You would have felt confident upon looking at who the Champions League group stage draw had pitted Arsenal again, but although there is no such thing as easy games in football, the Gunners have made a real mess of what should have been a safe progression to the knock-out phases. Back-to-back defeats against Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos have left us with a mountain to climb, especially when you consider Arsene Wenger has to prepare his team for a double-header against the formidable force of Bayern Munich.
Pep Guardiola’s side appear more ruthless than ever before, with Robert Lewandowski’s astonishing goal-scoring form for club and country, including five in just nine minutes in Bayern’s 5-1 rout of Wolfsburg, making him Europe’s leading striker. We should try hard not to take a downbeat attitude into the first meeting at the Emirates, but with Arsenal’s European hopes hanging by a thread, it could require a monumental effort to overturn the Bundesliga champions in our own back yard.
Facing the Bundesliga giants on a Tuesday night that could decide Arsenal’s Champions League fate is what Europe’s most prestigious domestic competition is all about. We have become accustom to dining along the very best teams ever since Wenger became manager, but with zero points on the board, we could be facing our first group exit since the two-group system was still in existence back in 2002.
You would imagine that fans will be split on whether Arsenal should consider dropping into the Europa League or out of Europe altogether in order to focus on the Premier League – both have their pros and cons, but we can only hope that the Gunners perform much better than they have so far in the Champions League. Let’s be honest, we will have to be to stand any chance of getting past Bayern Munich who have yet to concede and already scored eight goals, but the movers and shakers this week at Betway may ultimately depend on how the two teams get on in their respective domestic leagues following the international break. A positive result at Watford would set Arsenal up nicely for the crunch Champions League clash, and with Bayern Munich facing a potentially tricky trip to Werder Bremen, we may hold the psychological advantage when the two teams meet at the Emirates.
Arsenal’s task is probably summarised perfectly by the fact that they will be facing a side who last tasted defeat in a competitive fixture was at the beginning of August, albeit on penalties in the German Super Cup against Wolfsburg. Bayern Munich have won every single game since their cup disappointment, and although Arsenal have managed to push themselves into second in the Premier League table thanks to the fantastic 3-0 victory against Manchester United, we cannot afford to let previous complacency creep in against one of the strongest teams in Europe. You would be amazed if Wenger did not field his strongest team possible against Bayern Munich, with previous tinkering against Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos backfiring quite dramatically. It will still require our best players, particularly Laurent Koscielny and Alexis Sanchez, to provide the quality at both ends of the pitch if we are to stand any chance of resurrecting our Champions League aspirations this season.