Wenger well aware of rising German threat
Published 21/12/2012 | 05:00
It was predictable that Arsene Wenger should single out Barcelona as the team he most wanted to avoid in the Champions League draw, but in also highlighting the German threat, it was equally certain that Bayern Munich were not far behind.
Bayern, who were beaten in such extraordinary circumstances by Chelsea in last year's final, have been imperious this season in dominating the Bundesliga, scoring 44 goals and conceding just seven in their 17 games.
Factor in how Schalke (17 points behind Munich domestically) have outplayed Arsenal already this season and it was clear that Bayern's chief executive, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, was on safe ground when he said that his club would be favourites.
Wenger has previously been approached for the Bayern Munich manager's job and his respect for German football runs deep. Having signed Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker from the Bundesliga in the last 16 months, he has specifically bolstered his scouting network in that region of Europe over the past year.
Borussia Dortmund's Mario Goetze is a long-standing target and, of the current Bayern team, Luis Gustavo is a player he has watched.
"The German clubs have made a big, big leap forward," said Wenger.
"The Spanish clubs are traditionally there in the last 16 and, in England, we have a little deficit, because usually at that level, we have four and we are only two this season.
"You have the French, Paris Saint-Germain, coming in.
"Traditionally Porto are always in there, but, especially, I believe the Germans have improved."
One striking change is that, of the 16 teams who qualified for the knockout phase last season, only five will return this year, including Arsenal and Bayern Munich but also Real Madrid, Barcelona and AC Milan. (© The Daily Telegraph)