Bayern not easy, but it's a mouthwatering prospect

Posted by Andrew Mangan



As my ESPN colleague James McNicholas succinctly put it on Sunday when talking about Arsenal's potential Champions League opponents: "Simply put -- there is no easy draw."

As such, there shouldn't be much in the way of surprise, or dismay, that Bayern Munich will be their foil for the second successive season. They're the defending champions, possibly the best team in Europe right now, and running away with the Bundesliga already; they're going to be a huge test for Arsene Wenger's team.

- Champions League round of 16 draw

Yet last season, they were arguably even more so. It's safe to say the Gunners were struggling when Bayern came to visit the Emirates in February. After a season in which they'd never found any kind of consistent form, the week before the game they were knocked out of the FA Cup by Blackburn. It was the first tie Wenger had lost to a lower-league side in the cup, and the despondency was evident in their 3-1 first-leg defeat in the Champions League.

Bayern were rampant on the night, yet a Lukas Podolski goal against his old club gave Arsenal a second-leg chance. Wenger was bold going into that game, dropping his first-choice goalkeeper, Wojciech Szczesny, and playing Lukasz Fabianski, a man who hadn't started a game in more than a year.

Captain Thomas Vermaelen was also benched and Olivier Giroud's early goal made a game of it. Laurent Koscielny's bundled effort late in the game put Arsenal within a goal of going through, and seeing the German side keep the ball in the corner showed they were playing it safe and sensible, concerned that one more lapse would cost them.

This season, despite the weekend loss to Man City, Arsenal have been a much better team. They're defensively more solid, much more organised, players have clearly defined roles and responsibilities, and they attack much more fluidly. They're not top of the Premier League by accident.

Of course, much can happen to form and fitness by the time these games will be played, but that's also true for Bayern. What last season should have taught Arsenal is that despite the gulf in quality -- which was much more obvious back then -- the beauty of cup football is that anything can happen.

It's also the kind of game you really want to see your team involved in. Sure, a draw against someone like Schalke or Olympiacos would provide an easier passage to the next round, but in terms of pure spectacle, it doesn't get much better than taking on one of the giants of European football.

It's a draw to be enjoyed, not bemoaned, and watching Wenger take on Pep Guardiola once more, will be a fascinating prospect. Especially as this time around, the Spaniard doesn't have a certain left-footed genius to score all of the goals for him.

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