Beating Bayern Munich is not mission impossible, says Arsenal boss Wenger
PUBLISHED: 19:15 12 March 2013 | UPDATED: 07:56 13 March 2013
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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has challenged his players to produce a performance which will define their careers and knock Bayern Munich out of the Champions League against the odds tomorrow night.
The runaway Bundesliga leaders look all set to take their place in the quarter-finals having delivered a European masterclass in their 3-1 victory in north London three weeks ago.
Bayern’s home defensive record is formidable and have not conceded three since losing to Inter Milan two years ago, while this season they have let in only 10 goals in 25 Bundesliga matches.
Despite his side having travelled to Bavaria without injured England midfielder Jack Wilshere, set for around three weeks out because of an ankle problem, and first-choice goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny rested, Wenger insists now is the perfect moment for his team to return all his belief with what would go down as one of the greatest European comebacks.
“I am convinced that if this team can find a big game, with a big win, you will see a completely different animal. This season we have fought to find that in the big games and we have another opportunity tomorrow night and I hope the team takes this chance,” Wenger said at the Allianz Arena tonight.
“I have a great respect for this team and its attitude and they have not been rewarded yet. It is important for the end to our season that we do it tomorrow.”
Despite everything seemingly stacked against them, Wenger insists it is not a case of Mission: Impossible.
He said: “It is a difficult task, we know that, but we think it is not impossible.
“The only way to make it possible is to have a real go and play at our best tomorrow night, that is what we will do.
“I am confident we will be completely focused and up for it, and give it our best shot.
“Football is football - everything is possible.”
Wilshere’s ankle problem will also rule him out of England’s World Cup qualifying double-header against San Marino and Montenegro.
Wenger said: “It is a big blow for us, of course, but he was out for 17 months and we had to deal with it, so three weeks compared to that is something that we can deal with.”
Wenger, though, refused to be drawn on exactly why he decided to leave Szczesny in London, and is likely to hand a first start in more than a year to Lukasz Fabianski.
“He has played many games since the start of the season and recently I felt that mentally it affected him, that is why I have decided to rest him,” the Gunners boss said.
“[He has been affected] by the number of games he has played. It is his second season only in the Premier League and he has played many games.
“I am always confident before the game that the guy who plays is ready. The players who start our games have no excuse of not being fit or ready. If I decide to play them it is because they are ready.”
Wenger maintains tomorrow night must all be about what his own side can produce and not just down to whether Jupp Heynckes’ well-drilled outfit have a rare off day.
“It is difficult to speculate on any weakness in Bayern. The only way we can do is to focus on Bayern being at their best,” Wenger said.
“The fact they dominate the [German] championship so much gives everybody a bit more mental strength and the whole team a bit more charisma, the doubt is not there at all.
“But for us the target will be to get some doubt in their minds and that can only come with a quality game.”
If Arsenal are to pull off a shock victory, and score at least three away goals, then a solid defensive display will be key.
The Gunners have been far from efficient at the back lately, but captain Thomas Vermaelen insists that can soon change.
“We are working on that every day of the week and tomorrow it will be a test again, not only for the defence but for all the team. We will try to do our best,” the Belgian said.
“The manager gives us confidence and belief and that is why we want to give him something back.”