Jack Wilshere has summoned the spirit of Chelsea to save Arsenal's season. Saturday's shock FA Cup defeat by Blackburn Rovers has left Arsenal at serious risk of going an eighth successive season without a trophy and placed more pressure on the shoulders of Arsène Wenger.
Another trophyless season will be avoided only if Arsenal replicate their fellow Londoners by overcoming domestic strife to become European champions for the first time. To have any chance of doing that, Arsenal must gain a good result against Bayern Munich in Tuesday's round-of-16 first-leg tie at the Emirates.
"Chelsea are an inspiration for everyone," said Wilshere. "They weren't having a good season and OK, they got a bit lucky in some games, but they showed great character and we need to do that. We need to come together as a team."
The visit of the runaway leaders of the Bundesliga represents a formidable challenge three days after being beaten at home by lower league opposition in the FA Cup for the first time under Wenger. Arsenal failed to turn domination into a lead and were felled by a 72nd-minute goal from Colin Kazim-Richards. "It's not ideal to go into a game like the one against Bayern after that loss," said Wilshere.
"It's disappointing to go out of the FA Cup. We wanted to go all the way. Everyone said it was our best chance to win a trophy. We have to regroup now. We have a big game on Tuesday. We need everyone behind us. We know what Bayern are capable of. They have a great team."
In the last two seasons Arsenal have beaten Barcelona and Milan at home at this stage of the Champions League, although neither victory was big enough to compensate for heavy away defeats. But Wilshere says the home wins mean Arsenal should at least go into the Bayern game with a good deal more optimism than was apparent on Saturday, when prolonged booing at the final whistle suggested many of the club's supporters are losing their faith in Wenger.
"We've beaten big European teams here before so we need to do it again," said Wilshere. "We need a good defensive display and to counter them well. They've got a good defensive unit. It's going to be an interesting game. We look forward to it."
Wenger accused his players of lacking focus against Blackburn and demanded better against Bayern. But his rallying cry sounded like the declaration of a man who sees little value in clutching at straws. "Just now it would be a bit pretentious to say that [we can win the Champions League] but you never know," said Wenger. "We have to give it a good shot on Tuesday night and see where we stand afterwards."
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