Arsenal host the Bavarian champions in the second leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie at the Emirates tonight knowing qualification is highly unlikely; no side in the history of the European Cup has overturn a four goal deficit in a knockout match.
Not only did the defeat almost certainly end Arsenal’s European campaign at the first knockout round for the seventh season in a row it led to mounting criticism over manager Arsene Wenger, who has yet to commit to a new contract with his current deal due to expire in the summer.
Wenger admitted that his side had “collapsed mentally” in Bavaria after the departure of French centre-back Laurent Koscielny to injury with the score then just 1-1. A quarter of an hour later Arsenal were 4-1 down.
It was, Mertesacker insisted in his pre-match programme notes, an unacceptable performance.
“We were embarrassed with our second half performance in Munich and now we need to make the fans proud,” the club captain wrote. “The only thing I’m going to ask for tonight is fighting spirit and passion.
“We owe the fans an apology for what we produced in Munich, because we really let down our club, and you cannot repair that.
“All we can do tonight is perform differently and that’s what I’m going to ask for.
Mertesacker added: “It’s up to us to show that we have the fighting spirit and that we want to give everything for this club. The fans do that every week and it’s what they want to see from us.
“Let’s focus on what is really important for this club and make sure we fight as hard as we can to get something out of every game. That’s important because it’s the least the fans deserve.”
Thousands of Arsenal fans are expected to stay from the Emirates tonight in protest at Wenger’s management and the perceived stagnation at the club.
Arsenal’s ticket exchange has seen an unprecedented number of supporters make their tickets available for a high-profile European game. Of those that do attend hundreds are expected to take part in a march from the old Highbury stadium to the Emirates.