Beware the wounded animal. So long as it has fight left in its belly, it’s a threat. And the bigger the beast, the bigger the threat. The bigger the threat, the further you run.
So when Arsenal enter the lair of the Bavarian beast tonight, they better beware. And if they were as cowardly as I am, they’d run and run far.
And that’s because a hurting Bayern Munich were hurting after Arsenal inflicted a poke into the eye of the Bayern machine. They sat back, they defended like heroes, and whilst it would be a harsh statement to say they deserved the win – given Bayern’s huge possession dominance and the fact that away from home they still managed more chances – you’d have to say that Arsenal played almost the perfect game.
If it weren’t for Neuer the score would’ve been much different. If it weren’t for him, Arsenal would have been ahead in the first half. But if it weren’t for him Giroud really wouldn’t have scored the opener.
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He made a save up there with Gordon Banks from Pele in 1970 to deny Theo Walcott, and then inexplicably missed his catch from a simple cross that allowed Giroud behind him to nod home with a helping hand from, well, his hand.
That was just the Germans’ first defeat of the season, but then last week in the league, Eintracht Frankfurt sat back and defended them yet again. This time they got no charity from the German number one, but they did succeed in the same way as Arsenal did.
They shut out Ribery, Robben, Lewandowski and co, and held them to a 0-0 draw.
But that’s why you have to be careful. Bayern are going to be so dangerous tonight for Arsenal. Can they go to the lair of the beast, the Pep Guardiola coached, third best team in the world, and defend the way they did at the Emirates? It won’t be easy, because Arsenal don’t really have the players, whereas Bayern do.
The fact I can’t just say Robben and co, Ribery and co, or Lewandowski and co speaks volumes. There are too many match winners in this team who I can’t leave out. What about Muller, Gotze and Douglas Costa? They’ve been sensational this season.
And as Arsenal found out, once you get the ball off those guys, you have to get past Philipp Lahm and co, or Jerome Boateng and co. They just have so many good players. Then there’s Manuel Neuer in goal to get past, too. Well, assuming he’s actually in the goal and not on the halfway line when he thwarts your attack.
Although Arsenal would take a point, we are told, they’ll still attack Bayern. You have to attack them, because if you don’t get the ball into their third of the pitch from time to time you’re going to spend 90 minutes throwing yourself in front of shots and running around your own 18-yard box.
And if Lewandowski and co turn up, you’ll be spending a fair amount of those 90 minutes picking the ball out of the net and putting it back on the centre spot.
Hector Bellerin, Arsenal’s own Road Runner, will be missing for the Gunners, so bang goes the idea of the counter attack in the vein of the last minute at the Emirates last time. He’s relieved that he won’t be humiliated by Douglas Costa yet again, but for Arsenal that means Mathieu Debuchy will be the whipping boy instead. To Bayern it really doesn’t matter who you put in front of them, they’ll always have enough to beat it.
And if Arsenal don’t take a point tonight, and if Olympiakos do beat Dinamo Zagreb in Athens – not a ridiculous outcome given they’ve already beaten Dinamo in Zagreb – then Arsenal will find themselves six points behind the Greeks with only six points left on the table. And having been beaten at home by the Greeks who scored three away goals, Arsenal could be left needing snookers by the time they travel to the Greek capital.
It’s not easy for Arsenal from here on in. They almost need a point tonight, although it’s not absolutely crucial. Lose and they can still go through, but it’ll depend on other results at some point. But the main problem tonight isn’t just losing. It’s losing big. A big demoralising defeat for Arsenal tonight could be damaging, a big, hefty win for Bayern could bring back the feel-good factor for them.
You just get the feeling that Arsenal are about to be serious outgunned.