They may still be well in the running for a Champions League qualification spot, but the next week is a major one in the wider context of Arsenal’s season, despite the absence of a Premier League fixture.
First, the Gunners welcome Blackburn Rovers to the Emirates Stadium in the fifth round of the FA Cup, before German giants Bayern Munich land in the capital for the first leg of a Champions League last 16 showdown.
The prospect of Jupp Heynckes bringing his fearsome Bayern team to face the Gunners will have many supporters licking their lips. Germany’s biggest club are currently 15 points clear of their nearest rivals in what is usually a highly competitive Bundesliga. But the Bayern of 2012/13 have blown away the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen.
It would be easy for Arsene Wenger and his team to draw their attention to the Bayern Munich match already. Wenger has received his fair share of criticism this season and if he could upset the odds to beat the team who are probably playing the best football in Europe this year, he could deservedly shush his detractors with a wry smile.
But the FA Cup represents the Gunners’ best opportunity of silverware this season. The League Cup challenge fell, against all odds, at the unlikely hurdle of League Two club Bradford City. The Premier League challenge, if it was ever on, concluded many months ago. Europe is still on the agenda but Arsenal’s hopes of lifting the Champions League trophy at Wembley in May are slim at best.
To relinquish a great opportunity to collect the club’s first silverware since 2005 due to a lack of focus would be scandalous. If Arsenal beat Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, there will be just seven other teams wishing for cup glory and, with it being the quarter-final stage, Wenger’s side will back themselves as much as any.
If the Gunners were to take their eye off the ball on Saturday, Blackburn will be delighted to pick them off. Rovers’ woes over recent seasons have been documented but they will relish the opportunity to be in the company of domestic giants once again.
As well as that, Michael Appleton’s men are in good form, having lost just one of their last 10 matches in all competitions. A confident team is a dangerous one and on-form Rovers are certainly high on self-belief.
Bayern Munich on Tuesday is undoubtedly a glamour tie – and one which Gunners players will most likely thrive upon, as they have in continental home ties against the likes of Barcelona and Milan in recent years. But Arsenal’s attentions must be on the cup tie against Blackburn Rovers – any hint of complacency could be fatal.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Arsenal