It just had to be bloody Bayern Munich, didn’t it, eh? On Thursday I wrote about my preference about who I’d like to see us play in the quarter-final and on that list Bayern finished fifth out of eight, so it almost felt inevitable that we were going to get one of the toughest opponents in the next round. If I’m going to look at the glass half full side of things, I could say that we have at least avoided the two worst ties we could have hoped for in City or Real Madrid, but of course with the semi final draw also taking place, it was always going to be made difficult for us to progress then too, wasn’t it?

And so even if we overcome Kane et al (i’ll come to him in a minute), we will have to play one of City or Real in the semi final, meaning we get the toughest side of the draw by far. Barcelona, Atlético, Dortmund or PSG – i’d have been cautiously optimistic of playing any of those sides, but now we know that the only way we will come up against them is if we overcome the toughest opponents to get to Wembley in May. We have the steepest hill to climb.

But hey, that’s fine, because I am still feeling good after that Porto win and hopefully the players are too. Arteta has given them the weekend off, they can recharge the batteries, then we go again for what is going to be a bloody intense month of football starting on 31st March, in which we play:

  • Man City – away
  • Luton – home
  • Brighton – away
  • Bayern – home
  • Aston Villa – home
  • Bayern – away
  • Wolves – away
  • The Scum – away

April is very much going to define our season and will ultimately decide what we end up with come the end of May, you feel. We have eight cup finals in four weeks and if we win them all then I’m going to be pretty bullish. If we beat Bayern over two legs and pick up 14 points in the league from a possible 18, I think I’ll still feel pretty ok to be fair, but if we do better than that…..woah dawg! Then we’ll be seriously cooking?

But back to Bayern, back to the draw that was made yesterday, back to North London for that pain in the arse Harry Kane. The one great thing about him being in Germany was that we were happy to be seeing the back of him. But no, he’s back again and he’ll be back again to get his customary ‘soft’ penalty against us I am sure. It already feels like we’re one-down already because he’s going down in the box at the first opportunity and with these European refs he’s probably getting a decision. It feels pre-ordained. “Why is he fixating on this very specific action?” I hear you ask – well, of his 14 goals in his 19 games against us (14 in the last 16 as well) he has had seven penalties. 50% of the goals he scores against us are because he’s tucked the ball away from the spot. That’s why I’m fixated on it, because he tends to get a freebie from referees and I’ll be expecting nothing less than that over two legs when we play them in April.

The good news is that assuming we have our strongest possible defensive unit up against the German side, that I feel like we have the best opportunity of keeping him and Bayern quiet. One of the outstanding talking points of this Arsenal team this season is that we don’t give up a lot of chances. We are by some distance the best team in the league in terms of shot suppression on target, with an xG against stat of 19.4 all season, in which Man City are second on 27.6xGA, meaning the quality of chances we give opposition are limited. On the shots on target against metric we are also the best in the Premier League, with us having conceded 63 shots on target all season, with Man City next on 81 – that’s 18 shots on target less we’ve conceded all season compared to our nearest rivals! So we’re a defence that has been mean so far and does not give away many chances. Porto had two on target in Portugal and three on target in the second leg at The Emirates. We gave them five opportunities in 210 minutes of football. We need to be that miserly against Kane and Munich. If we are, we have a fabulous opportunity to progress against a team that is likely to lose the Bundesliga title to Leverkusen.

Bayern themselves in their league have an xG against of 22, so not far from us, with a massive xG ratio of 67.7 – a lot bigger than our xG of 56.6. They have also scored a bunch of goals, but we all know that in terms of intensity and strength of the league, the Premier League is a cut above the Bundesliga (Bayern just beat Mainz 8-1 for Christ’s sake), so I’m taking those stats with a pinch of salt. What I am looking at is the four games Munich have lot in the league this season, as well as the three defeats in a row they recently suffered against Leverkusen (a battering 3-0 away to them), Lazio (a narrow 1-0 defeat in Italy) and Bochum, a 3-2 defeat at Bochum. This Bayern team is normally all-conquering in the German league, but they look a little bit weaker than they have in the past and certainly we should not be fearing them as we once did.

Of course we should respect Bayern; they have an amazing record against us that see’s us having lost our last three against them by an aggregate score of 15-3 in Bayern’s favour. We’ve beaten them three times out of 12 and you could just tell by some of the comments of their representatives that they would feel pretty comfortable up against us. But my hope is that they underestimate Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal; this is a good team of versatile players that are up against the two best team’s in the world domestically and we’re keeping pace. I hope Bayern DO underestimate us and I hope we can extract revenge on them when the two sides line up.

We’ll also have another advantage in the first leg too; no Bayern fans will be allowed at The Emirates and whilst I’m sure some will find their way through illegally purchase tickets, it should be a predominantly Arsenal-fan exclusive evening for that first leg, which means we will need to bring the same level of noise that we brought against Porto. I’m sure our fans will be massively up for this.

I’ll leave it there for today. Enjoy whatever it is you are doing with your Saturday and I’ll catch you all tomorrow. Have a good’un.