Arsenal needs to avoid Champions League hangover

Posted by John Cross

The biggest worry now for Arsenal is the Champions League hangover.

If playing for more than a half with ten men against the European champions was not enough, just imagine the psychological damage. Arsenal were left chasing shadows in a one-sided second half against Bayern Munich in what became a demoralising and disappointing night.

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That will leave them drained for the visit of Sunderland which has now become even more important. With Arsenal chasing the title, it is a game they have to win not just to stay in the hunt with Chelsea and Manchester City, but also to keep Liverpool and Tottenham well behind them.

That's easier said than done because a big Champions League tie is often mentally and physically draining. If you lose, the legs feel even more tired and cramped. Just look down the years at the results of teams a few days after a big Champions League game.

Far too often, the teams in Europe have erratic results the following weekend as the players struggle to lift themselves after a good result, let alone a bad one.

Arsenal were excellent for more than half an hour and while it was 11v11, Arsene Wenger's men matched the might of Bayern Munich. But as soon as it went to ten men, Arsenal were left running their socks off in trying to keep up with Arjen Robben and Toni Kroos, Bayern's best two players on the pitch. That will leave them tired for the visit of Sunderland, a team fighting for their lives.

As an Arsenal devotee keeps reminding me, the biggest game of the week is Sunderland. That's the game Arsenal cannot afford to lose. After all, they were never expected to beat Bayern.

But defeat does mean that surely the European campaign is over for another year. They go to Munich with a two goal deficit. Yes, they overcame that last year, but surely not again. Munich took the foot off the gas, let Arsenal back in and they cannot afford the same mistake again.

Arsenal, meanwhile, must win a trophy. They have Everton coming up in the FA Cup quarterfinal. That is a huge task in the cup but another home draw is a blessing. The title race will take more twists and turns but Arsenal cannot afford to let heads drop in the wake of another European disappointment. Losing to Bayern was a timely reminder that not winning your Champions League group can cost dearly.

Last year's defeat to Munich over two legs was the catalyst for a great revival in the season. This season, it's also about keeping it together. They need to keep that rhythm going.

This is also a time when they need to utilise the squad. Yaya Sanogo has looked promising, but Olivier Giroud needs to regain his confidence and form. Mesut Ozil desperately needs a change in fortune and upturn in form. Arsenal need to keep their heads.

If they can keep it together, they can definitely have a good season. But on Saturday, against Sunderland of all opponents, we will learn a lot about Arsenal's character and belief this season.

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