Wenger quotes, classic goals, team news and key facts. This is your pre-match briefing ahead of the Bayern Munich game.
“When you don’t win, everybody always says the same thing, that you don’t fight enough. Football is not only about fight. It’s also the freedom to go for it, the freedom to play.” - Arsene Wenger
CHANNELING THE INNER RAGE
How do you approach the second leg of a tie you are already trailing by four goals? How do you plan to overwhelm a side that is generally considered one of the best in Europe?
According to Arsene Wenger, the answer is simple: his squad must harness their inner rage.
They should have plenty of reserves to draw from. A run of four defeats in their past six games has left a proud group of players - and make no mistake, when you’re a top-class athlete each and every defeat hurts - in a state of agitation and frustration.
|Arsenal: Cazorla (ankle), Elneny (ankle), Ozil (ill)
Bayern: Sanches (ill), Lahm (suspended)
Per Mertesacker admitted in the pre-match press conference at London Colney on Monday that there was a certain tension after this disappointing set of results. You would expect nothing less.
But the manager has been keen to stress that when responding to adversity, it is essential to do so in the right manner. Everyone wants us take the fight to Bayern Munich, but it must not come at the expense of in-game intelligence.
“What you expect is that you go out there with a mixture of lucid rage,” Wenger said with a smile. “When you don’t win, everybody always says the same thing, that you don’t fight enough. Football is not only about fight. It’s also the freedom to go for it, the freedom to play.
“The only advantage of our situation is that we do not have much choice about having any hesitation. We have to go for it, to attack and go forward with determination and flow and try to score goals.
“[You want] total commitment, but not a silly one because you have, in our game, always to make intelligent decisions, to take the optimal decision. For that you need a good combination of commitment but as well to keep your vision.”
OVERCOMING THE ODDS
There has been a conspicuous lack of talk of ‘Mission Improbable’ in the build-up to this tie. Wenger has been keen for his side to restore some pride first, and then see how this second leg pans out.
Of course, we have been in a similar position before. Back in 2012, we were beaten 4-0 by AC Milan in a disastrous last-16 clash in Italy, only to produce an outstanding first-half display in the return match in London.
Having found ourselves three goals up by the break, all the momentum seemed to be on our side to produce a remarkable fightback - but a golden opportunity at the start of the second half, spurned by Robin van Persie, seemed to take the wind out of our sails and we could not find another way through.
The uncomfortable truth is that no side has ever overturned a deficit of four goals or more from the first leg, so not only are the Gunners up against the damning weight of history, but also one of the best sides in Europe.
“[Bayern have] given consistent performances over the last 20 years,” Wenger said. “They’ve always had a big team, since I was young.
“At that time, you had Beckenbauer, Muller, Hoeness, Rummenigge - they were successful and that’s why they have much consistency.
“Financially, they dominate in Germany, which isn’t the case with us here. That’s why it’s a bit easier for Bayern than it is for us.”
Wenger admits the first leg at Allianz Arena was one of his most disappointing nights in Europe, but insists his side can compete with the German giants. Only last season, we beat them 2-0 on a thrilling night at the Emirates and while that would not be enough this time around, it would help rebuild some belief.
“Of course [the first leg was difficult to take],” he said. “But I think people forget the circumstances a little bit.
“We lost Koscielny straight after half time and in seven minutes we conceded three goals. It’s a shock to take… of course it’s very disappointing but unfortunately in my job you have to take some bad things as well.
“Scoring early is the ideal situation [on Tuesday night]. We want to give ourselves a chance by attacking and scoring goals but no matter what happens, what is at stake is our pride and honour to compete for 90 minutes.
“What I expect from the team is to respect the competition, because we fight hard to be there [every season], and also to respect who we are playing for and to go out with that attitude.”
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