Having failed to make it beyond the last 16 of the Champions League for the last six years, Arsenal fans breathed a slight sigh of relief after finishing ahead of Paris Saint-Germain in Group A to ensure they were seeded in the draw for the next round. While topping their group was meant to earn the Gunners a more winnable tie in the last-16, there were a couple of teams Arsene Wenger would have definitely wanted to avoid. One of those was Bayern Munich. So, somewhat inevitably, Arsenal found themselves drawing the Bundesliga champions and will now do battle over two legs for a place in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Despite the initial feeling of what-if from Arsenal fans following the draw, there has been a growing belief that the club have a great chance of ending their recent last-16 disappointments when their European adventure resumes in February. With everything going very well both domestically and in Europe this season, the prospect of facing the likes of Bayern isn’t as daunting as it has been in recent years. Unbeaten in the Champions League so far and currently as short as 7/1 to win the title with the latest Premier League odds, Wenger’s men won’t fear anyone at the moment, especially if they can add a couple of new faces in January.
Bayern, meanwhile, have looked distinctly average at times in the Champions League this year, losing to Atletico Madrid and Rostov on their way to finishing second in Group D. Still yet to truly settle under new manager Carlo Ancelotti this season, the German giants aren’t as intimidating as they were under Pep Guardiola. That said, if you were judging this last-16 clash based on recent meetings between the two clubs, Bayern will feel confident as they prepare to meet their English rivals yet again – something their Italian manager has revealed he is. The five-time European champions knocked the Gunners out of the Champions League in 2005, 2013 and 2014 – two of those defeats coming at this same stage of the tournament.
What Bayern don’t have, though, is two players performing at quite the same level as Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez currently are. It’s a widely held belief that any team looking to win a major title needs to have at least two genuine world class players in it. Based on this season’s form, it’s hard to deny that Arsenal aren’t currently blessed with two players who are, if not truly world class in the eyes of everyone, undeniably producing world class performances this season.
As long as the Gunners can keep Ozil and Sanchez injury-free over the festive period and into the new year, there is nothing to stop them from securing a place in the quarter finals for the first time since the 2009/10 season. If they can indeed overcome this physical and mental obstacle when they face Bayern, Arsenal would rightly feel as though there would be nothing stopping them from really making a run towards the final.
Do Arsenal have more chance of winning the Champions League than the Premier League this season?