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Bayern Munich the Obvious Threat, but Arsenal Must Also Beware Supposed Minnows

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2015

Arsenal's French striker Olivier Giroud reacts during the second-leg round of 16 UEFA Champions league football match between Bayern Munich and Arsenal at the Allianz arena in Munich on March 11, 2014.   AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSEN        (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
ODD ANDERSEN/Getty Images

When Arsenal were drawn against Bayern Munich, the groans of the Gunners fans could be heard across Europe.

The German champions have knocked Arsenal out of European competition in two out of the last three seasons. Although Arsenal remain strong favourites to qualify from the group behind Bayern, Pep Guardiola might sense an opportunity to dispense with a rival and eliminate the Gunners at this early stage.

To avoid that fate, Arsenal will have to make sure they show a measure of calmness and consistency against Olympiakos and Dinamo Zagreb. Arsenal ought to have enough to finish ahead of those teams, but they cannot contemplate allowing complacency to creep in.

MUNICH, GERMANY - MARCH 11: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of Arsenal and Dante of Bayern Muenchen in action during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Arsenal FC on March 11, 2014 in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. (Photo by Jea
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

It’s too early to surrender first place in the group, but it will definitely be difficult for Arsenal to finish ahead of Guardiola’s men. Bayern are certainly feeling bullish about their prospects. Defender Jerome Boateng told the Mirror: “We always enjoyed playing against Arsenal. London has been a good omen for us."

Meanwhile, midfielder Thiago Alcantara spoke with confidence to the same newspaper of his team’s chances of progressing:

The draw is good for us and we should be able to get through this phase.

Arsenal are an excellent team and Olympiacos and Zagreb have strong teams and are made difficult by their stadiums.

But it would be a big surprise if Bayern and Arsenal did not get through. There are harder groups than this.

His final sentence certainly rings true. Manchester City, for example, must negotiate a group containing Italian champions Juventus and Europe League winners Sevilla. Given their poor record in European competition, that will be no easy task.

On paper, Arsenal ought to qualify from their group. However, they cannot afford to take anything for granted.

Arsenal's French midfielder Mathieu Flamini (R) walks past Bayern Munich players as they celebrate Thomas Muller's goal during the UEFA Champions League Last 16, first leg football match between Arsenal and Bayern Munich at The Emirates Stadium in north L
IAN KINGTON/Getty Images

If Arsenal learned anything from last season’s doomed Champions League campaign, it’s the importance of not underestimating the opposition.

When the Gunners came up against Monaco at last year’s knockout phase, they couldn’t believe their luck. Having finished second in the group, they anticipated being drawn against one of Europe’s giants. When Monaco’s name came out of the pot, many Arsenal fans were guilty of feeling they’d effectively received a bye to the next round.

Not just the fans, it transpires. Arsenal’s players were also guilty of complacency, as evidenced by an appalling first-leg performance that allowed the principality club to gain an advantage they could not overturn.

That sort of attitude could prove fatal against Olympiakos and Zagreb. They may not have the glittering reputation of a Bayern, but they will still be dangerous opposition and certainly difficult away trips.

Olympiakos have beaten Arsenal on each of their last three visits to Greece. Wenger must find a way to end his team’s dismal run in that fixture if he is to avoid falling into an unseemly scrap for second place.

The atmosphere in Zagreb is also certain to be electric for Arsenal’s visit, and it will be a test of the Gunners’ occasionally fragile mental fortitude to see if they can come through that ordeal unscathed.

After repeated exits at the last-16 stage, Arsenal fans will already have their eyes on the knockout rounds—especially after a relatively kind draw. However, they must not get ahead of themselves.

Bayern’s giant shadow should not cast the merits of the other teams in the group into the shade. Arsenal will need to take each of the four teams seriously to ensure they make it through to the next round.

James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and is following the club from a London base throughout 2015/16. Follow him on Twitter here.