Exclusive: ex-Arsenal star gives his verdict on Gunners’ chances against Bayern Munich

Tony Woodcock (left) after Nottingham Forest's first European Cup triumph against Malmo in 1979

Tony Woodcock (left) after Nottingham Forest's first European Cup triumph against Malmo in 1979 - Credit: Archant

Former Gunner Tony Woodcock claims there is nothing to choose between the Premier League and the Bundesliga as Arsenal prepare for their crunch European clash with Bayern Munich.

Woodcock played 131 times for Arsenal between 1982 and 1986, plundering 56 goals.

Straddling either side of his spell at Highbury – which made him a fans’ favourite during those barren 80s years – were spells at Cologne, where Woodcock became a household name in Germany.

He remins a popular figure on the German football scene, so few are better placed to offer informed comment on Arsenal’s do-or-die clash.

A win over Pep Guardiola’s star-studded side on Tuesday can give Arsenal renewed hope of making the Champions League last 16.

Defeat – a third on the spin in Group F – will leave Arsene Wenger’s side staring at the ignominy of Europa League football. Or, worse still, no European competition at all after Christmas.

Lame defeats at Dinamo Zagreb and, most shockingly, at home to Greek strugglers Olympiakos have left the Gunners teetering – and Woodcock isn’t hopeful about their chances.

Most Read

“People over here [in England] see Bayern dominating and think the Bundesliga is a one-team league. It isn’t,” said Woodcock ahead of the Emirates clash.

“There is real quality below them and, for me, there is little – if anything – to choose between the Premier League and the German top flight.

“The reality is there are several quality sides below them too. It is a very good league, with big crowds, great stadiums and good finances – it is all there.

“And with Bayern being such a fantastic team – one of the three or four best in Europe – they are going to be the best side in Germany, and Arsenal know just how good they are.”

Woodcock says keeping a clean sheet is a prerequisite if Arsenal are to finally get the better of the German champions.

“It is a must,” he said. “We all know what Arsenal can do on an attacking front – but that is not the problem. Concentrating at the back, keeping clean sheets, not giving your strikers extra work by asking them to get three or four goals, is what will ultimately win them the game.”

But the ex-England striker – who turns 60 in December – says that does not mean the Gunners have to play defensive football.

“I have two European Cup-winning medals from my time with Nottingham Forest, but we were not a defensive side,” explains Woodcock.

He attended a special screening of the new film – entitled ‘I Believe In Miracles’ – which looks back on Brian Clough’s side’s incredible achievement, at Forest’s City Ground recently.

“The philosophy was to go out and score goals – but it was that great defence and the clean sheets they kept that, ultimately, won us those two trophies,” added Woodcock.

“With Peter Shilton in goal, we seldom let in unnecessary goals, and that is what Arsenal have to start doing.

“Yes, we know how good they are at scoring goals. But it’s the boys at the back who have to do their bit if they are to finally beat them.

“Bayern are a superb team with few weaknesses. It will be a very tough game for Arsenal – and they simply have to come good.

“Arsenal can do it, of course. They are an excellent side too – but a lot of things have to go their way to make it happen.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter