Arsene Wenger is under pressure to remain Arsenal manager. Image courtesy of foxsports.com.au/Ian Kington/AFP
Long-time Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is walking on thin ice with supporters after the Gunners’ poor 1-0 loss to Championship outfit Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup at the weekend. Currently sitting in fifth place in the EPL, Arsenal’s one last chance at silverware this season comes in the UEFA Champions League. It was the same position Chelsea found itself in last season, and the Blues went on to shock the rest of Europe by claiming the continent’s biggest trophy.
Chelsea did that by beating Bayern Munich in the decider in Munich, and the Germans face English opposition again on Wednesday morning (AEDT). Emirates Stadium hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for many visiting sides in this competition, but in October FC Schalke 04 broke the Gunners’ 45-game unbeaten run at home against non-English opposition with a 2-0 victory.
Bayern is a massive step up from Schalke, judging by their 15-point lead in the Bundesliga, and a phenomenal for and against of 57-7. Amazingly, the Munich side has conceded just once on its travels domestically this season, winning 10 of 11 games on the road, and each of those wins has come by two goals or more. Their away form in Europe has been a little bit patchy, though. They came unstuck against Belarus champion BATE Borisov in their first away fixture in the group stage going down 3-1 , before taking the three points with a 1-0 win in Lille and snatching a 1-1 draw against group runner-up Valencia.
Apart from the loss to Schalke, Arsenal won its other two home games in the group stage by easily accounting for Olympiakos 3-1 and Montpellier 2-0 . The north London side has been very good in front of its home fans at this stage of the tournament over the past few years. Last campaign the Gunners just failed to overcome a 4-0 first leg deficit against AC Milan, leading 3-0 at halftime before failing to add to that lead in the second half. In 2010/11, they trumped Barcelona 2-1 in the first leg, and the year before thumped FC Porto 5-0 .
Arsenal will most likely go on the attack for two reasons; they need to take a lead to Munich for the second leg and that’s the only way a Wenger-led team knows how to play. The one area Bayern’s defence struggles with is when opposition players run at them utilising their foot speed, and in Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski, the home side has two players who have the pace to trouble the visitors.
Bayern has scored 82 goals in 31 games played in all competitions this season, so the biggest question is probably how Arsenal will stop the likes of Franck Ribery, Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos generating opportunities. Kieran Gibbs is nursing a thigh injury while fullback Nacho Monreal is cup-tied after appearing for Malaga in the group stage, so Wojejch Szczesny may be a busy man in goal for the Gunners.
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