Manuel Neuer hints Arsenal are easy to play againstby Rohan Toure 14/02/2017 18:01:00 0 comments 1 Views
- Arsenal travel to face Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday
- The Gunners suffered a heavy 5-1 defeat in their last visit to the Allianz Arena
- Manuel Neuer says the Gunners' style gives teams more 'free space to play'
By Ian Ladyman for MailOnline
Published: 14:28 EST, 14 February 2017 | Updated: 18:01 EST, 14 February 2017
On a day when much talk was about Arsenal goalkeepers, it was something the chap who will stand between the posts for Bayern Munich on Wednesday said that cut right to the heart of a much more fundamental issue.
Buried beneath a mountain of platitudes and compliments from Manuel Neuer and indeed his Bayern team-mate Mats Hummels was this kernel.
'Arsenal are a team that want to play,' said the Bayern goalkeeper.
Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer smiles during Tuesday's pre-game press conference
'They are strong but you will get more free space to play. We are a team that likes to let the ball circulate and take advantage of this space. That is why it will be nice for the supporters to watch.'
Close your eyes and Neuer could have been talking about a pre-season friendly, or maybe a testimonial or charity game. This, of course, is none of those things.
On Wednesday at the Allianz Arena a Champions League knock out game will take place, a game that could – depending on what happens at the end of this season – represent the last knockings of Arsene Wenger's final attempt to win the most important competition of all.
As such, Neuer's take on the matter was interesting and important. The German international was not being disrespectful or even provocative. He spent other periods of the Bayern press conference talking about what a good side Arsenal are.
He was, however, being honest and that's what stood out. He was telling as it is and who could really disagree? The popular notion both inside and outside the game is that Arsenal can be far too easy to play against when it matters and it's something that Wenger and his team must disprove in Bavaria.
Arsene Wenger (centre) watches on as his players warm up during Tuesday's training session
After all, could you imagine Neuer saying such a thing about Chelsea? Did any European opponent ever say it about Manchester United? We know the answer to that and when the accusation was put to him, Wenger could only nod in the manner of a man who has heard it all before.
'Let's just focus on what we can do and not what people say or think about us,' said the Arsenal manager.
'We have to play to try to be efficient defensively and then try to hurt them when we have the ball.
'I don't think to try to play attacking but efficient football is a bad target, personally.
'Remember that this season we have gone through the group without losing a game. Let's focus on that. We had very difficult teams in our group, such as PSG.'
Wenger (right) speaks to the media during Tuesday's conference at the Allianz Arena
Wenger can bristle when taken to task on assumed deficiencies. But if his issue is repetition of questions year on year then he may wish to ask why it happens.
On Wednesday the selection of his second string goalkeeper David Ospina will only add to the air of vulnerability around his team. One thing Wenger can never be accused of is lacking the courage of his convictions. Whether he remains as sanguine about the issue by full-time tonight remains to be seen.
Certainly Arsenal are the underdogs over the two legs against Carlo Ancelotti's team.
Asked by the BBC about this, Wenger said: 'Thank you for reminding me of our bad history [in this competition].
'But let's focus on the future. Listening to you, it's clear that we are not favourites. But let's watch the performance.'
Second string goalkeeper David Ospina will keep his starting place on Wednesday
With the goalkeeper selection issue settled, Wenger must make another call regarding Mesut Ozil. The German has not been at his best recently but Wenger admitted the former Werder Bremen and Schalke player would be 'highly motivated' if selected.
Ozil's international team-mate Hummels said: 'For me he is a world class player and someone I would always pick on the field.
'I think he will be on the pitch from the start as he is a fantastic player. Every attacking player has good and bad moments, it's not just him.'
Once again asked about his future at Arsenal, Wenger was in no mood to discuss it and he is not to be blamed for that. It is a subject that became tedious a long time ago.
Tonight he faces a former Premier League adversary and Ancelotti gave it his familiar 'raised eyebrow 'look when asked about criticism of Wenger back in England.
Wenger (left) questioned the German's confidence after Saturday's win over Hull
'He has great experience and knows that in our job it's normal to be criticised,' he said.
'But he has built a strong identity at his club and has a really good style of football. I have a lot of respect for the job he has done at Arsenal.'
All very nice but perhaps of greater consequence was the great Italian's reply when asked what it takes to win the Champions League.
'Courage, personality, experience and luck,' he said. The courage is very important.'
Do Arsenal have what it takes? Do they tick those boxes?
Let's put it like this: Tonight would be a good time to alter some deeply-entrenched perceptions of what Wenger's team really are.
Ancelotti was quick to defend Wenger when asked about criticism of the Arsenal boss