Guardiola offers crumbs of comfort as Arsenal face Bayern
Gunners record counts for little as Wenger weighs up Oxlade-Chamberlain or Rosicky choice
ARSENAL will be hoping that Pep Guardiola's poor record at the Emirates continues tonight as Bayern Munich take on the Gunners in the first leg of their Champions League clash.
Guardiola brought his all-conquering Barcelona team to north London in 2010 and 2011 and although his side took the lead on both occasions he failed to win either match. The first ended 2-2 and the second 2-1 to the Gunners.
Those results may help explain why Guardiola, in the build-up to the clash, also sought to distance himself from the idea that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has become a "specialist in failure" in recent seasons, although the fact that the barb was delivered by his old adversary, Jose Mourinho, may also explain his attitude.
"Life is not only trophies," said Guardiola. "Arsenal compete with huge teams, important teams. For me, they remain a good team and a good club.
"I have a lot of respect for Arsene. He always likes good players, always plays in a good style... The fans are going to enjoy it. Arsenal want the ball, Bayern want the ball."
Guardiola's words were an attempt to appear both "humble and hungry", says The Times. "You can almost feel the flattery floating through a delighted Arsenal dressing room."
However, a reality check comes not from Guardiola's words nor his record at the Emirates, but from the events that unfolded there last season when Bayern tore the Gunners to shreds and ran out 3-1 winners. Since then Bayern have got even better and they are clear favourites.
"The German club are expected to win handsomely and to go on to become the first team to win the Champions League in successive seasons. It is hard to see Arsenal standing in their way – but at least they can be encouraged by their home record against Guardiola," notes The Guardian.
Once again it will be a backs-to-the-wall performance from the Gunners. "Arsenal’s main focus is to stay in the contest for as long as possible against opponents who have won 20 of their past 21 matches, but whom Wenger insists are not unbeatable," says Matt Hughes of The Times.
Wenger also faces a key selection dilemma in midfield and "will have to decide between the in-form Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and workhorse Tomas Rosicky", according to The Independent. Writing in the Daily Mail, former Gunners defender Martin Keown suggests there could be space out wide for Arsenal to exploit.
However, "Wenger will be fully aware that Oxlade-Chamberlain's natural attacking mind-set could leave his side exposed, with the likes of Thomas Mueller, Arjen Robben and Mario Mandzukic ready to pounce on the counter attack", says The Independent.
Another crumb of comfort is the fact that Arsenal have never lost with referee Nicola Rizzoli in charge. His last game at the Emirates was Arsenal's win over Barcelona in 2011.