Two weeks on from getting their Champions League campaign back on track, Arsenal will be back under pressure when they face what has become a familiar trip to Bayern Munich. With their hopes of a place in the last 16 for a 15th straight season hanging by a thread after two defeats, Arsenal produced a superb 2-0 victory over the German champions at the Emirates Stadium. Yet they remain in third place in Group F and needing a positive result on Wednesday to avoid relying heavily on other results to go their way in order to stay alive in the Champions League into the new year.
Still, there are plenty of encouraging signs for Arsenal. The surroundings certainly won’t be new to the London club, with this being the third time they will make the trip to the Allianz Arena in the last four seasons. And, while their previous two visits ultimately ended in disappointment as they crashed out in the Round of 16, Arsenal managed to come away with a victory and a draw on the night in Munich.
Adding to Arsenal’s confidence should be their recent form. Excluding a second-string’s Capital One Cup defeat at Sheffield Wednesday last week, Arsenal have now won five games on the bounce, and sit level on points with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League. There appears real belief that this could be the season to end more than a decade of disappointment.
Even the annual reappearance of an injury crisis couldn’t stand in Arsenal’s way on Saturday. Missing Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and Danny Welbeck, Arsenal’s options on the right side were severely limited against Swansea. Yet, in stepped Joel Campbell for his first Premier League start, more than four years after signing for the club, to score his first goal in an Arsenal shirt and cap a fine individual performance in a 3-0 win.
Bigger tests lie in wait, not least on Wednesday, for Campbell and an Arsenal squad that will be severely depleted for at least the next week, but right now the omens are good.
Bayern Munich, meanwhile, have not been in top form. On Friday, for the first time this season, Pep Guardiola's squad failed to win a Bundesliga match, having been held to a goalless draw away at Eintracht Frankfurt. Coming shortly after Arsenal snapped their perfect record in all competitions, Bayern will be targeting a response in front of their own fans on Wednesday.
“They will be angry I guess,” Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker said, according to Arsenal’s official website. “We are the first team who really challenged them, so they will be on the ball and try to show that they are back and better than us.
“We need to get something out of this game, there is still a bit of pressure and urgency to perform. We need to perform and defend even better.”
Despite the result in Frankfurt, there was some good news for Bayern. Winger Arjen Robben completed 90 minutes for the first time since returning from more than six weeks on the sidelines. With such an array of attacking options now available to Guardiola, midfielder Arturo Vidal has warned not to expect Bayern to remain goal-shy for long.
“We will show Arsenal on Wednesday the true Bayern,” Vidal said after the scoreless result on Friday, according to Bild. "Our confidence is high, we will take our chances and get three points.”
Bayern will go into the game top of Group F, level on six points with Olympiakos. Arsenal and Dinamo Zagreb are three points back.
Prediction: Arsenal have shown that they can trouble Bayern in the past, but on each occasion it was when the Bavarians had reason for complacency. That won’t be the case on Wednesday, especially after the frustration of a not scoring in a Bundesliga match. With so much attacking talent at their disposal, it is difficult to envisage Arsenal being able to hold Bayern at bay as they did at the Emirates. Arsenal can still trouble Bayern on the break, but they will miss the raw pace of Walcott.
Predicted score: Bayern Munich 3-1 Arsenal
D: Lahm, Martínez , Boateng, Alaba
Robben, Müller , Vidal, Costa
D: Bellerin, Mertesakcer, Koscielny, Monreal
M: Cazorla, Coquelin
Campbell, Özil , Sánchez