Bayern Munich said all the right words but you wondered if they truly believed them.
As Arsenal rolled into town yesterday they rolled out all the usual platitudes, but it felt like they were going through the motions. After a first-leg that was as comprehensive as the 3-1 scoreline suggests, the only opponent that can stop them from reaching the last eight of the Champions League is complacency.
Considering this side have built upon an already unassailable lead at the halfway stage in the Bundesliga with eight successive victories after the winter break, that seems unlikely.
And this team are driven by pain. That hurt comes primarily from last season, when despite being infinitely superior they somehow contrived to lose the final to Chelsea at their home stadium. The party afterwards, arranged long in advance, was more akin to a wake. But as motivations go, it is not a bad one.
This is simply another step towards what they feel is their destiny, and as such it is very difficult to imagine they will take the result for granted. Instead, there was the right level of respect and affection towards Arsene Wenger, the embattled Arsenal manager.
“Last year Arsenal lost 4-0 [away to AC Milan], then in the second leg they won 3-0 — they could have won 4-0, they had the chances, so it shows they are a strong team and capable of making up the gap if they have to,” said Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes, who retires at the end of the season to be replaced by Pep Guardiola.
“I respect Arsene Wenger very much. He is a top manager and Arsenal are a fighting team. He is a very creative and a good reader of football. Arsenal has played some of the best football in England over recent years,” he said.
“Maybe they haven’t been as successful, but their style is very attractive. Arsenal has had world-class players, some have left the club and some have come in. For all managers though, to be at the top of the game you must have top players.
“This might have been a difficult thing for Wenger, but he has been one of the top managers in his career and I will be sad if he is not involved any more.
“They will do everything to get a result here, so we must be on our guard.”
But even a basic level of focus should be enough for Bayern. A total of 66 points from a possible 75 in the league attests to their confidence; as Thomas Muller says, they are playing without fear and with a certain belief that they are better than every side they face.
And even without the trio of Franck Ribery, who is injured, and the suspended Bastian Schweinsteiger and Jerome Boateng, that knowledge shines through.
“We want to carry on where we left off in London and throughout the season,” said the German international. “We have the quality to win all our matches. We won’t ease up in the slightest.
“Arsenal have nothing to lose and they can play to attack. They can come out fighting, and I think that’s what they’ll do.”
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