I was there in 2013, when Arsenal went to Munich, sitting 3-1 down, in the hope of doing the impossible. In 2013, the impossible proved just that, impossible. However, Arsenal’s 2-0 victory, the first by an English team to beat Bayern in Germany, should give us a glimmer of hope.
In 2013, fans travelling to Munich were preparing themselves for a hiding to nothing. As I met the lads at 4am for a cab to Heathrow, before getting on the first flight out to Stuttgart, followed by a train into Munich, there was very little to be optimistic about. 12 hours later, and with no hotel and in the freezing Munich night, we were in a 24-hour bar celebrating. Not celebrating going through, but celebrating a victory. We were proud. Less then 24 hours after arriving back in the UK, we were on a train to Swansea. The Wray & Nephew’s rum flowing at 10am in the morning, as we went on a run which saw us close the gap on Spurs and shove those famous words from Andre Villas-Boas about negative spirals down his throat.
The 2-0 victory in the Allianz Arena was a spring board. Not just a springboard for the rest of the 2012/13 season, but a springboard that saw us lead for a long time this season before recently falling away. The 2-0 victory made many of our players realise how good they were, that they not only belonged amongst the elite in England, but also the elite in Europe.
And now we sit, nearly 1 year to do the day, needing to go to Bayern Munich once more and win. And we can do it. We have proved we can do it. The scenario is slightly different this year. In 2013, a 2-0 victory saw us go out on away goals. This year, a 2-0 victory will see it go to penalties.
Arsenal are better now then they were in 2013. Mesut Ozil and Mathieu Flamini have improved us immensely. Giroud, Mertesacker, Koscielny and others are vastly improved. We are going to Germany as a better side. Yes, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere will be a miss, but we have the talent to win.
As for Munich, it is fairly unclear as to whether Pep Guardiola has improved them. Mario Gotze and Thiago have come in, however they have not really improved the starting 11 of Munich, who already had the likes of Kroos, Muller, Robben & Ribery as creative forces.
They might be top of the Bundesliga, unbeaten, having won 22 and drawn 2, but this is more indicative of how poor the German league is. It is fast becoming a 1 team league, a bit like the Scottish Premier League, as Bayern Munich, the only German club with money, sweep up any decent player from their opponents. They vastly weakened Borussia Dortmund last year by signing Gotze, and are due to add Robert Lewandowski this. Add there interest in Julian Draxler, the Bundesliga is going to fast become the most predictable in Europe. So who really knows how good this side are?
The only real challenges they have faced this year are in the Champions League. And in reality, it is only 3 games in which they have been challenged. At home to Manchester City (Where they lost) and away to Arsenal and Manchester City (where they won both). Impressive at the Eastlands, Manchester City came back from 2 down to win 3-2 in Germany. And against us, the game was level up until Szczesny was correctly sent off. So it is fairly inconclusive as to whether the German’s have taken a step forward.
If you are going to Germany tomorrow. Go with optimism. Go with hope. And back the boys in Red and White. Last year Arsenal became the first English team to beat Bayern Munich in Germany. This season, let us become the first English team to beat Bayern Munich in Germany twice.