Arsenal facing their biggest test against brilliant Bayern
Arsene Wenger has been calling this month’s crucial run of games – Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League – Arsenal’s ‘Olympics’, a time when they have to stand and deliver or else face yet an even longer wait for something shiny to hang around their necks.
Well, tomorrow they welcome the European Gold Medallists Bayern Munich to the Emirates and Coral don’t rate the Gunners’ chances very highly – it’s 4/1 a home win, 8/11 an away win and 14/5 the draw. They also go 100/30 Arsenal to get through to the quarter-finals, 1/5 Bayern.
Realistically, Arsenal’s best chance of winning a trophy this season is the FA Cup (3/1). They are still fighting it out at the top of the Premier League, but there are some extremely tough fixtures to negotiate before Easter.
Rather than actually winning the title (9/1), in the end they might just be grateful to hold off North London rivals Spurs, Manchester United and Everton and qualify for next season’s Champions League (2/9).
But winning the coveted European competition is without doubt their most difficult quest. Coral’s odds of 40/1 would be slashed if they could knock out Bayern, but it’s a very big if, whichever way you look at it.
Arsenal were the ‘Invincibles’ in 2004, as part of a 49-game unbeaten run and Bayern are now enjoying a similarly impressive sequence – 40 wins and six draws in their last 46 Bundesliga matches.
Another league title is already a formality and under former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, they remain the team to beat in Europe as well. Coral make them 9/4 to win the Champions League again and the only doubt anybody seems to have about them is that they might become guilty of taking their success for granted.
It’s a year to the day since Bayern beat Arsenal 3-1 at the Emirates at the same stage of the competition and it would be no great surprise if this ended the same way (12/1).
Arsenal actually had more of the possession that night, but were outclassed where it mattered. A lackadaisical Bayern almost paid the price in the second leg, but overall the Germans looked a cut above and then just got better and better as the tournament progressed.
If Arsenal are to cause an upset they are going to have to play to their very best and that means a better contribution from record signing Mesut Ozil than we have seen in recent weeks.
Another fine display from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, preferably with a goal thrown in (9/2 at any time, 14/1 first or last), wouldn’t go amiss either.
If you believe Arsenal can edge it, Coral are going 16/1 for a 2-1 scoreline, but bearing in mind what happened last year, a draw wouldn’t be the end of the world and I fancy it might finish 1-1 (6/1).