An Arsenal win against Bayern Munich would shock the footballing world.
For Arsene Wenger's side to progress in Munich, they need to win by three goals (or score four). That will not be easy considering the defensive record that that Bayern have. They’re 20 points ahead at the top of the Bundesliga and they don’t look like dropping points any time soon.
They’ve got fantastic strength in depth to continue playing in the Champions League and maintain their excellent record on the domestic front too, so do Arsenal really have a chance?
If they do, they are going to have to play well all over the pitch. Wenger's team selection is going to be vital, and even if he gets the tactics right, his players are going to need to be play out the gameplan flawlessly.
Here, I look at three key areas that will play a key role in determining Arsenal's Champions League future.
We’ve seen him play well this season, we’ve seen him play badly, but he is Arsenal’s leading scorer. Lukas Podolski will want to have an excellent game against his former employers, but I think that Theo’s game will be a huge deciding factor for Arsenal in this mammoth of a challenge.
I do like the idea of seeing Walcott leading the line for years to come - with his pace and his albeit intermittent finishing ability, he could be world class one day. Against Reading he showed what his pace can bring to the team, and his hat-trick against Newcastle was excellent too, but since then he’s been quiet and Walcott is going to need to up his game for this encounter.
He’s not going to be playing against Fabricio Coloccini or Alex Pearce, he’s got to show that he can hold the ball against Philipp Lahm and Daniel Van Buyten. Now it’s not just his pace that counts, nor his shooting ability, which has been slowly improving over the last three years, he’s going to need to show strength on the ball, and strength of character.
Santi Cazorla & Jack Wilshere
The little magician from Spain was a bargain when Wenger plucked him from La Liga for less than £20m, and Cazorla has shown he's worth considerably more.
His keen eye for a pass and ball skills are going to be vital for Arsenal’s chances of progression. We’ve seen players with as much importance for the team as he has (like Cesc Fabregas vs Barcelona in 2010), capitulate under the pressure in big games, and he needs to stand up strong and be counted.
Wilshere has again impressed this season. He’s been touted for accolade after accolade, and why not? The guy can play. He already plays with the maturity of a man well beyond his years. Compared to Paul Scholes by many, Wilshere has a great future ahead of him, and he’s going to need all of that maturity, strength and resolve in this game.
Together, Arsenal’s playmakers are going to need to be ‘spiders in the web’, pulling the strings and forcing the team forwards. If Bayern nick a goal early on it’s going to be up to Cazorla and Wilshere to bring the team around, and build up some forward momentum.
They’ll probably be up against Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Muller, and the German internationals know how to retain the ball. So the Arsenal lads are going to have to do the same by focussing on their game and winning the midfield battle.
Per Mertesacker & Thomas Vermaelen
At the beginning of the season people were talking about how much Steve Bould had improved Arsenal’s lacklustre defence. Now, people are thinking it’s gotten significantly worse. There aren’t many bigger games in a season than this one, and it’s the big games you want your centre-backs playing at their best.
The strength that these two men have has been phenomenal on their good days. The Arsenal captain has been a rock in the past, and now he needs to do that again.
Mario Gomez was one of Europe’s most prolific strikers last season and Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery are no pushovers either. It’s going to take all that they’ve got to keep them out for 90 minutes, and that’s exactly what they’re going to need to do if Arsenal have any chance of progressing to the quarter-finals.
So, can Arsenal cause an upset by overturning a two-goal deficit, knocking out last season's Champions League finalists in the process? A big ask, yes. Impossible? Certainly not.
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