Breaking Down Bayern Munich's Champions League Opponents Arsenal

Stefan Bienkowski@@SbienkowskiFeatured ColumnistDecember 16, 2013

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01: Pep Guardiola of FC Bayern Muenchen faces the media during a press conference session at Etihad Stadium on October 1, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

On Monday it was announced on the team's official site that Bayern Munich's next opponents in the tricky task of retaining the European Champions League will be none other than English Premier League leaders Arsenal.

Pep Guardiola's men will undoubtedly be pondering such an opponent, following Arsenal's win at the Allianz Arena last season, yet members of the club were quietly hopeful, if not respectful, to their English counterparts.

"There were more manageable and easier opponents in the hat. But we can’t change it," Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said. "We know we have to approach Arsenal with great respect, and that’s what we’ll do. We’ll have to turn in two very good performances."

Of course it has been hard to ignore the brilliance of Arsene Wenger's side this season, as the North London club have notched up 11 wins in 16 games following a summer of heavy investment that saw former Bundesliga favourite Mesut Ozil join the club for no less than £40 milion. 

In that time, Arsenal have marched to the top of the Premier League in a completely unforeseen fashion, with a two-point gap keeping them ahead of fellow surprise packages Liverpool

"They’re the toughest opponents we could have had," Jerome Boateng told Bayern's official site. "They’ll be totally up for it after what happened last year. Both matches will be very intense." 

Similarly, the Gunners have turned a few heads in Europe with dominating encounters over Marseille, Dortmund and Napoli to see them qualify from what was initially perceived as this season's Champions League group of death. 

Yet it's not all doom and gloom for Bayern Munich fans. 

For even though Arsenal's current campaign can be regarded as nothing more than an outstanding success for the club, Guardiola will look at the English side, and at specific encounters against better sides, and draw his own conclusions from this team's ultimate ability to beat Bayern. 

If we were to return once again to the group of death that Arsenal did well to qualify from, we clearly see that, although Wenger's side did incredibly well to beat Dortmund in Germany and turn Napoli over in London, both sides also took three points from the Gunners in the corresponding fixtures. 

Bayern will take confidence from such results knowing fine well that the Dortmund side that beat Arsenal at the Emirates back in October were far from the real deal—in terms of Dortmund's own ability as a side—and a squad that Bayern had little trouble beating just a few weeks ago.

Similarly, when we turn our attention to Arsenal's domestic form, a pattern becomes ever clearer with regards to Ozil and Co.'s ability to overcome the biggest sides in the Premier League.

Just this weekend we saw Wenger's side completely capitulate in Manchester against a City side that have already seen the full extent of Bayern's wrath in the Champions League. 

Guardiola will also point to the recent encounter with the other big side from the north, Manchester United, and the 1-0 defeat that Arsenal received against a very weak, out-of-form team that are still coming to terms with their new coach, David Moyes. 

In fact, as we look at Arsenal's run of games up until now, we see that the only teams that they've managed to beat from the considered "top six" were Tottenham—a side they regularly enjoy success over regardless of form or league contention—and Liverpool, while the vast majority of their games have come against sides in the bottom half of the table. 

Yes, simple math would tell us that they've beaten as many big sides as they've seen defeated to this season, yet those games against the two Manchester sides are undoubtedly more telling than their games against Tottenham and Liverpool.

Yet the ultimate comparisons that will be drawn from such a fixture are the obvious similarities to last season, when both sides met at this very stage of the competition, with Arsenal again enjoying the first leg at home before traveling to Munich. 

What will ultimately decide whether Arsenal are good enough to knock Bayern out is how much better they have gotten since then, and whether it in itself is enough to beat the current European and German champions. 

Arsenal are clearly a better side than the one that almost landed the ultimate sucker punch to Bayern last season, but the Bavarian club under Pep Guardiola have looked out of sight in comparison to any side in Europe this season. 

The Bundesliga is all but wrapped, as Bayern have conquered sides in Dortmund and Schalke that have caused formidable opponents to Arsenal in recent years. And Premier League opponents with far deeper squads, and even deeper pockets, in Manchester City have similarly succumbed to the pressure of what is unquestionably the best side in world football at the moment. 

Overcoming Arsenal is a tall task for any side, but Bayern Munich aren't just any side. This encounter would have made for a wonderful final in May, but over the two legs in February and March, it's hard to see anything but a Bayern win. 



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