Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Bayern Munich vs Arsenal: Five ways the Gunners can beat Pep Guardiola's in-form charges

The outlook may be grim for Arsene Wenger's men after a 2-0 first-leg defeat, but the German champions are not invincible
Head to head: Arsene Wenger will look to mastermind a win against Pep Guardiola
Getty Images
Arsenal face another mission impossible in the Champions League today with a trip to the Allianz Arena on the cards. Bayern Munich, the reigning European champions, have smashed almost every record you could think of over the last 18 months.
Pep Guardiola’s men were in devastating form on Saturday, scoring five goals in 17 minutes to thrash a well-backed Wolfsburg team 6-1. They have won 16 consecutive matches, remaining unbeaten for 49 games.
Still, the Gunners shouldn’t head to Germany with their heads down. Here are five reasons for Arsenal fans to remain optimistic ahead of Tuesday’s clash.


The word sometimes doesn’t appear in Pep Guardiola’s dictionary. It’s evidently the major weak point in Bayern’s armour. The expected back-four will be Rafinha on the right-hand side, Jerome Boateng and Dante partnering in the middle, then David Alaba at left full-back. But that said, Guardiola has shifted Philipp Lahm back in place of Rafinha, if things haven’t gone quite their way, as seen in London a fortnight back.
The most reliable presence, defensively, has probably been former Manchester City man Boateng and Bayern’s goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. Boateng’s pace and covering instincts have come in handy in situations where the Bavarians have faced quicker, dynamic forwards.


In any of the matches Bayern have struggled this season, pressure is key. Applying pressure from midfield, challenging aerial duels and looking to aggressively compete are all key facets to how the more successful sides have fared against Bayern.
Arsenal have some interesting options in midfield. From Mathieu Flamini, the ball-winner and terrier in the middle, to the likes of the busy Tomas Rosicky, then men on the flanks in the shape of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who could use their genuine speed to put Bayern under pressure.

Slow starters

Point three correlates well with number four: the start of the match is absolutely imperative for Arsenal on Tuesday. In the same fashion as Wolfsburg and Stuttgart beforehand, starting on the front-foot to unsettle Bayern is the best way to find a chink in the armour.
Bayern's habit for starting slow will worry this man
Shaun Botterill
Wolfsburg, in particular, started at a ferocious tempo with Dieter Hecking, the club’s head coach, instructing a quintet of forwards and midfielders to really pressurise the likes of Toni Kroos and the central defenders when they drop deeper to retrieve possession.
It worked for well over an hour, and notwithstanding the tactical changes, the Wolves would have fancied their chances of winning the game. There’s no doubt Arsenal have the characteristics to play a high-tempo, ball-winning style, which should be the common decision from Wenger.

Been there, done it

Remember, Arsenal won at the Allianz Arena last season at this stage. Under Jupp Heynckes, Bayern certainly didn’t have the same panache as they now do – but there were few weaknesses, even in defence. Heynckes’ team was founded upon solidity and breaking with speed and that’s quite a contrast to Guardiola’s philosophy.
This season, Manchester City found some glory by winning 3-2 at Bayern Munich in the group stage of the Champions League. The second-half comeback was inspired by aggression and determination to win every second ball in the attacking-half of the pitch.
But in both instances, Bayern were obviously complacent. There was a lacklustre feel to the game with Bayern having already done the dirty work beforehand. Could lightning strike for a third time on Tuesday?

Özil back on form

Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski look on during the Arsenal training session at London Colney on March 10, 2014 in St Albans, England
Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski look on during the Arsenal training session at London
 Colney on March 10, 2014 in St Albans, England

Strangely, Mesut Özil was public enemy number one last week. His missed penalty against Bayern raised questions about his ‘bottle’ and he was even jeered off the pitch when Germany beat Chile 1-0 in Stuttgart last week. German publications KICKER and BILD dedicated front-page spreads to debating the Özil questions, where several influential ex-internationals questioned his mentality at the top level.
Özil recovered from his winter slump on Saturday to score against Everton in the FA Cup quarter-final. He’d been off the pace for a few months, although, received some backing from Guardiola who made reference to the punishing schedule in the UK.
While Özil will need to add the dirty parts to his game for Tuesday, the raw attributes are there. Wenger will have the crucial job of motivating the German, but the fact he’s up against the much-disliked Bayern should be motivation enough.
The Mirror

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