Last year’s 2-0 win in Munich was only a silver lining. Although the result has since been held up as an example of Arsenal’s potential, it only came after the Gunners had lost to Bayern Munich, 3-1 at home. Thanks to the away goals rule, the moral victory in Germany couldn’t carry Arsenal into the quarterfinals.
With margins so thin, it’s impossible to avoid what ifs. What if Arsenal had played better in the first leg? What if they had been more conservative, willing to play a long game rather than pursue a result at home? What if Arsenal hadn’t dug such a big hole at home?
“We were too nervous at the beginning of the game [against Bayern last season],” Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger said, reflecting on last year’s Round of 16 result (as relayed by The Guardian). “We also wanted to level it too much at 2–1 and we conceded the third through a counter.”
We saw it again today when Barcelona faced Manchester City. Down a goal and a man, the Citizens should have closed up shop and played for another 11-man day. Though they came close to equalizers through David Silva and Edin Dzeko, City ultimately gave up a second crucial away goal, Daniel Alves’s let tally building on Lionel Messi’s penalty conversion after Martín Demichelis’s red card.
“We have spoken about the importance of staying in the game,” Jack Wilshere said. “We have got to be a bit more intelligent this year …”
Against a Bayern team that’s only lost once all season, that’s easier said than done. Though Arsenal may look at last year’s 2-0 in Munich and draw confidence, others see is as an aberration. To them, Bayern’s 3-1 win at the Emirates was a better reflection of the teams’ talents, with the defending European champions again expected to move past Arsenal and into the competition’s quarterfinals.
“It’ll be down to our defending on Wednesday,” Wenger said, hoping to improve on last year’s lopsided leg at the Emirates. “Their main force is going forward. They have five or six players who can create a chance at any moment.”