LONDON, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Bayern Munich’s failure to lift European football’s top prize since 2001, despite two Champions League final appearances in the past three seasons, is beginning to weigh on the German giants.
Bayern, who last lost on Oct. 28, have yet to concede a goal in 2013 and have built up a 15-point league lead in their pursuit of another Bundesliga crown, but manager Jupp Heynckes knows what the club’s owners really want.
“Last season we had a great season but with Bayern if you don’t win the title it’s simply not enough,” Heynckes told reporters through an interpreter on Monday ahead of their Champions League last-16 first leg against Arsenal.
Heynckes is in his last season at Bayern with former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola taking over in July.
The 67-year-old former German international, who won the Champions League with Real Madrid in 1998, has enjoyed a very successful start to his second season with Bayern after failing to win anything in 2012.
Heynckes is acutely aware, however, that Bayern’s impressive form will count for little should they stumble against an Arsenal side low on confidence.
“Two years at Bayern Munich without a title and obviously you’ve got to do something about that,” he said.
“This season we’ve made a few changes, we’ve improved in defence and whats’s very important for me is that all players have learned that they have to defend and attack. Every player is a defender and an attacker.”
Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said the key to the side’s incredible defensive record this season - they have conceded seven goals in 22 Bundesliga matches - was their work ethic.
“The whole team defends well. When we lose the ball we recover quickly to get it back,” Neuer told reporters.
Heynckes said his team’s commitment to winning trophies would only go up several notches when they line up against Arsenal.
“The players really have that motivation and that hunger for success which is a very important factor for us moving forward,” he said.
“We’ve shown this real desire already in the league and in the German Cup, you have to have that at a high level. The Champions League is special because you play better at a higher level.”
Heynckes, who said a decision on his future would be made at the end of the season, was wary of talking in too much detail about Tuesday’s clash.
“I don’t have a result that I wish for as such, but I do think that we have the capability, if we play at our absolute top level, to win here.”
The German added that Arsene Wenger, his under-pressure counterpart, should be given an easier ride.
Wenger was criticised for making changes to the lineup for their FA Cup defeat by second-tier Blackburn Rovers on Saturday and has not delivered a major trophy since 2005.
“You’ve got to take into consideration that Arsenal are competing with teams like Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City and the way I see it, over the years they’ve been selling their best players,” said Heynckes.
“The other teams have been getting in world stars. If you have to compete with teams like that then I don’t think it’s all that fair to blame Arsene Wenger.” (Editing by Ed Osmond)