Arsenal just can’t seem to catch a break in the Champions League, can they?
The Gunners were paired up with Bayern Munich for the fourth time in the last five years despite pipping Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain to top spot in Group A. It would be fair to say that the omens aren’t in Arsenal’s favour but the Gunners have been in fine form as of late and plenty of supporters will be quietly confident of knocking Bayern out of the competition.
It looked like Arsene Wenger’s men were going off the rails when losing back-to-back games against Everton and Manchester City but the Gunners showed plenty of mental strength to get back to winning ways against West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace.
But perhaps the most positive sign of all was the way Arsenal responded when trailing three-nil to Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth; the Gunners scored three late goals to snatch a point from the jaws of defeat – something that Wenger’s side have struggled to do in recent years.
Olivier Giroud was the hero that day and the 30-year-old has continued to get his name on the scoresheet in recent times. Incredibly, the Frenchman has now scored in each of his last four Arsenal appearances and Wenger will come under intense pressure if he continues to leave him on the substitute’s bench.
Whilst many supporters will argue that Giroud simply isn’t good enough to start, his current scoring streak speaks for itself and it is becoming very difficult for even the most anti-Giroud fans to justify his exclusion from the starting line-up.
— Arsenal Related ⚽🔥 (@ArsenalsRelated) January 10, 2017
Meanwhile, Chile international Alexis Sanchez has been the standout player at the Emirates Stadium this season. Rumours continue to circulate over his future at the club but Sanchez has remained coy on any potential links; and that will benefit Arsenal over the course of the campaign.
At 28 years old, the Gunners star is in the prime of his career and 15 goals in 26 appearances this season have certainly helped Wenger’s men in their pursuit of silverware. If Arsenal are to do the unthinkable and knock Bayern out, Sanchez will need to produce yet another world-class performance.
It would be fair to say that Carlo Ancelotti’s first campaign at the Allianz Arena hasn’t exactly gone to plan. In fact, it has been far from a smooth transition for everybody at the club and Bayern’s hit-and-miss performances on the pitch have only highlighted their struggles in the first half of the season.
The Bundesliga champions are in a real dogfight with newly promoted RB Leipzig for the top-flight crown and Ancelotti will need to use all his experience to hold off the challenge. As of January 12th, Bayern are three points clear at the top of the table and Gunners fans will hope that the lure of a difficult trip to third-placed Hertha Berlin three days after the first leg could affect their focus.
At the time of writing, Arsenal are priced at 2/1 with Betway to qualify for the next round of the competition. It won’t be easy but the Gunners have enough quality in attack to trouble Bayern’s suspect defensive unit.
With a goal or two in the opening leg in Germany, the onus will be on Ancelotti’s side to come out and attack at the Emirates Stadium and Arsenal could pick them off on the break. Wenger doesn’t have a great record against Bayern but things feel different this time; the Gunners almost look destined to lift a trophy at the end of the campaign.
Don’t write Wenger’s side off just yet; Bayern Munich away poses a much greater threat than a trip to the Bournemouth seaside but the Gunners will take plenty of inspiration from their start to the new campaign. With Giroud and Sanchez in golden form, anything is possible.