This feels like an incredibly steep hill for the team to climb tonight. In fact, whilst not impossible, it does feel like the kind of bill that you’d probably walk around if you had the chance.
Bayern Munich on their own patch are a formidable opponent to say the least, but given that we have already had a win (albeit meaningless in the end) and a draw (again, albeit meaningless) against the German Champions, I think even the optimistic of us are looking at tonight’s fixture with a degree of some trepidation.
The players know that Bayern will be smarting after their first defeat of the season two weeks ago. They will know that there will be a team pumped up to show their English counterparts that they are the best team in the world right now. The stats are with them too. Undefeated at home. Lewandowski hasn’t gone three games without scoring since he was six, Pep has never lost to a team when he wears a lederhosen. It’s all there for them folks, it’s all there.
But we too have shown some remarkable form this season and having gone a few Premier League games without conceding, defensively perhaps we can take some comfort that we won’t be the easiest to break down. Then, if the defensive side of our game remains steadfast, it will come down to how well we can break on the counter. Think the City game last season, only the opponents are better and have also had more time to recharge their batteries, having played on Friday night instead of at the weekend…
Team news looks like we have but one surprise, which is at right back in which Debuchy will come in for Bellerin, with the latter having picked up a minor groin strain. Perhaps we should have seen this coming, given that he was provided with some lengthy treatment in the second half against Swansea, but in Debuchy we have an international class back up so he should be able to cope with the pressure of tonight’s game.
I say ‘should’, because his form has been patchy at best, but I’m not sure I buy in to all of the Debuchy bashing I’ve seen so far this season when he’s played. I will admit that I have found his drop in form frustrating and in the heat of games I’ve often been seen tweeting such frustrations, but in the cold light of day I find myself questioning why we are all getting so frustrated. There is no substitute for game time. You cannot get up to the speed of matches unless you are playing and Debuchy has almost exclusively become the reserve this season. How can we expect a player who’s hardly played to be as good as one who is playing every week? His is a plight in which I do feel for, because a year ago he was a solid and sound full back who we were all happy with, but now people want him gone? It’s Jenkinson all over again. A Jenkinson, I might add, who is doing well at Weet Ham and Arsenal fans are already wondering if we can bring him back from his loan early!
I get the argument that he was poor against Sheffield Wednesday, but so was everyone – including Joel Campbell – so perhaps when lining up with fellow first teamers in a bigger game, he will step up like Joel did at the weekend? That’s my hope, anyway.
But anyway, back to tonight’s match up and whilst I’m not confident we’ll get anything from the game, one should never underestimate the ability of this Arsenal team to spring a surprise – in both a good and a bad way.
Bayern will line up with increased firepower in the form of the cheater himself, Arjen Robben, so already they are improved on the team that we played at the Emirates. We will have little of the ball tonight, so shape will be everything and I expect there to be little space between Coquelin, Cazorla and the two centre halves. There has been rumours that Campbell might not play, but I’d be surprised if Arsène rests him. Campbell certainly won’t be telling him he feels a bit tired, because he knows that after the international break he’ll probably move back down the pecking order, so a good performance tonight and at the weekend will be exactly what he’ll want to give himself an outside chance of starting again when the international games are done with.
We need at least a draw in Germany tonight. I don’t think we can hold on for a 0-0 and so if we are going to get anything from the game it will have to be by scoring. That’s where set pieces and composure in possession will be essential. If we get chances like corners or free kicks (feels weird saying this as an Arsenal can, eh?) then we simply have to take them. In possession, Özil needs to prove to his countrymen that he’s the best number 10 in the world right now by retaining possession and seeing if he can set players like Alexis through. If we’re going to counter it will be through those two I suspect, rather than Giroud, so both have to have good games for us to get anything.
For me the bigger game is at the weekend, but what a way to go into it on a high by beating Munich, however unlikely it looks as I write this.
Come on Arsenal, it’s only a hill.