As the Gunners prepare to face Bayern Munich in the first leg of their round of 16 Champions League clash, if you look at the history of the fixture then it is not good reading for us Gooners. Arsenal have only won once in the 4 Champions League meetings between the two teams and that was a 1-0 success in the second leg of their tie in the 2004-2005 competition which they ended up losing 3-2 on aggregate, having lost the first leg 3-1 in Munich so the odds are clearly stacked against us.
A definite negative for Arsenal is their record against German teams in this season’s competition. The Gunners lost to Schalke at the Emirates 0-2 and followed it up with a slight improvement in the return match in Germany as they managed to draw 2-2, but it does not bode well for the Bayern fixture.
The Gunners will be hoping that Lukas Podolski has something to prove against his former club and therefore he must start both matches against Bayern. Podolski spent 3 seasons at the Munich club with very mixed results and he clearly had a hard time settling in there at such a big club. He was unable to reproduce his German national team form in Bayern – he has scored a really impressive 44 goals in an amazing 107 matches already for his country at the age of only 27. He could not reach the standards he set at his first club FC Köln in Bayern either where he banged in 46 goals in only 83 appearances. So after a disappointing spell in Munich he returned to FC Köln in 2009 where he managed to rediscover his form, scoring 33 goals in 88 games in his second spell before signing for Arsenal last summer.
The other German player in Arsenal’s squad, centre half Per Mertesacker, can hopefully offer some advice to his team mates on how to approach the Bayern games due to his extensive Bundesliga experience having spent 8 seasons there split between Hannover 96 and Werder Bremen. You would expect Mertesacker to start against the Munich team due to his German connections but when you consider their super mobile players like Frank Ribery, Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben and Bastian Schweinsteiger you have to wonder if they will make him look like a traffic cone, beating him at will with their pace and trickery.
I think we will be better served by starting Vermaelen or Koscielny, depending on whoever is fit in time along with Sagna as we will need the mobility these players can provide and after Sagna’s performance against Sunderland on the weekend, he showed he can certainly handle the role in the centre of the defense. Clearly, Mertesacker will be a liability against such a formidable and fast group of forwards like Bayern has but he will be a good option to come on off the bench if required.
Bayern Munich come into the games against Arsenal on a run of 4 wins in a row in the Bundeliga having recently thumped Schalke 4-0, and Mainz 3-0 as well as beating both Stuttgart and Greuther Fürth 2-0. Clearly their goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer is in awesome form having kept 4 clean sheets in a row so the German team would really have to be considered as favourites.
The keys to an Arsenal victory lie with the selections in defense as well as Podolski and the in-form Walcott and Cazorla, who are both looking like world beaters these days. It comes down to the defense shutting down the Munich attack and whether or not Podolski can prove a point to his old club and along with the mega-skilful Spaniard and the flying Englishman lead the Gunners to what many people think is an improbable victory over the 2 legs.