"There is no reason why we cannot go all the way in the Champions League" - Arsenal's Mikel Arteta speaks to Sky Sports ahead of facing Bayern Munich
By Peter Fraser - Follow me on Twitter @SkySportsPeteF
Last Updated: 19/02/13 8:43am
Arsenal's season has been horribly littered by inconsistency and their latest setback came at the weekend when they suffered FA Cup embarrassment at the hands of Blackburn Rovers.
Another elimination at the hands of lower league opponents, in the wake of the League Cup humiliation against Bradford City, has added extra pressure on an already-troubled Arsene Wenger and the manager is being reminded of a wait for a trophy which dates back to 2005.
But Arsenal are still in this season's UEFA Champions League and on Tuesday host the last campaign's defeated finalists and four-time kings of Europe, Bayern Munich, at Emirates Stadium in the first leg of their last 16 tie.
Having failed to win Group B, Wenger and his players are facing a huge challenge against the Bundesliga's runaway leaders, who can boast a star-studded squad and will next season welcome the sought-after Pep Guardiola as their new manager.
But Mikel Arteta is confident and, here, Sky Sports exclusively learns of the midfielder's determination to conquer Europe.
What does the Champions League mean to you?
The Champions League is the greatest club football tournament in the world. Every player wants to play in it and it was one of the main reasons I joined Arsenal to test myself against Europe's best. There are no weak teams and each year it throws up a surprise. No-one could have predicted Celtic's victory over Barcelona in the group stages.
How much are you looking forward to facing Bayern Munich in the last 16?
Bayern Munich are a club with great history. They have won the Champions League four times and we have a lot of respect for the club and their players. As a player, you want to play against the best and we are looking forward to both legs. We will approach the game as we would any other game, though.
Who are the danger men you will have to beware when playing against Bayern Munich in the last 16 and why?
Bayern Munich have strength in all departments. You do not attract the likes of a Pep Guardiola without the lure of world-class players. We will have to be mentally strong against the likes of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, who are both real threats going forward.
How far can Arsenal go in the Champions League this season?
There is no reason why we cannot go all the way in the Champions League this season. Our focus for the time being, though, is the two legs against Bayern Munich. We take one game at a time and will ensure we are 100 per cent prepared for both games.
How does the mentality of a club change from the group stages to the knockout rounds?
As a professional, you approach every game the same whether it is a Champions League qualifier or the final itself. The Champions League is the ultimate test for any club team and at Arsenal we approach every game with the same preparation.
How do you address a two-legged tie? Is avoiding defeat vital in the first leg?
We always go out to win every match and that will certainly be the case in both legs. If we can prevent Bayern from scoring an away goal, we will put ourselves in a good position to progress to the next round. We need to make sure we are 100% focused from the first to the final whistle.
|Champions League 2012/13||Mikel Arteta|
|Chances created (inc. assists)||2|
|Pass completion %||93%|
|Cross completion %||25%|
How special would it be to play in the final at Wembley?
It is a boyhood dream for any player to play in the Champions League final. To play at Wembley is extra special given the history of the stadium. I was not able to play in the 2009 FA Cup final for Everton due to injury. So, I will be doing my very best to ensure the Arsenal fans will be making the short trip to Wembley on 25th May.
Who are the clubs to watch in this season's Champions League last 16 and why?
Any of the teams in the last 16 could realistically win the Champions League. There is no such thing as an easy game. Barcelona are the favourites given their recent success and, with the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, you cannot ignore their quality. For the time being, though, my focus is the two legs against Bayern Munich and helping the team win a trophy for the Arsenal fans.
What is the key to balancing European form with domestic form?
The Champions League can mean travelling long distances and playing midweek fixtures, which combined with the Premier League and FA Cup can really take its toll on the players. The key is our squad and the trust we have in our manager. The boss knows when to rest and play certain players.
Who is the toughest opponent you have faced in the Champions League and why?
I would have to say Andriy Shevchenko when he played for AC Milan. At his best, he was unbelievable. He was quick, intelligent and always a danger when he was on the ball.
What is your favourite memory/moment from Champions League history and why?
Making my Champions League debut for Paris Saint Germain in 2001 at the San Siro. Ten days before, I had played there for Barcelona reserves. So, to step back on to the pitch with the atmosphere of a sell-out San Siro was something I will never forget.