It should already be accepted that Arsenal don’t have the squad to challenge on three fronts until the end of the season. Arsene Wenger has been down this path on more than one occasion in the recent past, stretching a thin squad to its limits and subsequently facing ultimate defeat.
On the face of it, with Arsenal still in contention for the Premier League title, a loss to Bayern Munich wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen to Wenger’s side. Look to the consistency Liverpool showed during the first half of the season when they weren’t burdened with midweek excursions across the continent.
Brendan Rodgers’ side is also short on quality throughout, but they’ve been able to get where they are now because they’ve been able to properly recuperate between weekend games.
But it isn’t as clear cut as that for Arsenal. The club should be in a position to offer maximum effort in all three competitions they’re still in. Wenger had a month to strengthen the squad properly and chose to stand still, thus increasing the likelihood of burnout.
It also doesn’t set a good mood around the club if supporters are being asked to fork out even more cash in line with the club’s three per cent increase in tickets. What are fans paying for if Arsenal are unable to field strong enough squads throughout the campaign?
A loss to Bayern could be terrible for morale, and that’s what the manager is currently gambling on. Taking away the emotional aspect of it, however, Arsenal would be better suited knowing that the rest of the season is confined to just domestic games; that’s how far this Arsenal squad can exert themselves without falling into that now infamous ‘red zone.’
The key here is mentality and how much a loss to Bayern can take out of the players. It’s nothing new that some supporters may feel liberated from the burden of Champions League football; when the prize is so high domestically, why wouldn’t the focus be on what can be achieved in the Premier League?
But it’s precisely that knock-on effect that could damage the club’s chances of winning a trophy this season. The gamble is whether defeat in Europe will have a lasting effect on what the team do for the remainder of the campaign.
With such a thin squad, one already weakened by injury, it’s a difficult call for Wenger to make.