Champions League: Why Arsenal Cannot Beat Bayern Munich
Arsene Wenger is the eternal optimist. He regards fourth place in the Premier League as a trophy, he has miraculously failed to witness any misguided fouls his players have committed and he believes Arsenal can win the Champions League.
In a press conference this week, he said (via ESPN): "If we go past Bayern Munich, why should we not say we can go further in the competition and win it."
In terms of likely European Cup glory, Arsenal are ranked around the middle of the pack of the remaining teams. Most bookmakers feel PSG, Juventus, Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich all have a better chance of lifting the trophy in May.
However, Wenger is right. If Arsenal can beat a highly-fancied Bayern side, there is no reason why they cannot go all the way for the first time in their history. The trouble is, there is no way they can beat this highly-fancied Bayern side.
The last time these two teams met was at the Round of 16 stage in 2004-05. A Thierry Henry strike gave the Gunners a 1-0 victory in London, but it was not enough to overcome a 3-1 defeat they had suffered in Bavaria two weeks previously.
Arsenal were defending Premier League champions at the time, while Die Roten were still smarting from losing the 2003-04 Bundesliga title to Werder Bremen. Only two players who were present during those ties will be involved this season: Bastian Schweinsteiger and Claudio Pizarro. Much has changed since these two teams last met, and the balance of power has certainly shifted towards the Germans.
Bayern Munich are in rude health. Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp has conceded the Bundesliga title race to a team who are 15 points clear and undefeated in their last 17 matches in all competitions. In their last five games, Bayern have scored 13 goals without reply.
In the Champions League, they scored 15 goals in the group stage and have been showing the kind of form that could easily lead to their third final appearance in four seasons.
Arsenal, meanwhile, haven't won a trophy since the season that they were last defeated by Bayern Munich. They have lost two of their last six league matches and have already been beaten at home by a Bundesliga side in this campaign, when Schalke ended a 16-match unbeaten run at home in Europe last October.
Some statistics suggest the Gunners could pull off a victory in the home leg next week. Of the last seven occasions they have hosted German opposition, the aforementioned Schalke match is the only one they have lost.
Furthermore, Arsenal have only been defeated at home in two of their 17 home knockout matches in this competition.
Sadly for the Gunners, most statistics seem to weigh in favour of Jupp Heynckes' side.
Bayern have scored in each of their last 12 Champions League matches. In their last four Round of 16 matches, they have scored an average of two goals in the away leg. Combine this with the fact that they have scored 1.2 goals per game on the road in the Bundesliga this season, and there's an excellent chance they will find the net.
(Wenger should also be concerned by the fact that they have averaged an impressive 4.5 goals per home game in their past four Round of 16 home ties.)
Arsenal have had the fewest shots of any of the remaining Champions League teams (47), while Bayern have conceded the fewest shots (17). The Germans have only conceded more than one goal on two occasions in the past two campaigns (against Napoli in 2011-12 and BATE this season).
The Gunners have shown that they can defeat the world's best teams at home, most notably when they overcame a dominant Barcelona side at home in the 2010-11 Round of 16. However, the Spaniards won over two legs and went on to lift the trophy.
Even if Arsenal manage to handle the threat of Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Thomas Muller, Mario Gomez and Mario Mandzukic—and penetrate a defense fortified by the likes of Philipp Lahm, Dante and Daniel van Buyten—they do not have the squad, the form or the momentum to stop the Germans over two legs.
Like Arsene Wenger, I believe one of these teams will be at the final at Wembley. Unfortunately for the Frenchman, it looks likely that Bayern will repeat the fortunes of Barcelona in 2010-11 by dismissing Arsenal at this stage and going on for glory.
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