We had all hoped that Bayern would make Man City work after losing the first leg 3-0 at the Etihad. We held onto the idea that Pep’s former club would circle the wagons after that lost and the dust-up that saw Mané punch Sané, scoring a few goals to at least make Pep’s current squad sweat and work, maybe even into added extra time. Alas, it was not to be as City eased past their hosts and into the Champions League semifinal. Still, there’s a silver lining to be snatched at if not seized, a gossamer thread that might just be tensile enough to lead to something…
For the first, it’s simple enough: Man City have taken one step closer to at long last catching Pep’s white whale, the Champions League title that he hasn’t touched since 2011. Advancing means they’ll face Real Madrid, with their home leg occurring after a home match against Leeds and before an away match against Everton. Either one of those, if not both, have a banana-peel feel to them as both are fighting to stave off relegation. The away leg will occur after a home match against Everton—again, fighting to stave off relegation and a home match against Chelsea.
Look, I know that it’s déclassé to pin one’s hopes on the failure of others, but this is triage. We are the walking wounded if not quite the walking dead. As we explored in this post, one of the innumerable advantages City hold over us is their squad depth and how it allows Pep to rotate players almost on a whim.
It’s with that in mind that we come to the second boost Bayern offered us, perhaps accidentally if not in solidarity: CB Nathan Aké came up lame, possibly having injured his hamstring, suggesting that the player if not the entire squad are somewhat short of invincible. If Aké is unavailable to face us, that would a Good ThingTM, given how well he played against us the last time we faced them. Yes, Pep has many options at his disposal, but any hamstringing, literal or figurative, is most welcome.
Finally, the third. Desperately needing a win, Bayern set up to hit City on the counter and did shred them on the flanks, at least in the early going. Should Arteta take a page from Tuchel, could he count on Martinelli and Saka being more clinical than Sané and Coman? Both wasted vital chances. The fact that Saka missed a penalty against West Ham suggests he’ll have an axe to grind, and Man City could just serve as a fitting whetstone. The fact that Haaland blazed his penalty over the crossbar suggests that the BIOS firmware needs a reboot.
All quips aside, we technically and mathematically control our destiny, It doesn’t quite feel like that, does it? Between the game in hand Man City hold, our trip to the Etihad, and the psychological thrall, our four-point lead feels, well, febrile. With that in mind, there’s no shame in hoping that Bayern, the Man City of the Bundesliga, might offer us something resembling help. For as tenuous as it is, we have to take it. Man City are a remorseless eating machine.
One last note before you go: you can enter a raffle for a £25 Arsenal Direct gift card by commenting on this and other posts in April. Yes, it’s a direct attempt at bribing you to join the conversation. The more often you comment, the better your chances at winning. Have at it!