If Arsenal fail to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League at the expense of Bayern Munich it will ensure that they will finish without a trophy for the eighth successive campaign.
Arsene Wenger has it all to do against Bayern, who are cruising to the Bundesliga title having opened up a 15 point lead over defending champions Borussia Dortmund. Bayern have been formidable this season and have actually been stronger away from home than at the Allianz Arena. From 11 away league games they have won ten, drawn one and in that time have conceded just once.
The Gunners lost to Championship side Blackburn on the weekend in the FA Cup fifth round where they failed to score at the Emirates.
Manchester United welcome Arsenal to Old Trafford on Sunday and if the game is anything like last Sunday’s, then we’re in for a cracker. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side edged a controversial 3-2 thriller in West London and once again United’s attacking talent bailed the side out.
Arsenal were involved in a 7-5 win at Reading during the week that left Arsene Wenger a little greyer. Having gone 4-0 down, Theo Walcott inspired a comeback to force extra-time where another four goals were scored. The defending in the opening 45 minutes was Sunday league quality, as has some of United’s during the opening part of the campaign. United have conceded ten goals in their past four outings to suggest the floodgates could open once again on Saturday lunchtime.
Football fans will likely recall that there were ten goals scored in the Gunners’ most recent trip to Old Trafford, while there were three in the corresponding fixture.
There’s so much good sport on over the weekend that it’s hard to know which way to look. As the Six Nations gathers pace, the Premier League returns and one game stands out in particular - Arsenal versus Tottenham.
A 4-0 defeat at the San Siro and a 2-0 loss at Sunderland means the Gunners look set to finish a seventh consecutive season without a trophy. As it stands the Gunners occupy the final Champions League place, but they’ll need to make vast improvements if they’re to hold on to it.
Spurs slipped up at the weekend in the FA Cup following a goalless draw with Stevenage, but with no European commitments – a home replay isn’t the end of the world. North London derbies have produced some superb games down the years and the last meeting at the Emirates certainly fell in that category. Spurs fought back from 2-0 down at half-time to win 3-2 on their last visit to Arsenal and Harry Redknapp’s 2-1 victory earlier in the campaign was the third successive game without defeat against their rivals.
With two attack-minded sides it’s no surprise to find that goals have been a feature of North London derbies. The past six Arsenal v Tottenham matches have all seen at least three goals and the average total during that time is 4.2.
Arsenal’s defensive frailties were highlighted once again in Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Man Utd and it stretched the Gunners’ run without a clean sheet to three league games. The Gunners lost their third consecutive game in the league on Sunday and the two they conceded to the Red Devils took the total to seven in four games.
Arsene Wenger now must prepare for Aston Villa’s visit on Sunday and the clubs are battling for a place in the fifth round of the FA Cup. The Gunners’ recent defensive efforts may draw total goal buyers into the game, especially looking at the recent Villa fixtures. The past three Villa v Arsenal games have all produced at least three goals and the average total across those games stands at four per game.
Further support for total goal buyers is that Villa were involved in a 3-2 thriller against Wolves at the weekend and their third round win over Bristol Rovers ended 4-1.
Arsenal face Udinese in their Champions League qualifier without Cesc Fabregas, who after months of speculation has returned to Barcelona. It’s been a tough old summer for the Gunners, with Samir Nasri also on the verge of leaving North London.
Matters will not be made any easier with the absence of top scorer Robin van Persie for the first leg, who will miss the clash because of a suspension.
The Italians also know how it feels to lose a star talisman to the Catalan giants after Alexis Sanchez decided to head to Spain during the summer. It’s not all doom and gloom around the Emirates though as the Gunners have an excellent home record in Europe. The last ten Champions League home fixtures have produced nine wins and a draw for the Gunners.
Further encouragement to fans heading to the Emirates is that Udinese in contrast do not travel well. The Italians have lost three of their past four away European outings and have drawn the other. Further concern for Udinese supporters is that Arsenal have averaged 3.4 goals in their last ten home Champions League matches.