Following a difficult couple of weeks for Arsenal, manager Arsene Wenger looks set to further incur the wrath of supporters by resting key players for the return leg of the Champions League last-16 tie with Bayern Munich.
The Gunners head in to the game facing the mammoth task of over-turning a three goal deficit from the first leg against the German Champions elect who have been tipped as favourites for the competition by many and seem to have been galvanised by last year’s agonising final defeat to Chelsea.
In excess of 3,000 Arsenal supporters are expected to make the trip to Munich and they will be disturbed by reports in The Daily Mail this morning of Wenger’s planned team selection.
Already without Jack Wilshere, Lukas Podolski and Bacary Sagna through injury Wenger is set to rest Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla and Per Mertesacker, while goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has been left at home for the trip.
Lukasz Fabianski is set to deputise in goal with Wenger insisting Szczesny has been rested, rather than dropped claiming the Pole is “mentally affected” by the number of games he has had to play lately.
January signing Nacho Monreal is ineligible for the Champions League leaving the likes of Kieran Gibbs, Francis Coquelin, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Carl Jenkinson are all likely to feature in the Allianz Arena.
It's a bitter blow for Arsenal fans following the 2-1 defeat to arch rivals Tottenham last weekend that has left them five points behind fourth place Chelsea and the Champions League qualification places and is another worrying indication of the club’s lack of ambition.
Arsenal are famously without a trophy since the FA Cup success of 2006 and while they are praised in some quarters for the financially sound manner in which the club is run, that is simply not enough for supporters who fork out for the most expensive tickets in the country but fail to see their side compete with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United.
The departures of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasir and Robin van Persie in recent years have done nothing to improve the supporter’s stance and with the Gunners struggling to qualify for next year’s Champions League, Wenger’s waving of the white flag in Munich tonight may be the final straw.
Qualification for Europe’s elite competition is paramount, a point that Wenger realises all too much. He can take a fresh team into the weekend’s game with Swansea while Chelsea have a Europa League tie in the balance to settle on Thursday as well as an FA Cup replay with Manchester United to fit into an already hectic schedule.
There lies another part of the problem as Arsenal’s squad simply doesn’t have the depth of quality to compete on all fronts, so while Wenger makes a few changes tonight that significantly weakens their already slim chances of progressing and leave fans more concerned about getting embarrassed by Josef Heynckes men.
It may turn out to be a masterstroke from the Frenchman but don’t expect too many of the travelling Arsenal contingent to see the bigger picture after they’ve shelled out to follow their team to Munich, especially if they end the season outside the top four.
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