Resurgent German is key as Arsenal ready to pay back Bayern for seven years of Champions League pain


Match 7 2017. Ask any Arsenal fan what their memories were of that day and you’d get anything but a positive response. Leading 1-0 on the night in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 against Bayern Munich, a red card to Arsenal centre back Laurent Kosicelny would see the German team score five goals from the 55th minute onwards and win 5-1 at the Emirates Stadium, alongside winning 10-2 on aggregate altogether.

Arsenal would continue to decline, failing to qualify for the Champions League for the following six seasons alongside legend Arsene Wenger leaving the club as manager before Unai Emery was sacked less than two seasons in charge at the North London based club.

With former skipper Mikel Arteta at the helm, the club went through a rocky time but opted to back the Spaniard and are reaping the rewards. The Gunners are currently top of the English Premier League and will face Bayern Munich in their maiden UEFA Champions League quarter final in over 10 years on Wednesday morning AEST.

The Gunners have shown they are ready to tactically outfox opponents by any means, grinding out victories and thrashing teams when needed to boost their goal difference in the English Premier League. Unsurprisingly, Arsenal struggled in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 against FC Porto, as the lack of Champions League experience in a young squad was evident before coming through in a famous penalty shootout victory.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Unlike the past few seasons, Arsenal are not relying on one or two players to score goals. Gabriel Jesus offers flair and great dribbling skills. Leandro Trossard, Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka offer pace, great finishing skills and an uncanny ability to successfully take on defenders despite not boasting many tricks with the ball. And then you have the midfield maestro that is Martin Ødegaard.

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However, it’s former Chelsea Champions League winner Kai Havertz that holds the biggest key to Arsenal. The German inverted left back/ centre midfielder/attacking midfielder/ right winger/striker is a menace when he’s playing up front as a striker. Havertz uses his physicality to perfection as a striker, forcing his opposing centre backs to foul him in the air and concede yellows alongside an amazing off the ball work rate. Add in his hot streak of G/A since March, and the former Leverkusen prodigy will be hell bent on getting the job done up front for Arsenal.

Kai Havertz has never known love like this. He is absolutely idolised at Arsenal Football Club

— Gooner Chris (@ArsenalN7) April 7, 2024

But this clash should not be looked at the lenses of current Arsenal players. After all, two former Arsenal players in Serge Gnabry and Harry Kane return to the Emirates as Bayern Munich players. Gnabry has been vocal of his Arsenal roots, having posted North London is red/London is red on his social media accounts during Bayern Munich’s victories over Tottenham and Chelsea in the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League season. As for former Arsenal youth product Kane, it is a return to the stadium that he has usually been non-existent in bar being a so-called penalty merchant when playing up front for Tottenham in the North London Derby.

Bayern Munich is Arsenal’s blockade to Champions League glory. While none of the Arsenal starters or bench from that 5-1 loss in March 2017 are still in the playing group, Mikel Arteta will remind his Hale End products about that night and use it as motivation to crush the Bavarians in North London. Arsenal are no longer the same as that 2017 team and nor are Bayern Munich anywhere near as dominant as the side that once had Arjen Robben cutting in and scoring for fun. This is Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal. A team full of young hungry men who are desperate to taste success. And they will be hellbent on killing this tie in the first leg in front of 60,000 screaming Arsenal fans in North London, without a Bayern Munich fan in sight.

Arsenal vs Bayern Munich. Champions League quarter finals. Bring. It. On.

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