Arsenal's 'good energy' fuels double bid as Bayern test looms

AFP , Monday 8 Apr 2024

Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal are primed to avenge their wretched Champions League record against Bayern Munich as the Gunners set their sights on a remarkable double.

Zinchenko
Brighton s Paraguayan striker #10 Julio Enciso (C) vies with Arsenal s Ukrainian defender #35 Oleksandr Zinchenko (L) and Arsenal s English defender #04 Ben White (R) during the English Premier League. AFP

Arteta's side host Bayern in the Champions League quarter-final first leg on Tuesday looking to transfer the momentum from their Premier League title charge onto the European stage.

With seven games left in a gripping title race, the north Londoners sit top of the table -- ahead of second-placed Liverpool on goal difference and third-placed Manchester City by one point.

Arsenal have won 10 of their 11 top-flight matches in 2024 as they chase a first Premier League crown for 20 years.

But Arteta's attention will turn to the Champions League this week as Arsenal aim to make amends for nearly two decades of trauma against Bayern.

Beaten 5-1 in each of their last three meetings with Bayern, Arsenal were eliminated from the Champions League by the German club in the last 16 in 2017, 2014, 2013 and 2005.

Arteta was not in charge for any of those chastening exits, although he did play for Arsenal in the 2013 and 2014 losses to the six-time European champions.

Arsenal's fine domestic form suggests they are poised to enjoy a reversal of fortune this time.

Bayern will arrive at the Emirates Stadium in turmoil, lagging 16 points behind leaders Bayer Leverkusen after Saturday's embarrassing defeat at Heidenheim.

Even the presence of Bayern striker Harry Kane, who scored a north London derby record 14 goals against Arsenal during his time with Tottenham, is unlikely to rattle the Gunners.

The bad vibes at Bayern are a stark contrast to the positivity flowing through Arteta's vibrant young side.

Arteta has made it his mission to provide his players with the freedom to express themselves within his tactical structure and the results have been transformative for a club in free-fall prior to his appointment in 2019.

"We are in a really good moment. We have the squad healthy, with a really good energy, with a lot of confidence individually and collectively," Arteta said after Saturday's win at Brighton.

"They are performing really well and we are winning a lot of matches. We just have to carry on doing what we're doing."

- 'Given the love' -

Arsenal have only reached the Champions League final once, losing to Barcelona in the 2006 showpiece.

Back in the Champions League for the first time since 2017, Arsenal are making up for lost time.

They breezed past Lens, PSV Eindhoven and Sevilla to win their group and survived a penalty shoot-out against Porto to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2010.

Arsenal have not made the semi-finals since 2009 but the confident mood among Arteta's squad points towards a long-awaited return to the last four.

Nothing encapsulates Arteta's ability to improve his players more than Kai Havertz's gradual emergence as a key figure this season.

Havertz's confidence was at rock bottom when he signed from Chelsea last year after a troubled spell with the Blues.

The Germany international endured a slow start to his Gunners career, managing only one goal and one assist in his first 19 appearances in all competitions.

But the 24-year-old has produced five goals and four assists in his last seven Premier League games.

Thriving as a central striker, he scored Arsenal's second goal against Brighton and set up Leandro Trossard to complete the victory.

"He's certainly having a huge impact on the team. His overall performances have been really good and now his numbers in terms of goal contributions are really high," Arteta said.

"Kai at the moment is flowing and he's feeling really comfortable. He needs to maintain that level.

"We have given him confidence, hopefully we've given the love that he needs. He has the appreciation from the rest of the players and the staff at the club and now our supporters for sure."

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