February has been a tough month for Arsenal with the Gunners playing Liverpool twice, Manchester United and Bayern but March is said to be equally a tough one as Arsenal will have to play played Bayern, Tottenham, Everton, Chelsea and Manchester City. Those matches will cut across three competitions and could go a long way in determining whether or not Arsenal end their lingering trophy drought.
And former Arsenal manager George Graham has urged Arsenal to drop their Champions League ambitions and focus on the Premier League instead. To this end, he urged him to field a weakened side at the Allianz Arena in the second leg of the tie because ousting the Germans is an impossible mission.
“One of the questions facing Arsene is whether they play their best team and try to win the tie, which is near impossible, or concentrate on the league,’ Graham told BBC Radio Five Live’s Sportsweek programme.
‘Personally I’d play a weakened team because I think the second half of the first leg was like a practice match for Bayern.
‘It took a lot out of Arsenal and they have some very tough games coming up. They need fresh legs and fresh minds.
‘This is one of the big decisions managers have to make.”
I agree the Arsenal have tough matches to play after Bayern, but that is not enough reason to throw in the towel which is what fielding a weakened side would depict. Saying the tie is over because Bayern won 2-0 at the Emirates is a little too out of place. Need I remind Graham that the first leg result at the Emirates last season was even worse than the one Arsenal posted this time but yet, the Gunners still pulled off a near miracle at the Allianz Arena. They might not have qualified but they rattled the Bavarians. Last season was just as tough for Arsenal as this because then, they had the top four to chase for.
If Wenger fields a weakened side, it could prove counter-productive because Bayern could humiliate Arsenal and that could deal a huge blow on the team’s confidence and inadvertently, affect the Gunners push for the title. The win over Bayern at the Allianz Arena last season served as the catalyst which catapulted the Gunners to a top four finish; this season, it might be what would galvanize the Gunners to the title.
Another reason why Graham’s idea won’t fly is because the issue of fatigue would have been dealt with. Arsenal didn’t show any after-effects of been drained against Sunderland, no thanks to Wenger juggling the side perfectly. Against Sunderland, Chamberlain, Ozil and Sanogo didn’t play while Flamini only had some minutes on the pitch. The matches against Chelsea and Manchester City will be separated by a week and that is enough time to recover. Another factor he didn’t put into consideration is that Chelsea plays their second leg against Galatasaray days before playing us so they are likely going to be jaded.
Finally, the squad will have increased with the return of Ramsey, Vermaelen and Kallstrom so Le Prof would be able to ring more changes. My take is simple. Take your best ammunition to Allianz Arena, reach for the stars (qualification). You might not get it but you might get the sky (which is a decent result) and not another humiliation.