Arsenal head to Germany with the footballing equivalent of Mount Everest to climb as they try to overturn a 3-1 deficit to Bayern Munich, but of more pressing concern will be the realisation that this could be the last Champions League away trip for some considerable time for a club that has worn their participation in the competition like a badge of honour.
Arsenal fans travelling to the Allianz might be thinking to themselves they had better make the most of the trip, because the way things are looking it might be a while before they are clashing with Europe’s elite. Sitting in fifth place in the Premier League, the Gunners don’t look like a side who are about to gatecrash the top four (although with Chelsea imploding and Tottenham always likely to, they may yet get there by default) and a 16th consecutive year of Champions League football is in grave doubt.
At various points this year either a lack of cutting edge, a brittle defence or a lack of character have done for Arsene Wenger’s side and it is going to cost them come the end of the season.
And their chances of ‘doing a Chelsea’ – fluking their way to winning the Champions League to qualify for the competition the following season – were remote even before Bayern went to the Emirates three weeks ago and came away with as comprehensive a 3-1 as you could see at this level. After that result, those chances are non-existent and Arsenal’s trip to face the runaway Bundesliga leaders is a futile one, especially as only twice have a side lost a home first-leg in a Champions League tie and gone through.
Needing to score three goals to have any chance of progression, even Wenger has all but conceded the tie and I am not tempted at all by the 13/2 on an away win (especially with Jack Wilshire injured), or the 4/1 on the draw. Bayern are winning this again, and the secret is getting some more value on the 9/25.
It is always a bit dangerous backing a side that don’t need to win – Bayern can even afford to get beat – but I don’t see any complacency in this Munich outfit and the gap in quality between the sides is actually a chasm.
That was all too evident at the Emirates when Jupp Heynckes’ side won with ease, and I see no reason to think they won’t do so again. Munich are 20 points clear domestically and have an incredible record at the Allianz in Europe, winning 17 of their last 18 games on home soil against European opposition.
There have been plenty goals in Munich’s home games this year – an average of 3.69 – and the 83/100 that Bayern win a match that sees over 2.5 goals looks good to me.
Arsenal just aren’t playing well enough to keep Bayern out. The Gunners have lost three of their last four and are coming off the back of a damaging and demoralising loss to Tottenham in the north London derby at White Hart Lane. It is indicative of their away form: Wenger’s side have won just four of their last 14 matches on the road, and their record away in Europe is just as poor.
Again, Arsenal have won just four of their last 16 away games in the Champions League, losing nine, and it is impossible to make a case for them at the Allianz. They have let in 30 goals in those games, and this classy Munich side can make them pay.