Arsene Wenger arrived in Munich aiming to break Arsenal’s six-year run of being eliminated in the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League -- and once again facing questions about his job security with the Gunners.
At press conference on the eve of Arsenal’s first-leg clash with Bayern Munich, Wenger said his future at the club is “not a subject for now.”
Wenger’s past at the club goes back two decades and includes three EPL titles, but the last came in 2004. During a 2-1 win over Burnley on Jan. 22, he pushed the fourth official and received a four-game sideline ban. On Jan. 31, the Gunners lost, 2-1, at home to Watford. On Feb. 4, they fell, 3-1, at Chelsea.
Wenger’s contract runs out at the end of the season and he stated that his decision to continue will come down to “a gut feeling.”
Pundit and former Arsenal star Ian Wright predicted that Wenger would last the season but not beyond: “I just get the impression in him and looking at him that’s it. I think that’s it.”
Now in fourth place, trailing league leader Chelsea by 10 points, an English Premier League title looks most unlikely. Still in play, though, is the Champions League quest. The 67-year-old Wenger has won six FA Cups with Arsenal to go with the three EPL titles, but a European title has eluded him.
The Gunners haven’t advanced past the round of 16 of the Champions league since the 2009-10 season. Twice in the last four years, it was Bayern that eliminated Arsenal. Bayern and Arsenal have met six times in the in that period. In their last meeting in Munich, Bayern routed the Gunners, 5-1.
2015-16 (Group Play)
Arsenal 2 Bayern Munich 0
Bayern Munich 5 Arsenal 1
2013-14 (Round of 16)
Arsenal 0 Bayern Munich 2
Bayern Munich 1 Arsenal 1
(Bayern advanced, 3-1, on aggregate)
2012-13 (Round of 16)
Arsenal 1 Bayern Munich 3
Bayern Munich 0 Arsenal 2
(Bayern advanced on away goals)
"Yes, we've had bad experiences against them," said Wenger, who was also at the helm in when Bayern ousted Arsenal in 2005. "But I feel that this is a good opportunity. … We need to forget the past meetings with Bayern and focus on tomorrow.
"We have won there before and we play the first game away from home, so it's important we protect the second game because I feel that to have a chance to qualify in the second leg, that will be very important. We go there not high, but to defend well as a team."
Arsenal did go undefeated in group play, finishing ahead of Paris Saint-Germain, Ludogorets Razgrad and Basel. Bayern finished second in Group D to Atletico Madrid.
Bayern enters Wednesday’s game having won 10 of its last 11 Bundesliga games, tying Schalke, and has a seven-point lead atop the Bundesliga standings.
Champions League winner in 2013, Bayern has reached at least the semifinals the past five years and has won its last 15 Champions League home games, a record streak. But Wenger says hosting the second leg is an advantage.
“When you look at their record, they are always basically in the last four, so it is a massive challenge but we are capable of dealing with it,” he said. “We have an advantage to play the second game at home. But we know as well every minute of tomorrow’s game will have a big influence on our chances at home to knock them out. …
“Let’s focus on what we want to do and not too much on what people say and think. It is really down to our performance.”