Arsenal need to outlast Bayern, says Neil Humphreys
Gunners need more than 15-min bursts or on-form Bayern will batter them
ARSENAL v BAYERN MUNICH
(Tomorrow, 2.40am, Singtel TV Ch 112 & StarHub TV Ch 212)
Arsenal's football is a couple of teenagers fumbling around at Mount Faber.
It's a heady mix, a dazzling blur of athletic lithe figures, moving quickly, rhythmically and relentlessly towards a glorious, shared goal.
And it's all over in 15 minutes.
The climax is euphoric, but all too brief, underlining an immature performance, as if the Gunners are going through football puberty.
In other words, they need to grow up quickly tomorrow morning (Singapore time) or Bayern Munich will batter them at the Emirates.
When paired with similarly immature parties in the English Premier League, such as Manchester United or Watford, Arsenal can overcompensate for their shortcomings.
They can sparkle in short spells to deliver against less competent opposition.
Sudden, explosive bursts of invention confused Watford and devastated United's pedestrian midfield.
After two Premier League games, two comfortable victories, six goals scored and none considered, the Gunners appear locked and loaded for the Bavarians.
But Pep Guardiola would have paid more attention not to the size of the victories, but their execution.
Arsenal produced half an hour of scintillating football across two games. For the opening 20 minutes against United and 12 second-half minutes at Watford, the effervescent Gunners produced champagne stuff.
Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Oezil, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott combined to kill off the game with quick, lethal injections of practically perfect football.
But it's not enough to beat Bayern.
If the artistry was often breathtaking, the attention to detail left plenty to be desired. Arsenal's concentration wandered in both games.
They handed possession and the initiative to a scarcely deserving Watford for long periods and allowed United to creep back into a game that was beyond them after 20 minutes.
In some ways, the victories hinted at the best and worst of Arsenal and why they infuriate more often than they inspire. They drift away from their own dominance and open themselves up to enterprising counter-attackers.
United and Watford failed to profit, but Olympiakos and Dinamo Zagreb certainly did as the Gunners again pulled off their European party trick of pulling defeats from the jaws of victory.
Arsenal had chances in both Group F encounters to prevail, but came away pointless, demoralised.
Tomorrow morning, they face a team of juggernauts who are not so much running over opponents as they are obliterating them.
Bayern have won 12 out of 13 games. In their last 11 fixtures, they have racked up rugby scores, knocking in 37 and conceding just four.
A hypnotising Robert Lewandowski has convinced defenders they are training cones, spinning away from human statues to score 16 times in 12 games.
Like an experienced lothario watching the back-seat antics of a couple of kids, Bayern will not fear Arsenal's frenetic bursts of ingenuity. They will see gaps. They will not spurn the numerous chances missed by Watford.
Unlike Walcott, Lewandowski is a true leader of the line; a No. 9 throwback so untypical of the modern game it's a wonder he doesn't head brown leather balls and wear a handlebar moustache.
Sanchez and Oezil make up for Walcott's inconsistency, but all three are hardly renowned for their retreating.
When the fizzy football dissipates, Arsenal can appear flat at the back. Santi Cazorla is often overwhelmed and Francis Coquelin overworked.
In those moments, the Gunners will swiftly discover that Bayern are not handicapped by United's lack of midfield pace or Watford's inexperience. Thomas Mueller, Arturo Vidal and Lewandowski are on hand to inflict the kind of damage that sustained counter-attacking can really do.
Wenger claimed the Watford win was an ideal tune-up before facing Guardiola's streamlined predators, but any confidence boost belonged to Bayern.
Arsenal are heavy on the artists and light on the automatons, peaking quickly and tiring early.
Whenever their attacking quartet embarks on another penalty box expedition, they can neglect the gaps if the move breaks down. Without support from the front four, the back four are left toiling.
The sparkling stuff gives way to an anti-climactic trudge.
Short bursts won't suffice against Bayern.
The sexy football needs to be sustained or the Gunners will again be the fiddly, clumsy kids on a first date.
And three consecutive defeats will feel like an early Champions League divorce.
BATTLE OF HOT SHOTS
- ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE 6 goals from 8 matches
- CHAMPIONS LEAGUE 1 goal from 2 matches
- INTERNATIONALS (LAST 2 GAMES) 3 goals
Club: Bayern Munich
- BUNDESLIGA 12 goals from 8 matches
- CHAMPIONS LEAGUE 3 goals from 2 matches
- INTERNATIONALS (LAST 2 GAMES) 3 goals
"They looked very stable and this year they look very strong. On their good day, I think they can beat any team and we have to be aware."
— Bayern ‘s injured star Arjen Robben on Arsenal
"We have some quality defenders who are more than capable of taking care of that, and hopefully we can on the night."
— Arsene Wenger on Lewandowski
- BATE Borisov v Barcelona
- Bayer Leverkusen v AS Roma
- Arsenal v Bayern Munich
- Dinamo Zagreb v Olympiakos
- Porto v Maccabi Tel Aviv
- Dynamo Kiev v Chelsea
- Zenit v Lyon
- Valencia v Gent
Wenger: We need to be great
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is confident the Gunners can cause an upset against Bayern Munich and open their Champions League account when the German champions visit the Emirates Stadium tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
Arsenal's hopes of advancing from the group stage of the tournament for a 16th straight season are dangling by a thread after damaging losses to Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos.
If the North London club were to lose again, it would be difficult to see them advancing.
The home side's defence will need to be at their very best to keep Bayern in check with in-form striker Robert Lewandowski, who has scored 22 goals for club and country this season, leading the German side's attack.
Arsenal, however, will be banking on their own red-hot marksman Alexis Sanchez to continue his fine run of form to give them the edge after the Chilean forward took his tally to 10 goals in six matches with a strike against Watford on Saturday.
Wenger believes his team have the right confidence levels after their run of impressive results in the Premier League, including a 3-0 win over Manchester United before the international break and an identical victory over the Hornets.
"It is true that (we have delivered big results) before, but we want to do it again because we feel a bit that the pain inflicted (in the Champions League) was a bit by ourselves," Wenger told the club website (www.arsenal.com).
"Maybe subconsciously we thought 'anyway we will win these (first two games)'," the Frenchman added. "Now to correct that, we need a great performance. The confidence level is there, we know exactly what is required (because) a 0-0 is not even a good result. To score goals, we have to attack."
Wenger confirmed yesterday that goalkeeper David Ospina, who was picked ahead of Petr Cech against Olympiakos and conceded an own goal in the 3-2 defeat, is injured and will not be available.
But he denied that he might leave out Sanchez after a recent heavy schedule. - Reuters.
"The confidence level is there, the required result is there as well, because we know exactly what is needed — a 0-0 is not even a good result. To score goals, we have to attack."
— Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger