In Review

Can Arsenal avoid Groundhog Day against Bayern Munich?

Gunners can't afford to shoot themselves in the foot again as they face a Bayern team with plenty of weaknesses

Arsenal fans could be forgiven for thinking it is Groundhog Day as they gear up for their Champions League clash with Bayern Munich. 

It will be the fourth time they have met the German side in the past five seasons. Two of those times were in the last 16 of the tournament and the Germans progressed both times.

Indeed Arsenal have not won a Champions League knock-out tie since 2010, having fallen at the same stage in each of the past six seasons.

So will it be the same again this year? Ben Burrow of the Daily Mirror believes there is reason for optimism as their opponents will be without key players, including Franck Ribery, at the Allianz Arena.

"This Bayern team aren't quite the Bayern team we've so often seen before," he says. "Fresh from three years of attractive results and even more attractive football under Pep Guardiola, Bayern fans are having to get used to [Carlo] Ancelotti's more circumspect and pragmatic playing style.

"They're scoring less and have fewer [league] points than this time last year and only scraped past lowly Ingolstadt at the weekend thanks to two injury time goals."

Midfielder Philipp Lahm's decision to announce his retirement has "upset the balance" at the club, adds the Mirror, while Thomas Muller has been off-colour all season.

They are not the team they were last season, when they beat Arsenal 5-1 at home, says Archie Rhind-Tutt of the London Evening Standard.

"Under Ancelotti, Bayern have become slower and more predictable. A lack of imagination has made playing against them a more pleasant experience, with the opposition now even allowed to have a bit of the ball," he says. And that "should give Arsenal hope of getting a result tonight".

If they are to break the cycle, the Gunners must show "courage" in Germany, says Henry Winter of The Times. It is a commodity that "has tended to surface too late in the Champions League, when faced with what have proved to be unassailable deficits".

Arsenal have the advantage of playing the second leg at home, but must ensure they are still in the tie then – and that means stopping Bayern at home. 

"It is the kind of test to which Arsenal have rarely appeared well suited," warns Winter. "If they are to get a positive result tonight, then they will have to play with a defensive resolve that spreads throughout the team - not just relying on Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny to stick a foot or a head in the way but looking to Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and others to defend from the front. An away goal would come in handy, too."

There are several things the Gunners must do to achieve their goal, say JJ Bull and Charlie Eccleshare in the Daily Telegraph, including keeping all 11 players on the pitch, concentrating for the whole 90 minutes and remembering it is a two-legged tie.

"If Arsenal could stop shooting themselves in the foot during first legs of crucial European knock-out ties, they would stop wanting to shoot themselves in the head after the second," they warn.

Bayern Munich will test the true mettle of Wenger's Arsenal 

14 February

Arsenal face Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday with Arsene Wenger set to name reserve David Ospina and under-fire midfielder Mesut Ozil – who has developed a habit of disappearing on the biggest stage – in his side, despite the huge importance of the match.

Victory against Hull at the weekend ended a run of two consecutive defeats for the Gunners. With another Premier League title challenge now over, questions are being asked about Wenger's long-term future as manager. It's widely expected that Arsenal's performance against Bayern will be critical as Wenger considers his options. Much will be read into his team selection.

"Ospina was keen on leaving Arsenal last summer but Wenger convinced him to stay on the basis he would play a more active role this season," reports the London Evening Standard, which says Petr Cech's indifferent form in the league has made the decision easier for Wenger. "Dropping Ospina for a game of this magnitude would raise serious questions about his future at the club."

Wenger will face the press on Tuesday evening and is expected to "respond to speculation that Mesut Ozil’s place in the team is at risk after admitting the club's record signing is low on confidence", says the paper.

There are rumours that Ozil has become a divisive figure at the Emirates, reports the Daily Mail. The German "has always been a private individual but his distance from other players has been accepted because of his quality on the field", says the paper. But as his influence has waned "players finding opportunities harder to come by may feel aggrieved. Some suspect that Ozil is exempt from rotation or being replaced."

Ozil's favoured status at the Emirates sums up the problems facing Arsenal as they "step into the blinding light of a club who have mercilessly shown the Gunners how far they are behind the great powers of Europe", says Paul Hayward of the Daily Telegraph.

Much of the recent criticism of Wenger as manager has centred on the question of discipline, says Hayward. 

"Uniquely among modern managers, Wenger operates without serious sanctions for players who let him down," he argues. "Arsenal is a world without punishment. Whether deliberately or by osmosis, too many of Wenger's players have hidden behind his goodwill, his faith in them. His most trenchant critics will say that this is precisely Wenger's fault and responsibility: the best reason to end it all with a hug in May."


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