Tag Archives: bayern

Champions League Failure On Loop

It was back in 2013 that Arsenal Football Club officially made it through the debilitating fog of strict budgets, and could compete with the cream of the Premiership and the rest of Europe. 

Years of auctioning off our prized assets to raise funds like a desperate priest organising raffles to pay for a new Church roof were over. Us Gooners could finally envision a season where the best players we had could actually appear in our shirt again. We could now realise the dream which was behind the building of The Emirates, which was to compete on an even footing with the very best.

A quote from our Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis, given at the tail-end of the 2012-13 season, highlights this very truth. Arsenal were geared towards moving up a level, to transform the promises made into something tangible. 

Ivan Gazidis – We’re very confident with the new deals we’ve got coming through, although we can’t talk about that in any detail. That’s showing really positive progression. We should be able to compete at a level like a club such as Bayern Munich.
“I’m not saying we are there by any means, we have a way to go before we can put ourselves on that level. But this whole journey over the past ten years really has been with that goal in mind which is why I say that this is an extraordinarily ambitious club.


“We get beaten up along the way but I think we are an extraordinarily ambitious club. This has been about putting us up with the best in the world and now the question is turning that platform now into on-field success.”

Since this was said by Gazidis, we have indeed won some silverware – three FA Cups have filled gaps in the trophy cabinet – but in terms of matching the success of Bayern Munich, Arsenal have failed to not only keep up, but it hasn’t even been a race.

It is unfair to compare domestic results between the two clubs, as the Bundesliga represents a far easier challenge for Munich than the Premier League does for Arsenal. It is the results in the Champions League which represents the fairest barometer to judge whether Arsenal have failed to deliver on not only their aims, but what us fans were promised.

Bayern Munich, since 2013, have been crowned winners once, and reached the Semi-Final stage in the last three years. 

By stark contrast, Arsenal have been halted at the Last16 stage four times. 

Ivan Gazidis was correct in one element of his projections, as Arsenal have indeed flexed their newly found financial muscles thanks to the shackles of debt being loosened somewhat. Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi have totalled an outlay of nearly £150million. 

In terms of results on the pitch however, a stagnation has occurred. In the Champions League, Arsenal have flattered to deceive. 

To progress in Europe’s top competition, there are many requirements, and luck is certainly one of them. Luck to garner a plum draw is just one reason why clubs need to broker a deal with a leprechaun in order to have the best chance to proceed to the latter stages.

In that facet, the Gunners have not been dealt the greatest of hands. 

Barcelona twice, AC Milan once and Bayern Munich three times have given Arsenal the most imposing of tasks to break the Last16 hoodoo. The only real chance the Gunners have had in seven years to get to the Quarter-Final has been Monaco, but we failed to capitalise on it. We fell at the same hurdle.

So, we can say the draw has been most unkind, but referring back to what Ivan Gazidis said yet again, the Chief Executive said that we could look forward to being on an even keel with the likes of Bayern – and currently, we look further away from achieivng this than ever.

The recent 10-2 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich has highlighted just how much distance is between Arsenal and the very top of the game. The annual money lists see our club where it has projected itself to be, but in terms of results on the pitch, it has not matched the financial power we now boast of.

It means that Arsenal have failed. The Premier League may be an obtainable prizxe within the next few years, but the Champions League looks to be a mirage on the horizon that we can look on lustfully. 

Arsenal for the last seven years have been felled at the Last16 stage, but it was this years incarnation of Groundhog Day that really spelled out how far we are away from realising the words of Gazidis and the wishes of fans. 

A 10-2 aggregate deficit at the hands of Bayern is not acceptable for any self-respecting ambitious club. 

Arsenal are now not only treading water, but there is a distinct threat of sinking. The proud, ever-present record of Champions League qualification since Wenger has taken charge means a sound financial footing, but what good is a presence in a competition if there is no actual chance of winning it? 

Are we now just making up the numbers? The reaction from Bayern players when drawn against us speaks volumes. 

A club who fail to make good on their promises need to be held to account. Something needs to give. 

Next season gives us a new platform to concentrate our efforts on. No Champions League means we can look to the title first and work our way up. 

Arsenal Vs Bayern Munich – The Preview

This match is exactly what the football doctor ordered. 

After our poor performance at Anfield in the weekend, falling out of the Champions League places and our star player reportedly rowing with the rest of the squad, the visit of German giants Bayern Munich is not the best opportunity for returning to some semblance of form.

The first leg of this Last16 tie saw hope quickly vanish for the Gunners once Laurent Koscielny went off through injury, as within nine minutes of the captain leaving the field, Bayern had scored three goals.

This tie is beyond any realistic hope of rescue, but a win over Ancelotti’s men could restore some pride and some momentum after recent results have ground the cannon to a halt.

Arsenal will more than likely play their strongest side, even if this game could be perceived as a dead rubber. Mesut Ozil has been ruled out again through illness, but what of Alexis Sanchez? Surely, even if the Chilean is at odds with some teammates, Sanchez must play?

Francis Coquelin and Granit Xhaka did not put up a good account of themselves against Liverpool, and with Aaron Ramsey now fit and raring to go, the Welshman must be a good shout for a start. With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also playing well, could we see a wholly different midfield combo? 

Alex Iwobi has been indifferent of late, but with regular playmaker Ozil already confirmed as missing, the man known as ‘Big17’ will more than likely retain his place. Olivier Giroud returned to the side in our last match, but a lack of service did not help the Frenchman in his bid to hold down a spot. Will Arsene again opt for a direct approach?

Danny Welbeck and Lucas Perez have performed admirably in their last appearances, and the England striker and Spaniard must be hoping for a chance. They cannot do much more, although with Welbeck having played only three days ago, Wenger may opt to conserve his fitness.

On the face of things, with our squad so strong in numbers, the odds of rotation and to include hungry players is strong. Perhaps a shake up to remind some players their place isn’t guaranteed is exactly what is needed.

There are no signs Carlo Ancelotti is taking this tie lightly despite already having one foot in the Quarter-Finals. Mats Hummels, Franck Ribery, Xabi Alonso and Arjen Robben were all rested in the weekend and all are expected to feature. 

Arsenal do possess a great record at The Emirates in the Champions League, but the majority of the losses they have incurred have been in the knockout stages. There is a sliver of hope though, as Bayern have won one of their last six away games in the Champions League. 

Slim our hopes may be, but we have beaten them before, and we can do again. We will not progress, that chance was dropped in the first leg, but we can win and remind everyone – including our own players – that we are capable of so much more.

A protest is planned before the game and banners will apparently be displayed during the game. Whether we agree or not with the methods, we have all witnessed a lot of games where we have been sub-par. We are all at our limit, and some display their displeasure in different ways. As long as the team is supported during the game then that is all that matters.

I will be attending the game and you can expect a detailed match report after the match, and I can expect a hoarse voice the next day as I will do what I always do when I go to the game – I will sing and chant until my throat cannot take any more.

Predicted Lineup; Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Theo, Iwobi, Alexis, Giroud.

Predicted Scoreline – Call me crazy, but I’m going for a 2-0 win. 

Welcome To The Premiership Pep

It seems there may just be a little more substance to the claim that the Premiership is the toughest League in Europe after all. 

Pep Guardiola, fresh from constructing what many profess to be the greatest club side in recent memory – Barcelona circa 2009 – and leading Bayern Munich to another inevitable Bundesliga, his arrival at Manchester City was meant to signal the herald of a new era of domination at The Etihad. 

With seemingly bottomless funds to acquire the cream of Europe’s talent, and a manager that had crushed all comers who foolishly stood in his way in Spain, Germany and the rest of the continent, it was the portents of doom for the rest of the Premier League.

No one told them though.

As of this current moment, Manchester City stand not at the zenith of the competition they were supposed to win, but eight points away from the top. 

This sees Pep Guardiola in uncharted territory, as he not only struggles to keep his side’s credentials as title contenders, but also to ensure a vital Champions League spot for next season. The fallout from City not achieving a top four spot should be earth shattering, but the underlying fact of the matter is that this is not the perfect storm that sometimes befalls an unwitting manager. 

It is entirely his own doing.

Pep joining City was the worst kept secret in football, and the club announcing his acquisition during the previous season whilst Manuel Pellegrini was still at the helm was a bad PR exercise and harmful to the team when there was still much to play for.

It did mean that Guardiola could identify targets before he took the wheel at The Etihad, and that would give him ample time to construct a side that could play the style he wanted. The possession-based football which had garnered so much adulation and silverware.

Guardiola utilised City’s powerful chequebook and signed John Stones, Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan, Claudio Bravo and Nolito to the tune of just over £170m. He also felt he had seen enough of England goalkeeper Joe Hart to judge that he was incapable of playing out from the back to a sufficient standard, and loaned Hart to Torino.

The only defensive signing he made was John Stones – for nearly £50m. This was the same Stones who the season before had been left out of the Everton side due to poor form. Stones had only played two full seasons at the top level, so a £50m fee was a bit steep even if Stones had shown glimpses of real potential. 

With City’s backline creaking in Pellegrini’s last season before being replaced by Pep, the new manager’s first error was overlooking the one weakness that could derail his grand plan before he could fully implement it. 

Vincent Kompany, the lynchpin of City’s two title wins, had played less than half of their games in 2015-16. His injuries were totting up and showed no signs of being rectified, so an experienced head in the centre of defence was required to help Stones tow the line. Another centre-back, Eliaquim Mangala, was allowed to leave on loan to Valencia, as defensive troops thinned yet further.

This left Nicolas Otamendi and Stones as their first choice pairing. The aging Pablo Zabaleta was still effective but was far below the level he had set himself previously, and Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna were solid, but also were not at the level they had shown in years gone by. Then there was Aleksander Kolarov, who could take a mean free kick but defensively was not the most watertight in a positional sense.

These were the men who would be charged with providing the solid foundation on which Pep’s mesmerising football would sit on. Then there was Claudio Bravo.

The keeper who had played under Pep at Barca could spark attacks with his passing from his box, and was drafted in as first choice in place of Joe Hart – a tried and tested Premier League keeper who had shared the golden glove award in the season before. 

It is a move which has backfired terribly. Claudio Bravo has looked anything but assured in the frenetic pace of the Premiership, and this change of speed has seen his normally cool dealings with the ball morph into bouts of hot panic amongst the City faithful.

Despite these errors of judgement by Guardiola, it seemed as if the side had enough about them – especially in attack – as by the end of September, they were without loss in the league and sat above their rivals. It led to the media waxing lyrical about the manager and declare an early end to league proceedings, as Guardiola had began in ominous fashion and would surely continue in the same fashion that he had done in Spain and Germany?

Many great football icons and minds have said that it is easy to win when you’re already winning, but getting back on the horse is a far more difficult job once you’ve been dumped unceremoniously on your backside. A true test of mettle would be how Guardiola and his men would deal with a loss. 

The month of October saw City fall to tottenham, draw with Everton, get humped by Barca, draw with Southampton and lose to Man United before ending the month with a face-saving win at West Brom. One loss had snowballed into five games without a win. Pep was feeling the heat and it appeared as if teams had figured out that City were still a side in transit. They were trying to play in the manner that their manager wished, but the Premier League does not allow for a recovery period or a term of adjustment. It kicks you when you’re down and taunts you for trying to get back up.

Since then, City have dropped points a further five times, and yet the media have pointed at the fact that the Spaniard is still coming to terms with a new country, a new league, a new squad. What has been overlooked is his financial outlay, his terrible planning in terms of transfers, and his indignant refusal to switch tactics.

Pep has had ample cash to rectify the shortcomings he now faces in his team’s defence. He instead opted to go with what he already had at his disposal, aside from John Stones. There would always be a period when Stones’ lack of experience would cost him, and with a lack of cover and Pep seemingly unable to choose a settled back four, it has seen performances littered with errors. 

Then we have the fact that the side he inherited is more than capable of winning the league. The man he replaced at The Etihad – Pellegrini – had to put up with the fact he was embarrasingly replaced as boss before his last season had ended and yet he still took his side to the top four. They have riches in their side that would walk into the majority of teams across the continent. 

The media’s refusal to unleash these criticism’s that they would have no hesitation to fling at his rivals has seen a rise of ignorance toward Guardiola’s failings. The man who was apparently infallible is now overseeing a team which is not performing at their best – and has not done since September. They have lost to big teams and small, and in Europe they may have progressed to the latter stages again, but isn’t this the least that should be expected? 

Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp. These managers have made a rod for their own back by their continued standards. If they slip, then to varying degrees they will face the heat from the flashing bulbs and myriad of questions from the paparazzi. By an extension of their own excellence, they now have to answer to all and sundry when there is even the tiniest of slips.

Pep Guardiola oversaw football from the gods at the Nou Camp, and maintained the superiority that Bayern had cultivated in Germany. With each of these sides though, he was picking up a team which was already crafted. He has never built a side from the ground up, or even had to patch up a squad that was severely wounded.

He has been allowed to concentrate solely on tactics as he has taken over a team which already comprised all of the parts needed. At Barca, Frank Rijkaard had won La Liga twice and the European Cup. The Dutchman had overhauled an underachieving side with a subtle blend of youth and new signings, and the trophies that were netted were a signal of the work that Rijkaard had done. When Guardiola took over, the side he inherited were already present. He obviously made some changes and took them to the next level, but fundamentally, the foundations were already there. 

When he arrived at Munich, he was handed a side that had just won a treble of German Cup, Bundesliga and the Champions League! 

At City, he had a team that needed a little TLC, but he was still given a team that was worthy of contending for honours. He wasn’t exactly given a team that needed a radical overhaul. 

He has never been at a post that required him to change a side, or to even patch it up. All the sides he has managed have had a sqwuad that is more than capable of cutting it at the top. This City side is the nearest he has come to performing all the tasks that every manager at every other club has to contend with, and he is showing his relative lack of experience. 

The Premier League is another factor in the equation which sees Pep struggle. In Spain, he had to contend with the giants of Real Madrid, but other than their perennial rivals, they had precious little in the way of obstacles to stop them on their way to La Liga. Similarly in Germany, it is another two horse race.

In the Premiership, it may have been the same case a few years back, but in the last ten or so years, there have been at least three or four sides at the beginning of each campaign that could have potentially gone on to win the competition. This season, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, tottenham and United will all be in the mix for the top four. All viable opponents which stand in the way of not only the title, but enabling City to sit at the top table in Europe.

His recent press conferences have seen the Spanish boss become rankled with questions that Wenger, Klopp, Mourinho and the rest are old hands at batting away. These queries are not exactly barbed, but yet the clipped responses and bristling words that Guardiola have thrown back are classic signs that the man is on the back foot. 

Pep will get the time he needs to oversee the changes he needs to make in order for City to play in the fashion which saw Pep’s Barca rule Europe, but in the meantime, his stubbornness to change his tactics as his men struggle to adapt has seen other teams take advantage. Change is good, but more often than not, it needs to be done incrementally. Just ask David Moyes.

Guardiola is still a top manager, but for the first time he has work to do. The time and funds he needs will be provided to him, but if he refuses to adapt his tactics and continues to ignore the gaps in his defence, then time and money will matter little.

The crown on Pep’s bald head is slipping. Welcome to the Premier League. 

Bayern 5-1 Arsenal: Champions League Ends for Gunners

The briefest flicker of hope that Arsenal could manifest success this season was vanquished in nine brutal second half minutes, as Bayern ruthlessly exposed the Gunners wounds.

Six attempts to navigate past the first knockout stage in Europe’s premiere competition now looks to extend to seven years, after the Germans efficiently maximised the gaping hole in the Arsenal backline to effectively end the Gunners hopes once again.

With our squad the strongest it has been in many a year, the disappointing nature of our exits in recent years would not hold sway this season. We expected to hold our own against the giants of Munich. We had every right to expect a close battle.

We got just that in the first half. The home side expectedly dominated possession, and were enjoying the home support as they sprayed balls around merrily. Arsenal stuck gamely to their task though. David Ospina was tested early but in the eleventh minute, Arsenal’s cup keeper could do nothing to stop Bayern taking the lead.

Arjen Robben – the winger who comes with a script that all defenders fail to read – cut in and let rip from outside the box. His effort was sumptuous and it arced into the top corner to reward his side for their possession.

The game continued in the same vein. Ancelotti’s side probing and passing and Wenger’s team attempting to break up their play. They slowly became more active on proceedings, and in the thirtieth minute, Arsenal had a precious away goal.

Laurent Koscielny was first to a loose ball after a set-piece, and Mats Hummels attempt to get the ball was a second slower than the French defender. The referee pointed to the spot, and Alexis stepped up to take it.

Alexis had been the architect of Arsenal’s best moments and he struck the penalty low, but Manuel Neuer was equal to it. He parried it out and Alexis was there to at least regain possession. To all it looked as if the chance had been lost, but under pressure, he swivelled to shoot low and into the goal.

A huge goal. This could have swung the tie, and although Bayern had a few chances before half time, Arsenal had done so well to stay with them. 

The second half was a different story.

Laurent Koscielny had been a busy man and when he was forced off through injury, the sight of Gabriel taking his place would have sent an ice-cold chill through all Gooners. The Brazilian has a reputation for rashness, and the first nine minutes of his cameo would see Arsenal’s Euro dreams die for another year.

The three goals were not solely on Gabriel’s shoulders I hasten to add, but the facts speak for themselves. Three minutes after coming on, Robert Lewandowski had his customary goal – his 24th in 30 games so far this campaign – by outleaping Shkodran Mustafi who was caught under the leaping Pole.

Another three minutes, and Bayern had three. Lewandowski turned provider, as he dropped off and dragged Gabriel with him. The space left by Gabriel was taken up by Thiago, who ran in unopposed to pick up the striker’s backheel and finish low past Ospina.

Three minutes again passed, and another goal ended all hope. It was Thiago again, and his shot from outside the box came through a throng of players. It took a nick from Granit Xhaka and it hurtled past a stricken David Ospina who had been deceived by the deflection.

The gulf between the sides was apparent now. Bayern had upped the gears and Arsenal looked absolutely shellshocked.

The rest of the half saw the home team look to further embarrass Wenger and his side. Repeated chances came to them, but Ospina was the only man who looked to have any fight left in him.

The painful ending came though, as second half sub Thomas Muller grabbed the fifth which means Arsenal once again need a miracle to escape the Last16. Familiar territory.

Here are some observations from the game which appeared telling:

Our defence needs Koscielny

After Laurent went off, we capitulated. It was perhaps the most emphatic evidence of what he brings to our team. Mustafi looked bewildered without his partner, and Gabriel has shown no improvement from when he first joined. Of course, these are not regular partners, but there can be no excuses after this. At some point, it is just not good enough. Debuchy would’ve been better than Gabriel.

Ozil a passenger

The German playmakers form shows no sign of returning. His touch was errant and his ability to pick out a run was absent again. His effort was there and he ran plenty, but the reason why we bought him is not for his stamina. Worrying signs, and we will need him back to his best if we are to finish above tottenham.

Coquelin and Xhaka were easily bossed.

The central midfield area was dominated by Bayern, and at times the resistance was not present. Xhaka was outnumbered and Coquelin was not at the races. The Frenchman at his best is one of the best ball-winners around, but he is severely limited. Our central midfield options all of a sudden look barren.

Alexis and his sulking 

The Chilean was our best player for the majority, but his demanding, gesticulating and tantrums are becoming old and trying on the patience. We understand how he wants to win, how we wants the ball. When it doesn’t happen though, his reactions are not the sign of a player who is happy with things. If we are to progress, he is vital. Can any of us say with any confidence that he will stay after another season of underwhelming results?

Arsene’s pattern

This game is where Arsene’s errors came to the fore with no excuses left. The squad is strong, injuries were not a huge factor, and we had home advantage in the second leg. When are we able to expect to challenge with the higher echelons? Arsene may have been let down by his team at times, but a large portion of the pointing finger must fall on Wenger. He looked dejected at the final whistle, but we came up short yet again. Our limitations are there for all to see. It is painful to see, but Wenger must realise that this squad he has selected over the years, is simply underachieving. 

I am not writing any more about this game. It feels like a watershed moment. Something has to give.  This depressing exit was on the cards before a ball was kicked as we had seen it before. Many times.

Some may blame the board. Some may blame the players and some blame Wenger. Regardless of who is the main culprit – this is not good enough.

Bayern Munich Vs Arsenal – The Warm-Up

The Champions League returns once more, and the test in front of Arsenal is an imposing one.

Can the Gunners buck the trend for exiting the Champions League at the Last16 stage and beat one of the favourites for the Euro title in the process?

Arsenal have played the German giants ten times in total and won three of them. The Gunners have also been dumped out of Europe’s premier competition twice in the last four seasons by Munich too. The task ahead is a big one.

Arsenal at least have some returning personnel to boost them ahead of the game. Granit Xhaka saw out the last of his four game suspension in the weekend, but would have been part of the squad regardless as his ban applied to domestic football only. Mohamed Elneny was on the bench for the Hull game four days ago and is also in the reckoning. It is in this position that Wenger has his biggest headache. 

Does he stick with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has impressed in his stint in the middle? Or does he go to the Allianz Arena with a defensive mindset? It will be vital to restrict Bayern in attack as they could well make the second leg at The Emirates redundant by romping this game. It can also be said that an away goal could prove decisive too. 

Whoever lines up in the centre, there are other positions that require a decision. 

Alex Iwobi has emerged as the first choice on the left when Alexis plays as the striker. His defensive element needs refining though. Can we afford to leave the door open on a flank? Danny Welbeck will be champing at the bit to make his mark, and his tracking back would give him a huge advantage over Iwobi.

Lucas Perez is another who has done wonders in order to get named on the teamsheet, but it looks as though the Spaniard will again start on the bench. Mesut Ozil has been searching for form over the last few games, but is there a better time to rise to prominence than this match? He is capable of unlocking a Bayern side who have not lost a game since November, so fingers crossed we see the real Ozil.

Petr Cech looked to have returned to his imperious best against Hull, but David Ospina will more than likely retain his position as Cup Keeper. He will have to be on the form which repelled countless PSG attacks in our earlier group match against the French side if we are to escape Munich with hopes intact.
Bayern boss Carlo Ancelotti has his talisman Xabi Alonso back after he returned to training recently, but Franck Ribery and Jerome Boateng are out through injury. Javi Martinez and Mats Hummels will be the in the centre of defence for the home side, and the midfield has an embarrassment of riches to pick from. Joshua Kimmich, Arturo Vidal, Arjen Robben and Thiago Alcantara are just some who may be lining up against the Gunners.

A multi-faceted attack with composure in possession, Bayern will stretch our limits. We have enough in our weapon rack to hurt them, but it is hard to envision sometimes when you take into consideration our woeful form. 

It is high time that we started to show that it isn’t just the Deloitte Money list that we are amongst the elite. We have the resources and the players to be contenders in this competition, but our record has not shown this for some time.

With no Premier League fixtures and an FA Cup match in the weekend that should allow rotation, we can afford to go all out for the 90 minutes. Let us hope our quickness of play returns and so does our form. A good result here could spark our season into life.
Predicted Lineup: Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Walcott, Ozil, Iwobi, Alexis.

Predicted Scoreline: To hell with realism. I say 2-1 to Arsenal. 

The Champions League – What Makes a Euro Giant?

When you think of the football clubs that would be the equivalent of a footballing superpower, there are certain clubs that spring to mind.

For good reason too. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich are the three that are top of the tree when musing upon which club has the most clout, the most illustrious history and crucially – the biggest haul of silverware.

This years European Cup has now separated the wheat from the proverbial chaff, and the rollcall for the knockout stages has the same familiar faces of previous years. The aforementioned trio of Euro behemoths will be taking part as they always do, but they won’t have everything their own way.

There are a host of clubs with liberal sprinklings of stars within their team that can hurt the conglomerate that is Real, Bayern and Barca. The odds for the potential winners of this years Cup is interesting reading, and shows that in terms of stature, the chasing pack are catching up.

What exactly sees a successful club transform into a giant? To start, the respective number of European trophies would be top of the list. Any club that can boast of European honours can show that they not only earned the right to play in Europe by beating their domestic rivals, but they also overcame the cream of the continent. So what club has the most European honours?

No surprise to see Real Madrid and Barcelona in the top 3 of the list, with 19 and 14 respectively, but Bayern Munich have amassed 10 and are 7th on the list. Above them are teams such as Ajax, AC Milan and Liverpool – teams who have failed to maintain a constant presence in Europe’s premier competition.

Do former glories count as much as the present? If so, then Liverpool would be able to claim some part of the dominion that Real, Barca and co currently hold. Ditto AC Milan, who in the 90’s – and were a pretty big deal in the noughties – alone held Europe within their tight grasp. 

These clubs though, have faltered on the domestic front. Liverpool especially have been unable to jump over the first hurdle to ensure their membership for the ‘Giant Club’ is not revoked. The Merseysiders, Milan and Manchester United more recently, have not been able to make a dent in their home countries league. Liverpool have not won a title since 1990, can they really claim to be part of the European heavyweight scene?

Some part of the equation is financial heft. Like it or not, Chelsea and Manchester City have muscled their way into the scene and now compete on a near equal footing to the Barca’s and Bayern’s of this collective. They regularly lift silverware on the domestic front and now have European delights firmly within their reticule. Do they now qualify as a giant even though their previous decades were far from glorious?

Other variables should warrant a mention too. A global fanbase generates interest around the world and more importantly, it ups the amount of income a club gets. If this is included, then Arsenal, United, Real and Barca can renew their membership cards to the Giant Club. 

The only clubs that can really tick the boxes on all of these comprising factors is the first three clubs I mentioned. Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona have trophies in their past, present and more than likely, their future. They contend every year at the top, they have more than enough pulling power in terms of fiscal amount and they can look upon their trophy cabinet with a smile and an empty can of polish.

This season will be no different, as will the next. If a club truly wants to elevate their standing, they need a glittering history, a well stocked trophy cabinet, a revenue stream that allows the club to duke it out in the transfer market, and a regular presence in the Champions League.

Which club will make that leap this season? The Champions League is wide open, but rest assured if any team has genuine aspirations, then they will surely have to beat one of the big three. 

Serge Gnabry – Back to Germany?

Look back to a short time ago,  Serge Gnabry barely registered a raised eyebrow – now he is on his way to Werder Bremen, according to Sky Germany.

Gnabry has signed for Werder Bremen

Last season he was consigned to the Arsenal reserves after being rescued from a nightmare loan spell at West Brom which was meant to last the length of the season, but Arsenal recalled Gnabry in January as he rusted with disuse.

Gnabry valiantly played the second half of the season with the Gunners youngsters, in a bid to not only gain match fitness – but confidence. 

The young German’s standing in his home nation was still high however, and this summer saw Serge travel to Rio with Germany as part of the their Olympic football team – and remind everyone why Wenger has held onto him for so long.

Gnabry scored six goals in Germany’s run to the final, earning a silver medal and using the worlds biggest stage as a personal showcase for his talents. His rapier runs into the box, constantly looking for space and his enviable talent of taking on and beating defenders meant that he wreaked merry havoc, and saw him appear on radars at other clubs.

One of those clubs was mid-table fodder Werder Bremen. A return home may be a prospect too hard to refuse for the German native, regardless of Bundesliga standing. 

According to major news sources, including Sky Sports, Gnabry has signed for Bremen, and mystifyingly, Bayern Munich has been the fiscal force behind the transaction.

When Arsene Wenger allowed Joel Campbell to go on loan to Sporting Lisbon for the season, most – including me – thought it was to allow the Costa Rican some football – and also to make room in the squad for the return of Gnabry.

Wenger has always backed his man, and it would be strange for him to suddenly veer 180 degrees and agree to discard with him. Has Gnabry expressed his desire to leave? Wouldn’t a loan suffice? There are questions that must be answered, but Gnabry may just have had his head turned by advances from back home.

Serge has one year remaining on his contract, and the lure of Germany may just be too strong. It does leave our options out wide a little short, but with wide forwards Alexis and Lucas Perez, there are options to utilise. 

Either way, the kindly reminder Serge gave to all with his wonderful efforts in Rio ensured that most fans are not keen on dispensing with his services. Gnabry has made his choice however. With the fee being as low as is reported – some stories say it looks to be between £5-7m – the youngster looks to have forced Wengers hand somewhat as Arsenal will not have been keen to lose him for such a frivolous figure. 

One year left on his contract, with a player keen on a move? Arsenal have been forced into a corner, and it is down to Dick Law to ensure a buy-back clause is inserted, as Serge may just have a stellar future. 

Bayern Munich 5 – 1 Arsenal – Match Review ( A Painful Reminder )

Two weeks ago, the corresponding fixture at The Emirates saw a measured performance from Arsenal to take all three points and allow fans a little hope of escaping the group stages.

It seems that the Gunners riled the German giants into dishing out some retribution.

Continue reading Bayern Munich 5 – 1 Arsenal – Match Review ( A Painful Reminder )

Bayern Vs Arsenal – Match Preview

Arsene Wenger’s men return to Champions League action on the back of one of their most impressive European results in recent years.

Their 2-0 win at The Emirates showed a defence who can withhold immense pressure despite what critics claim, and an attack that was opportunistic and efficient.

The problem is, the Gunners next opponents are the very same who were humbled in that match – and they will be looking for revenge.

Continue reading Bayern Vs Arsenal – Match Preview