“It is a possible task. That is the most important thing for us. I believe my team has quality and ambition and, if we produce a top-level performance, then we can do it.
“History is important in your belief. We have done it before, so we know we can do it.”
Twelve months ago Arsenal arrived at Bayern Munich with a seemingly insurmountable ascent ahead of them. However they finished the game trying to scramble the final few metres to the summit.
So why, therefore, should Arsène Wenger not display confidence ahead of Tuesday’s all-too-similar task?
"They [Bayern] will say themselves 'let's be on our toes a bit more than we were last year'. But still somewhere there is the psychological problem that they will think they have done the biggest part of the job. You cannot stop that going into your mind"
Last season they had a 3-1 advantage to overhaul at Allianz Arena, this time it is 2-0.
Same teams, same venue, same difference.
Oliver Giroud’s early strike set the tone a year ago and then Laurent Koscielny’s header set pulses racing with four minutes remaining.
Last month’s first leg started with a similar drama; both sides were evenly matched and spent the first 15 minutes trying to outgun each other. However the game swung violently towards the visitors after Mesut Ozil’s missed penalty and Wojciech Szczesny’s red card as he gave away a spot-kick at the other end.
A 1-0 defeat would have been more manageable but Thomas Muller’s header in the dying stages sent Arsenal into familiar territory with a familiar deficit. However, Wenger was unashamedly upbeat at his pre-match press conference and, tellingly, believes his side can start more slowly this time.
“We want to have a good balance between defending and attacking,” he said.
“I don’t think [an early goal] is key but it would be helpful. Even if we score later, we know we are in a similar situation to last season but perhaps a little better because we lost last year 3-1 at home.
“Bayern are a good team going forwards. At the moment they are full of confidence because they are doing well but we have a great opportunity to do it. I am absolutely confident that mentally we will be ready to play at our best.”
Bayern are being billed as the best side on the planet right now. The statistics support the notion.
The Champions League holders are 20 points clear in the Bundesliga and, on Saturday, came from behind to beat fifth-place Wolfsburg 6-1 to preserve a run of 11 successive wins in all competitions. They are unbeaten in 49 top-flight games and have won all their home games in 2013 and 2014.
They scored 15 goals in the three games since that first leg and, indeed, have hit the net in all of the 54 matches that followed the defeat to Arsenal last season.
Wenger accepts that any lingering element of complacency from last season has been eroded by that reverse and the first 15 minutes of the opening rubber. But he believes Bayern will still wrestle with an issue of mentality on Tuesday.
“Yes, they will say themselves 'let's be on our toes a bit more than we were last year',” he said. “But still somewhere there is the psychological problem that they will think they have done the biggest part of the job. You cannot stop that going into your mind.
“On our side we go there with nothing to lose and with a huge desire to do well. Let's exploit our desire, our willingness, strengthen our huge combative side and put them in trouble.”
Much may depend on Ozil, who returns to Germany with something to prove after a pivotal penalty miss in the first leg. But, Wenger argues, his workrate and influence are back to their best.
“It affected his performance because he felt he let the team down,” said the manager. “I think since then he has recovered. He had a great performance on Saturday and I am confident he will have a good game at Bayern.”
|Arsenal: Koscielny (doubt - hamstring), Szczesny (suspended), Gibbs (thigh), Monreal (doubt), Wilshere (foot), Ramsey (thigh), Kallstrom (back), Walcott (knee), Diaby (knee)
Bayern: Badstuber (knee)
The win over Everton sent Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley and, with due respect to Wigan, the elimination of Manchester City was helpful to their cause in that competition. The mood is so different to last season, when Wenger’s men arrived in Germany the game after a Premier League defeat at Tottenham that had sent them seven points behind their north London rivals in the race for fourth place. They would have played the weekend before but Blackburn had shocked them in the FA Cup.
Despite exiting the competition, that game at Bayern saw Wenger pair together Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker in central defence. It would provide the backbone for a successful run-in and the very decent season that has followed. Meanwhile the reserves of confidence were deepened by the win; something that has been apparent throughout the current campaign.
“That game was vital because it helped us to believe that we are a good side,” concluded Wenger. “Overall it's important to have those moments behind you that strengthen your belief.”
And belief must be Arsenal’s fuel at Bayern.
Note: Away goals count double if aggregate scores are level after 90 minutes. Therefore extra time will only be played if aggregate score is 2-2 after normal time. Penalties will be required if aggregate score is 2-2 after extra time
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