LONDON/MUNICH: If you can’t beat them, join them. That is the apparent new motto of Arsene Wenger.
On Friday night Arsenal had five German players on the pitch at one time in their 4-0 FA Cup win over Coventry City; the same evening European champions Bayern Munich ended with only four Germans (Neuer, Lahm, Boateng, Muller) on the pitch in their 2-0 victory in the Bundesliga against Borussia Monchengladbach.
Not that this alters the perception, even in north London, that Bayern will be favourites when the clubs meet next month in the Champions League.
Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil are guaranteed starting places, both Lukas Podolski and Serge Gnabry can expect to feature significantly in the tie and there might even be a place on the subs’ bench for highly-rated teenager Gedion Zelalem.
Against Coventry the 16-year-old substituted returning Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to become not only Arsenal’s first senior player to be born after Wenger took over as manager in 1996 but the Gunners’ fifth German in the match. Over in Germany Bayern ended their simultaneous match with ‘only’ four on the pitch.
Podolski was Arsenal’s man of the match against Coventry. He has struggled to make a consistent mark during his 18 months at Arsenal, for all his 100-cap World Cup and European Championsip pedigree for Germany. But he scored their first two goals to put Arsenal in command to make it five goals in his past six appearances.
Wenger said: “Podolski can score goals and when you have a goal chance you want him to have it because he is a clinical finisher. He has an unbelievably short and quick backlift and he is very accurate in his finishing. He can score goals both when he starts and also when he comes on [as a substitute]. He is always dangerous.”
Substitutes Giroud and Santi Cazorla completed the scoring in the closing minutes.