“Yes, this game is a measurement of our progress. We play against the best team in the world and we have an opportunity to show that we can beat them.
“That means we want to not only be at our level but to raise it. We have to be absolutely efficient in these kinds of games. But I think there were some aspects in the game against Liverpool that tell you the spirit and desire are there, so we are ready for a challenge.”
Arsène Wenger wanted to play Bayern Munich again. He wanted to show what his side so nearly did last season they could really do this time.
Last year’s knockout-round tie was a season in 180 minutes. Arsenal were stunned at Emirates Stadium, conceding twice to a battering ram of a Bayern side. They eventually lost 3-1.
"This game is a measurement of our progress. We play against the best team in the world and we have an opportunity to show that we can beat them"
Game over, tie over and, with the defeats to Blackburn and Tottenham that sandwiched it, possibly season over.
Olivier Giroud’s early goal at the Allianz Arena set the tone for the second leg. When Laurent Koscielny added another four minutes from time such was Bayern’s concern that keeper Michael Neuer smothered the ball to prevent the visitors recovering it quickly.
Bayern clung on but Arsenal would kick on, overturning a seven-point deficit on Tottenham and qualifying for the Champions League for a 16th successive season. This is their 12th straight campaign in the knockout stages; not even Wednesday’s opponents can match that record.
“We were back in it at the end of the second leg over there last season and I think Gervinho had a great chance [for a third],” recalled Wenger.
“That shows you that in this kind of competition it's never over and never won, no matter what the result after the first game, because it gives you a psychological problem for the second one.”
Bayern went on to win the competition but Arsenal are the last side to shut them out. Though, interestingly, the manager will not use the second leg as a motivator ahead of this tie. No videos will be played pre-match by way of motivation. Perhaps the departure of manager Jupp Heynckes makes Bayern a familiar yet incomparable proposition this time.
“No, what we do is we watch them play with the new style they have under Pep Guardiola,” said Wenger. “That's how you try to analyse how they play and find a weakness. It is not easy at the moment when you look at them but let's be up for it and give our best.”
Bayern’s strength is demonstrable. In the Bundesliga, they are 16 points clear having amassed a stunning record of P21 W19 D2 L0 F57 A9. They have won their last seven away trips in the Champions League and are looking to reach their fourth final in five years.
Arsenal are underdogs to go through but they should hardly be intimidated given the 180 minutes last season, their own domestic title challenge this season and a defensive home record that has seen them concede one goal from open play in the last 13 games at home.
Tellingly, Wenger rested a fit Tomas Rosicky for the FA Cup tie with Liverpool at the weekend but he is back in the squad for Wednesday. The manager classes the veteran Czech international as one of his big-game players.
|Arsenal: Arteta (suspended), Vermaelen (leg), Ramsey (thigh), Walcott (knee), Diaby (knee)
Bayern Munich: Schweinsteiger (doubt – ankle), Van Buyten (doubt - knee) Ribery (buttock), Shaqiri (thigh)
“He is, yes,” said Wenger. “You know I use him always when I think it's the right moment and for me he's a very important player in our club. I am a bit cautious sometimes with him but he's player who plays always a big part in the final part of the season.”
Sunday’s victory over Liverpool also showed the importance of the Emirates Stadium crowd. Wenger’s side was a mixture while Brendan Rodgers went pretty much full-strength. Arsenal managed to get in front and rolled their sleeves up to stay there in one of the best atmospheres at home this season. The Club and supporters’ groups have organised a card display to greet the players on Wednesday in the hope of a reprise.
“You need a big solidarity between the crowd and the team, and to help each other out.
“We want to go and win the game - let's give our best, all of us. I'm sure the crowd will be completely behind us and that the team will respond.”
In the final question of the interview on Arsenal Player, this reporter suggested that if Arsenal can’t lift the Champions League trophy then Wenger would be content for Bayern to do so. After all, the manager has often talked of the all-conquering 1970s side he grew up admiring just across the border in France.
It drew this response.
“I want Arsenal to win it,” said Wenger with a smile. “And before I come to the idea of [what I want] if Arsenal won’t win it, I want first to go and give our best in the next two games.
“If you ask me the question again after these two games I will give you an answer but hopefully you will come back and ask me if Arsenal can win it now.”
If his team knock out this mighty Bayern outfit, the evidence will be so obvious that no-one will have to enquire.
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