Football News

“We have a ­beautiful opportunity” – Mikel Arteta looks ahead to Bayern test after Villa setback

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 14:30, 15 April 2024

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has called on his players to seize a “­beautiful opportunity” when they visit Bayern Munich on Wednesday evening.

This call to arms came soon after their bid to end a two-decade championship wait took a substantial hit after visitors Aston Villa ran out 2-0 winners at the Emirates Stadium.

The result — coupled with Manchester City beating Luton earlier the weekend — saw Pep Guardiola’s defending English champions resume control of the captivating Premier League title race with six matches remaining.

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It also means, with City’s lead of two points (both the Gunners and Liverpool tied on 71), their fate is no longer in one’s control. Last season, Arteta’s men finished runners-up — five points behind eventual champions City — despite spending a record 248 days on top.

Understandably, there are fears among the Gunners faithful of another disappointing to a campaign that promised so much, but Arteta is looking at things glass half full.

“That’s the reality right now. We knew that this moment could come and now it’s about reacting and keep ­believing,” he said.

“We had one of the best perfor­mances in the first half that we have had this season by far against a really good team. It should have been three or four but it didn’t happen and momentum shifted in the second half and we conceded two very poor goals. Now is the moment to stand up as a leader and a character to make yourself count. Now it’s a big test for us.”

There’s no time for Arsenal players to feel sorry for themselves. They’re next out against Bayern Munich, and their Champions League quarter-final tie is finely poised. The opening leg in North London ended 2-2 with Leandro Trossard’s equaliser after Serge Gnabry and Harry Kane overturned Bukayo Saka’s opener, ensuring no side holds the advantage.

“The players are frustrated and sad,” the Arsenal manager added. “But we have a ­beautiful opportunity that hasn’t happened for this club for 14 years to go to the semi-finals of the Champions League. It cannot come at a better moment.”

History, though, is against the English team. They’ve lost on each of their previous three matches on German soil in the Champions League, including back-to-back 5-1 defeats to Bayern, who have only failed to progress from one of their previous 18 two-legged ties when avoiding defeat in the first leg – versus Liverpool in the round of 16 in 2018-19 (0-0 in the first leg, lost 1-3 in the second leg at the Allianz Arena).

The opportunity Arteta speaks of is highlighted in the fact Bayern are looking to qualify for the semi-finals of the Champions League for the 13th time, while Arsenal aim to do so for just the third time.