Arteta: Gunners must fire early
Mikel Arteta has challenged Arsenal to come out all guns blazing when they tackle Bayern Munich in the last 16 of the Champions League. While the Gunners head into first leg of the European tie at Emirates Stadium on the back of Saturday's deflating 1-0 home FA Cup defeat by Blackburn and currently only fifth in the Barclays Premier League, Bayern look in ominous form.
Jupp Heynckes men, runners-up to Chelsea in the Champions League final last season, are 15 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga - having won all five of their matches since returning from the winter break, keeping seven clean sheets in the last eight. Arteta accepts Arsenal's players must shoulder their share of the responsibility for inconsistent displays, which they can put to bed with a strong opening against the Germans on Tuesday night.
"The last few big games we missed the first 20-25 minutes and the gave the opposition probably too much respect. We want to face a different scenario with Bayern and get into the game show that we want to win it," the Spaniard said. "The table of the Premier League of first and second 45 minutes is very different. That shows our qualities are very good, because when teams tire a little bit we are able to [score], but also that we are not ready from the off to do what we want right from the start." Arteta insists the team are ready to silence their doubters with a big performance against one of Europe's leading sides - just like when Barcelona were beaten at the Emirates Stadium two seasons ago.
"It gives you extra motivation because you are facing top players and a top club and you want to show how good you are against them," he said. "We have a great test now and we want to face that with the maximum desire and a positivity around the squad and go out there and win it." Key to Arsenal's chances of getting a defendable lead to take back to the Allianz Arena next month will be the performance of combative midfielder Jack Wilshere.
The England international, 21, has impressed for both club and country since his return from a long injury lay-off. Arteta said: "Jack has been showing his class and been tremendous, but we don't want to put too much pressure on him "The character he has shown coming back in the last few months after a long injury and get back to his fitness level is amazing. "He is a winner and we want him to show that."
Wenger wants all of his team to focus on their own performance levels rather than worry about what Bayern may produce. "What is important is that we focus on the quality of our game, that we play at our best and play with belief," said the Arsenal manager, who must do without full-back Nacho Monreal as the Spain international is cup-tied following his deadline-day transfer from Malaga. "We have to put it in our head that we have 180 minutes to qualify and not to rush our game.
"If I listen to the questions, we are not favourites, but I trust our quality, our spirit and our mental strength. "It is always difficult to take a distance with the recent emotional fact, but the most important aspect is that we have a way to play which everyone in the teams know.
"We must play with a positive mentality, it is important you believe you have a good chance and quality enough to win. "The psychological aspect, especially with what happened on Saturday, is more important than nothing else."
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