Stiff test for Wenger's walking wounded
Gunners boss needs to get the best of his wafer-thin squad
ARSENAL v DINAMO ZAGREB
(Tomorrow, 3.40am, Singtel TV Ch 112 & StarHub TV Ch 212)
Once again, the annual injury crisis has descended on the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal will take on Champions League opponents Dinamo Zagreb tomorrow morning (Singapore time) with half of their army on crutches.
With up to eight first-team players - Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Francis Coquelin, Danny Welbeck, Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey - missing the clash, the sense of doom is eating into their psyche.
The contest will be more than a match of 11 versus 11 on a football pitch.
It will also be played in their heads.
If Arsenal are to get somewhere with arguably their most impressive side since The Invincibles, this is a litmus test they must pass.
Mesut Oezil, Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez can be counted on to supply the finesse.
A convincing performance, against the backdrop of grimness, will provide the belief.
The injury curse couldn't have hit them at a worse time.
They need two wins from their final two group games, and even that may not be enough.
Bayern are virtually through to the next round.
Should Olympiakos pick up just one point out of a possible six, the Gunners will kiss goodbye to their Champions League dream.
A remarkable record of progressing from the Champions League group stages for 16 years in a row is hanging by a thread.
Morale is down in the pits too, following the missed chance to go top of the English Premier League over the weekend - they lost 2-1 to West Bromwich Albion instead.
Even luck has deserted them.
Mikel Arteta's own goal against the Baggies handed the opponents the lead.
They then blew their chance of salvaging a draw when Santi Cazorla slipped as he struck his late penalty.
Manager Arsene Wenger called this a "difficult moment".
Sympathy for Arsenal, though, is not universal.
Some, for example Dutch fitness coach Raymond Verheijen, a fierce critic of Wenger, feels that the manager must shoulder the bulk of the blame for their predicament.
The former Wales assistant manager has long claimed that Wenger's failure to work his training programme around the principles of periodisation - the systematic planning of physical training - is the reason for Arsenal's chronic injury woes.
Others criticise Wenger for not beefing up his squad amply to cope with a situation many see as almost inevitable by now.
The unavailability of defensive midfielder Coquelin, who hurt his knee ligaments in the last game, is perhaps the biggest blow.
A vital cog in their engine, the Frenchman provides the tenacity and assuredness in the middle of the park to balance a team loaded with attacking talents.
At the Hawthorns, his withdrawal in the 14th minute sparked a rapid decline in the stability of the Arsenal backline.
Mathieu Flamini is the natural replacement but, with just one Premiership and two League Cup starts under his belt this term, he doesn't inspire confidence.
The injuries to Walcott and Welbeck have left the Gunners with Olivier Giroud as the only option left in the strikers' department.
But they have no time to dwell on their misfortunes.
Their desire will be questioned, and their fortitude will be stretched.
In the face of adversity, Arsenal have the chance to find out what they are really made of.
- Arsenal v Dinamo Zagreb
- Bayern Munich v Olympiakos