront, Giroud doesn’t deserve to play in my books after too many poor performances where he doesn’t contribute anything. I’d rather see Walcott through the middle, Podolski and someone else out wide. Not Gervinho. Chamberlain? He’s been poor too. Maybe Cazorla and then Ramsey in the middle? Selection dilemmas! Who doesn’t deserve to play more than someone else? It’s a hard one. But Wenger will play Giroud. I just don’t think he deserves it but then and again who do we have that’s better? Relying heavily on Theo and Lukas tomorrow!

Not to forget, Santi and Super Jack.

So all in all, it’s going to be a close fought game, and it really depends what Arsenal turns up. If we play to our best, which being tagged as underdogs may reduce the pressure and allow us to, we could end the night a few goals up. If we play poorly, and don’t take our chances, we could be a few goals down.

As Wenger said in his Press Conference, “It is vital [to keep a clean sheet].” Admitting that even a 0-0 wouldn’t be disastrous as it means a score-draw away would see Arsenal go through.

Both teams possess a great attacking threat so I think it’ll be end to end football, but both teams defence can be susceptible to mistakes, unfortunately Arsenal’s is the worse of the two and we’ll have a make-shift back-four, but hopefully the fans will sing and get behind the team and act as the 12th man and help us to keep that clean sheet.

I know I’ll be there, singing my bloody heart out, so if you’re going, you better do the same. Get behind the team. These are the nights that the players and the fans dream of. Lets make the best of it. COME ON YOU GOONERS.

Arteta Speaks to the Press Ahead of Bayern Munich

Q: How important is this Champions League run for you, Mikel?
A: “I think it’s one of them games that every one of us is ready to play. It’s a big pleasure to play for this club at that level. Tomorrow we’ve got a great chance, we are facing a very good team, but we are a very good team as well and we are very positive and we can’t wait for tomorrow to come and get a good performance.”

Q: How much does a game of this prestige lift the players?
A: “Obviously it gives you an extra motivation, because you facing top players and a top club, and you want to see how good you are playing against them. So we’ve got a great test tomorrow, and we want to face that test with the maximum desire and a positiveness that we have around the squad, and get out in the game and win it.”

Q: Have you watched many of their games?
A: “Yeah, we have prepared obviously. It is a club that is on TV all the time. You can recognise all the faces that we’re going to face tomorrow, so we know who we’re facing.”

Q: How do you go about stopping slow-starts?
A: “Well I think we have a great chance tomorrow to put that down. I think in the last few big games, we missed the first 20-25 minutes, and give the opposition probably too much respect and we’re on that case tomorrow and we want to face a different scenario and we’re going to get into the game and show that we’re there to win it.”

Q: It’s important to start well isn’t it?
A: “It is massive, because if you score first you’ve got a great chance of winning those big games and that’s a pure statistic thing. We know what we have to do tomorrow, and face them right from the off.”

Q: Is it something you talk about, because in the second half of matches you’ve been very good?
A: “Yeah I think the difference on the table in the Premiership in the first 45 minutes and the second 45 would be very very different. That tells that our qualities are very good and probably when the teams tire a little bit we show we are able to, but as well tell us we are not ready from the off.”

Q: How you find it to play with Jack Wilshere, and his big match mentality? Can he show his class?
A: “He has been showing his class, we don’t want to put too much pressure on Jack, he has been tremendous for us in the last few months. The character he’s shown to get back from a very difficult injury, a long period injury, and to get back to that fitness level and quality level in that short time is unbelievable. He’s got that personality and character, he’s a big winner, and we need players like that here.”

Wenger Full Press Conference Ahead of Bayern Munich

Q: How has your squad coped with the FA Cup upset ahead of the Bayern game?
A: “Well we focus on tomorrow’s game and that’s it. The game of the week is the Champions League, you cannot compare the FA Cup with the Champions League so we focus on that and that’s the best way. Everybody would be in our position in England, we have only two teams qualified in the Champions League, so I don’t know why we should not cope with that.”

Q: So many times we’ve seen these Champions League tie decided by the away time performance. Does that affect the way you approach this home leg?
A: “Well I think what is important is we focus on the quality of our game. We know it’s played over 180 minutes, I have enough experience to know that and the first 90 are tomorrow and we have to put in our head that we have 180 minutes to qualify and not to rush our game.”

Q: Any team news changed since the weekend?
A: “No, what has changed is that Monreal is not available. Mertesacker will be back in the squad. There is an uncertainty about Koscielny, and Jenkinson is avaiable again in the squad.”

Q: After Saturday, do you face a job convincing the players they can get a result against Bayern?
A: “No, why? Why? Well you have to take a distance with that, you know that happened to many teams. To analyse the game we lost against a team who had one shot on goal. It’s not like we have not touched the ball in the game against Blackburn. Football is part of skill, intelligence and some things as well are a bit unpredictable.”

Q: Have you paid a heavy price in not winning the group, drawing one of the toughest teams?
A: “Well what is important is that you play to win the competition and at some stage you will have to play a big team. We play against a good opponent. If I listen to your questions, anyway not favourite, but I trust our quality, I trust our spirit, and I trust our mental strength, so see you tomorrow.”

Q: Do you feel you can have similar Champions League experience to Chelsea?
A: “Well what is important is that we play at our best, and play with belief tomorrow night. I believe in our quality, I think we are on good run overall of course. It’s always difficult to take a distance with the recent emotions, the fact is that in the last 11 games in the Premier League, we lost 2. We are on a good run in the Premier League. We give some strength out of the team, and what we want to do is play with that strength.”

Q: Are these 2-year contract extension reports true?
A: “That’s a wrong information, and there as well I think I worked for 16 years here in England and I deserve a bit more credit than wrong informations, that have only one intention, is to harm. If it’s good information who comes from nowhere, that’s alright, but this is the wrong information that comes from nowhere, and is completely wrong.”

Wenger hits out at a journalist, who sounds like Sunday Supplement’s, Neil(they spoke about Wenger’s time being up, on Sunday), who didn’t ask a question.
“I look at you not because you give information, I don’t know if it’s you? I don’t know where this information comes from? Yeah, why do you look at me?
“Me?”
“Yeah, why do you look at me?”
“Because it’s your Press Conference, it’s not my story.”
“Okay, oh thank you. I just thought, you have given this information out.”
“No, I’m looking at you because it’s your Press Conference, Arsene.”
“Okay. Thank you.”

Q: The fans are very upset about the cup exit..
A: “Look here, is a pre-match conference for Champions League. You want to talk about Saturday? Press Conference was made after the game. If we can get some questions, about tomorrow’s game, that would be very nice. OK?”

Q: What has Podolski, an ex-insider, told you about Bayern’s side?
A: “Podolski has not played for a long time at Bayern Munich, and the team has changed since. So what is important is that we know well Bayern Munich, there is no secrets any more about the teams and their organisation.”

Q: Can you tell us about the quality of the defence of Bayern Munich?
A: “No, I don’t talk about Bayern Munich today.”

Q: How important is it to keep a clean sheet?
A: “It’s vital. Because 0-0 at home is a very good result in the Champions League knock-out. Of course we’ll try to score goals, but 0-0 is not a disaster at home. But we are team who is offensive and will try to go forward and try to score goals.”

Q: Is it difficult to find a balance between getting a positive result and not conceding a goal?
A: “Yes, but the most important aspect is we have a way to play that everybody knows in the team. The most important aspect is that we play with positive mentality, because that’s not completely the case when you go in a game like that, when 24 hours before the game it’s important that you believe you have a good chance and quality enough to win. I think the psychological aspect, especially after what’s happened on Saturday, is more important than anything else.”

Q: Could that make the team play with more freedom, when everyone’s saying you have no chance to go through?
A: “We know well how it’s going here, what is important is to forget what people say and focus on our strengths. We are play for Arsenal football club, in the last 16 of the Champions League. We have qualified now for a long, long time. We know what is important. It is not what people say, it is what we produce on the football pitch. We live in a democracy of experts and opinions, but we have to live with that, and to cope with that, and show we have the mental strength to deal with any opinion. There are a lot of experts who are not necessarily always right.”

Q: This is your last chance to win a trophy this season, can you talk to the fans about your desire to bring trophies back to this club?
A: “Look, I have been accused of not taking seriously the FA Cup, on Saturday. I have won 4 times the FA Cup, who has won it more? Give me one name.”

Q: I haven’t accused you of not taking it seriously..
A: “Then the second thing is we have been accused of not putting a strong team out. I think that’s an insult to the players who started the game, because we had 11 international football players on the pitch. I would like to tell you as well, we didn’t lose the game with the players who started the game, we lost it in the last 20 minutes. There’s a wrong of superficial analysis that you cannot accept. We accept that we have to take the blame because we went out, but for the rest, you have as well to put things in to perspective and when you analyse things you have to do it not superficially, and when one guy says something, everybody goes the same one.”

Q: So your desire to lift a trophy is still there isn’t it? To lift a trophy in the Champions League?
A: “No, I want to lose it and I want to lose the game tomorrow so you can all be happy. Of course we want to win it, but in Europe recently you face teams with qualities, Barcelona, Real Madrid, they don’t win it every year. We have been consistently there, but now we want to break through. We have been in the final, we have been in the semi-finals, we have been in the quarter-finals, for years. People will say maybe it’s not the best opportunity now to do it, I think it’s a fantastic opportunity to do it because I believe I have a strong team and I’m sure they will prove me right.”

Q: Lukas Podolski, can you say something about his development?
A: “His development has been very positive, I hope he’ll show it tomorrow.”

Q: Do you think it will be a difficult game for the two Germans tomorrow?
A: “You never know before if it will be easy. I don’t think psychologically it will stop them playing their best.”

Wenger to be Given £70m for Summer?

But who are the potential signings? Here’s who Arsenal have been linked with after the FA Cup humiliation.

All over the papers this morning, Arsenal have been linked with Szczesny’s replacement in the forms of Victor Valdes, and Pepe Reina. Most quote a figure of around £10m would be sufficient to see either ‘keeper part with their club. But is there any truth in these rumours?

It’s hard, but I would edge on the side of no. It seems unlikely that just because Szczesny made a mistake, Wenger would bring in either of these replacements; even though Wenger’s anger at the “massive mistake” was very apparent in his last Press Conference. Valdes has been linked everywhere since declining Barca’s contract renewal, and Reina is linked with Arsenal every transfer window. Which serves to make it seem more unlikely. Plus, we needed him 5/6 years ago, not now. They make as many blunders as Szczesny, yet they don’t have youth or the opportunity for big improvements on their side.

Arsenal have also been linked once again with Toulouse central midfielder, Etienee Capoue. One of the many players Wenger has admitted to liking. Having been linked with a move to the Emirates in January, with many believing Wenger approached Toulouse about a deadline day move, the papers claim Arsenal will try to sign him for the second time. Newcastle are also set to step up their interest, unsurprisingly.

Capoue is a strong player, someone I would personally like to see come in and fill that void left by Alex Song, unless of course someone has a change of form and prove their worth in that position, perhaps Diaby? or maybe Coquelin can finally step up? Ramsey? Anyway, I’d prefer to see money invested in this position, than the goalkeeping position personally. Although ideally there are a fair few other positions I’d like to see decent money spent on.

Finally, Arsenal have been linked with Fiorentina’s super-star striker, Stevan Jovetic. At just 23 years old he looks set to become one of the top strikers of his generation, surprising then that Wenger hadn’t tried to sign him previously. The older he is getting though, the better he is becoming, the higher his price becomes too, and the less chance we have of signing him. I expect the striker, who scored 2 against Inter Milan at the weekend, to leave Fiorentina in the summer, with a view to move to a Champions League side. Hopefully that will be us. Hopefully we will be in the Champions League next year, but it seems unlikely he would join us when the giants of Madrid, City, Bayern, and other teams in Italy are set to take an interest too.

Jack Wilshere is Inspired

Jack Inspired

Jack Wilshere is inspired by Chelsea’s journey last season in the Champions League, ahead of Arsenal’s clash with Bayern Munich. 

Despite a disappointing season domestically, Chelsea won the prestigious trophy after some gruelling matches, including Barcelona, where a 2-2 draw at the Nou Camp saw them through to the final, Napoli, where they came from 3-1 down in the first leg, and Bayern Munich, who they beat on penalties in the final, at the Allianz Arena; Bayern Munich’s own ground.

The Arsenal star claims that Chelsea’s success can provide him and his team-mates with inspiration and determination to overcome one of the tournaments favourites, Bayern Munich, who are 15 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga.

“I think that was an inspiration for everyone,” Jack told http://www.arsenal.com. “They weren’t having a good season and they got a bit lucky in some games but showed great character.

“We need to do that now. We need to come together as a team. We’ve got good leaders here. We’ve got a good team atmosphere here and I think that’s going to help us now.”

Arsenal suffered their second defeat of the season to lower league opposition, for the first time under Wenger being knocked out of both domestic cups to Bradford and on Saturday Blackburn. Wilshere is hopes the disappointment can galvanise the team for the Bayern game.

“It’s not ideal to go into a game like that after the loss [against Blackburn] but we have to show our character now,” he said. “ We’ve done it before so we know what we can do. We’ve beaten big European teams here before so we need to do that again.

“We need a good defensive display and then we need to counter them well. They’ve got a good defensive unit as well so it’s going to be an interesting game and we look forward to it.

“ We’ve got a good bunch of lads in the dressing room. They’re winners as well. We’ve got the likes of Podolski and Arteta. Players like that are winners – they want to win.

“The fans are always great, especially in Europe. I think they love the European nights here and we need everybody behind us.”

Best of luck, Jack.