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

12:16 03 March 2014

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain challenges Bayern's Philipp Lahm

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 Hampstead & Highgate Sports News

Yesterday, 17:15

Joyce Esser struck a hat-trick as Hampstead & Westminster Ladies secured their fourth victory in a row in the Women’s Conference East, beating Harleston Magpies 4-1 and leapfrogging their visitors into the top three places.

Yesterday, 16:20

Highgate Harriers’ quartet of runners held off heavyweight opposition to clinch a surprise victory in the Southern Senior Relay Championships at Wormwood Scrubs.

Yesterday, 16:04

Belsize Park remain second in the London Division Two North West table and unbeaten after scoring six tries in a commanding 40-7 victory at Stockwood Park.

Yesterday, 15:56

Middlesex’s title-winning squad gained the royal seal of approval when they were presented with the County Championship trophy at Buckingham Palace.

Yesterday, 12:05

When the board of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust last sat down with Spurs’ hierarchy in September, the subject of domestic silverware came up.

Tue, 15:33

Paddington’s Tin-Tin Ho came agonisingly close to one of the biggest victories of her career before bowing out of the European Championships in Budapest.

Tue, 13:57

Jared Robinson scored Haringey’s seventh and final try in his last game for the club as the Rhinos halted West London’s winning start to the season and jumped into second place in the Herts/Middlesex Division Two table.

Tue, 12:33

Spurs Ladies’ latest hat-trick hero Wendy Martin says the Lilywhites are benefiting from the focus they have put on their attacking play and finishing after they took their remarkable tally to 26 goals in three games.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Most read Hampstead & Highgate sport


Show Job Lists

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


Cosmetics, toiletries, vitamins and more. Boots is the number one choice when it comes to purchasing daily essentials.

If you’re obsessed with Apple or just love a good gadget, this is a prize that will blow you away! An incredible £3,333 to spend on Apple goodies! How would you like to be the proud new owner of the Apple Watch?

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now