20 October 2015

Bayern are little more than flat-track bullies. What happens when Arsenal say "boo"?

What's there to say other than that our Champions League campaign crashed and burned before it even left the hangar? A disappointing trip to Zagreb was followed by an astonishing loss at home; meanwhile, Bayern thrashed those same two by a combined 8-0 scoreline. We now sit at the bottom of Group F, peering up meekly at Bayern, who, just two matches in, look to have booked a spot in the knockout stage already. Another three points or so should be enough to see them through. Will they claim these points on Tuesday at the Emirates? It wouldn't be the first time we suffer an indignity at the hands of the Bavarian barbarians. Our hopes of advancing hang by a thread (if only we could suffer the sword of Damocles...). Perhaps it's best then that we let Bayern have their way with us while we abandon all hope. Bollocks.

If anything, Bayern come in knowing that they have everything to lose and little, if anything, to gain. Win, and this conforms to the established narrative: Arsenal are in disarray in the Champions League. Yawn. Draw or—heavens forfend—lose, and all bets are off. Arsenal are resurgent. Bayern are little more than flat-track bullies who go to pieces any time anyone says "boo". We've done it before. We can do it again.

Without asserting any false equivalencies, we thrashed Leicester and then did a number on Man U despite their financial ecklessness. We follow that sequence with a similar, perhaps parallel one, thrashing Watford before hosting Bayern. Despite our misadventures in the previous two Group Stage fixtures, there's a certain swash-buckling edge to our recent performances that we'd lacked. Up until the League Cup derby against Tottenham, we looked out of sorts. We couldn't score. After scoring just six in 630 minutes (less than one per match), we've since exploded for 15 goals in 450 minutes (three goals per match). Alexis and Walcott have been particularly dynamic, combining for nine goals and four assists in their last four matches together. Add in Mesut Özil's goal and three assists in his last two outings and Aaron Ramsey's first goal since May, and we're starting to look a bit more in-form than we had to start the season. I daresey we have enough in us to at least make this one interesting.

I accused Bayern of being flat-track bullies. There's something in that to exploit. Much as they've done to us in the past, I suggest we play some keep-away and slow the game down. The pressure's all on them to prove that their demolitions of Dinamo and Olympiacos, and that their +25 goal-difference in the Bundesliga, is something significant. The longer it takes them to score against Arsenal, the louder the second-guessing will get. It's one thing to thrash Borussia Dortmund 5-1 after poaching Gotze and Lewandowski from them; it's quite another to achieve something similar against an in-form club that hasn't been similarly raided in recent years.

If you look at the Group F results, it does indeed look dire for Arsenal. On paper, we depend on Dinamo and Olympiacos drawing each time they face each other while Bayern beat the both of them a second time. This would see them finish on five points. Meanwhile, we would have to find six points from Tuesday, a visit from Dinamo, a trip to Greece, and a trip to Munich. To hell with the history and the standard deviations and all the rest of the arithmetic. I'm not worried about what happens between Dinamo and Olympiacos or about all the various permutations and algorithms that follow. All I'm concerned with is smashing Bayern square in the jaw. That, and watching Robben flop around like an electrified fish out of water.

I like us when we have our backs against the wall. We've turned in some stirring performances when we've had to fight and claw and scratch, when all others have counted us out. We have it in us to hit these bastards hard enough to knock a few fillings loose. That's all I'm saying.