Arsenal can outplay Bayern Munich, warns Guardiola
Mesut Ozil identified as the key figure for the Gunners as they embark on Mission Impossible
AS ARSENAL prepare to tackle Mission Impossible in Munich tonight, Bayern boss Pep Guardiola has warned his players to be on their guard against the Gunners. In particular the former Barcelona coach is wary of Mesut Ozil and believes the German midfielder could have a bearing on tonight's Champions league last 16 second leg.
Arsenal appear to be down and out, after conceding a 2-0 advantage in the first leg last month, a game in which Ozil missed an early penalty for the Gunners and subsequently suffered a crisis of confidence. That led to widespread speculation that Ozil was finding life difficult at the Emirates but the German bounced back at the weekend with a man of the match performance in Arsenal's 4-1 thrashing of Everton in the FA Cup quarter-final.
Bayern enjoyed a romp of their own at the weekend, putting six past Wolfsburg to move some 20 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga, but Guardiola is taking nothing for granted tonight. "This is not an easy game," he explained "We have to attack, give our best, be aggressive without the ball."
Warning against complacency, Guardiola reminded Bayern fans that Arsenal dominated the opening spell at the Emirates until Ozil's penalty miss, and then the sending off of Wojciech Szczesny. "What happened in the first nine minutes, they were the nine minutes in this season when the opponent was better against us," said the Spaniard. "They can create two or three really great chances in two or three minutes. If you play in a really good team like Arsenal and are 2-0 down, anything is possible. People think '2-0 you don't have a chance in Munich', but that's the main problem for us."
And he pinpointed Ozil as the opponent who could make life awkward for the reigning European champions. "I do not want to see Ozil control the game. That will be a big problem for us," said Guardiola. "Ozil will give the best performance and we have to be prepared."
Guardiola also sympathised with the German for taking time to adjust to the rigours of the Premier League after his three seasons with Real Madrid. "I never played in England, or trained a team, so I don't know how difficult [it is], but I can imagine how difficult it is to play every three games [a week] in November, December, January," Guardiola said.
Arsenal arrive in Munich at a time when Bayern are in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, with club president Uli Hoeness having admitted a £15m tax evasion for which he'll be sentenced on Thursday. "He is the most important person in this club," said Guardiola of the former German World Cup winner. "The best way we can help him is to win the game, so we give everything we can."
Bayern will be helped to that end by the return from injury of winger Franck Ribery, missing from the first leg with injury, while Arsenal's season of injury woes continue with the news that Kieran Gibbs has failed to recover from an ankle knock sustained against Everton. On the plus side Laurent Koscielny has shrugged off a hamstring problem and should take his place alongside Per Mertesacker in the Gunners central defence on what promises to be a busy night for the pair.
Though history is resolutely against Arsenal tonight - only two teams in the history of the Champions League have overturned a home defeat in the first leg of a knockout tie (Ajax against Panathinaikos in 1996 and Inter against Bayern in 2011) - Arsene Wenger was in upbeat mood as he arrived at the Allianz Arena on Monday evening: "It is a possible task, that is the most important thing," said the Arsenal manager. "I believe that my team has quality and ambition... The statistics are against us, but we have won 5-1 at Inter Milan and we have won pretty much everywhere in Europe."