Win £1,000 with Camelot. See this week's Ham & High

on sale 15th October

Why Arsenal boss must sacrifice Munich dream and focus on FA Cup

12:16 03 March 2014

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain challenges Bayern

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain challenges Bayern's Philipp Lahm


Arsene Wenger will no doubt be exhorting his troops to believe they can achieve the impossible again when they head to Bavaria next week.

Arsenal, of course, were trailing by two goals after the first leg of their Champions League tie with Bayern Munich a year ago – and gave the Germans an almighty scare by winning 2-0 in the Allianz Arena.

The fact that the Gunners still departed the competition on away goals, while Bayern went on to achieve European supremacy, is perhaps often overshadowed by their heroic effort in that second leg, restoring honour and going down in a blaze of glory.

This time, there are compelling grounds to think that a repeat scenario might yet be possible.

Arsenal’s impressive, high-tempo performance until they lost goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny to a red card just before half-time, for instance, offers cause for optimism.

Then there is the fact that the Gunners have already triumphed away to last season’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund – and also that Bayern lost at home to English opposition, Manchester City, in the group stage.

On the other hand, it is impossible to ignore the extent to which Bayern dominated the second half at the Emirates as Philipp Lahm, Toni Kroos, Mario Gotze and Rafinha stroked the ball around with ease, albeit against 10 men.

Even if Wenger can seriously envisage lightning striking twice, it must be a struggle for even the most optimistic Arsenal supporter to do so.

The question the Frenchman must now ponder is how best to approach the second leg on March 11, given that it comes just three days after Everton visit the Emirates in the last eight of the FA Cup.

Wenger fielded a weakened side in the last round against Liverpool and was perhaps fortunate to get away with that gamble. But surely it would be asking for trouble to repeat the tactic against their neighbours.

One of Wenger’s predecessors as Arsenal manager, George Graham, has made it clear that he favours resting players for the Bayern tie ahead of a testing league schedule that pits the Gunners against Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City in quick succession.

Graham told the BBC: “One of the questions facing Arsene is whether they play their best team and try to win the tie, which is near impossible, or concentrate on the league.

“Personally I’d play a weakened team because I think the second half of the first leg was like a practice match for Bayern.

“It took a lot out of Arsenal and they have some very tough games coming up. They need fresh legs and fresh minds and this is one of the big decisions managers have to make.”

Graham is absolutely right and, although he did not allude to the Everton tie, that too must be given greater priority than the trip to Munich.

Whether Wenger likes it or not, the supporters are desperate for a trophy – and most would gladly forgo a Champions League tie that looks lost to maintain their hopes of lifting the FA Cup in May.

The Premier League title would, of course, be a greater prize. But Arsenal have at least made a genuine challenge for the crown this season and that, after failing to do so in recent years, represents progress in itself.

It goes against the grain for Wenger to abandon his dream of conquering Europe for another year. But he needs to do so if Arsenal are to make this season a memorable one.

Latest Sport Stories

Ben Parker scored Belsize Park's first and last tries. Pic: Paolo Minoli

Ben Parker touched down twice as Belsize Park came from behind to earn a third successive victory, triumphing 33-29 away at Grasshoppers and climbing into the top two places in London North-West Division Three.

Yesterday, 18:03
UCS Old Boys' Stefan Filip scored two tries and would have had a hat-trick but for a knock-on. Pic: Nick Cook/UCS Old Boys RFC

Stefan Filip led the way as UCS Old Boys’ pack pushed their team to a third win from their first four games, securing a 26-14 victory away at Royston and a place in the top four spots in Herts/Middlesex Division One.

Yesterday, 16:35
Hendon captain Cian Hynes flicks a pass out to Adam Johnson (left) to set up the first of the winger's three tries. Pic: Paolo Minoli

Hendon’s devastating start to their Herts/Middlesex Division Two campaign continued as the league leaders ran in 14 tries to thrash Chess Valley 84-10 and maintain their perfect record in their opening four league games.

Yesterday, 14:32
Weston-super-Mare goalkeeper Luke Purnell makes a low save and holds on under pressure from Wingate's Ola Sogbanmu (in blue). Pic: Martin Addison

Wingate & Finchley manager Simon Lane feels Saturday’s FA Cup exit was a “missed opportunity” as the Blues lost 3-1 to Weston-super-Mare in the third qualifying round.

Sunday, October 11, 2015
Marta Corredera of Arsenal Ladies

Arsenal Ladies 3 Birmingham City Ladies 1

Thursday, October 8, 2015
Arsenal Ladies' Jordan Nobbs battles with Kathleen Radtke of Manchester City Women (right) during the Gunners' 1-0 win in the Continental Cup

Midfielder Jordan Nobbs is determined to finish her frustrating season on a high by helping the Gunners to regain the Continental Cup.

Thursday, October 8, 2015
The Camden Swiss Cottage squad

Camden Swiss Cottage’s young swimmers competed in their first Southern Junior Inter League Final on Sunday – and they finished fifth to narrowly miss out on a place in the national final.

Thursday, October 8, 2015
The 24 competitors from The Hall and South Hampstead High School pose together after their success at the Hemel Hempstead snow dome

South Hampstead High School and The Hall both took three teams to the Caxton FX 2015 indoor British Independent Schools slalom race at the Hemel Hempstead snow dome.

Most read sport

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot


Angharad Baa Stool in Rare Breed.

Great British Life is offering a sheepskin footstool worth £199 to a lucky reader

Amazon: Everything you want to buy all in one place!

With £1,500 to spend online at Amazon, there’s really nothing you can’t buy.

You'll be stocked up on toiletries  for a while!

Cosmetics, toiletries, vitamins and more.

Digital Edition

Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24

Local business directory

Our trusted business finder