For a second year running, the Gunners and the Bavarians once again square off in the Second Round of the UEFA Champions League. Defeat on match day six cost Arsenal top spot – and FC Bayern Munchen await them in the round of 16, this time, as champions.
The German side will be clear favorites to knock Arsenal out but Arsene Wenger’s men are much-improved this year and fans would point out the fact that they were a goal away from knocking Die Roten out last year. While it’s good news to know Arsenal are playing better football, their opponents have got better and have been blowing teams away. Would Bayern advance as expected or would Arsenal rise to the occasion and shock the Football World?
- ARSENAL: P26 W 17 D 5 L4 GF 48 GA 26 GD +22 PTS 56 (2ND)
- BAYERN MUNCHEN:P21 W19 D2 L0 GS 57 GA 9 GD +48 PTS 59 (1ST)
- Arsenal warmed up for this blockbuster tie by easing past Liverpool in the F.A Cup to advance to the Q-Finals.
- For Bayern, they went 16 points clear in the Bundesliga with a comprehensive 4-0 win over Freiburg to extend their unbeaten league run to 46.
STORY SO FAR
When the draws were made, most Arsenal fans had their hearts in their mouths as they were paired alongside last season’s Finalist, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli and Marseille. Group F was rightly dubbed the Group of Death.
They started with a win at the Stade Velodrome and made it two wins with a straightforward 2-0 home win over Napoli. They suffered a home defeat to Dortmund but regrouped to win at the Westfalenstadion to keep their qualification hopes on track. On Match Day Six, the Gunners lost 2-0 to Napoli in Italy and slipped down to second as Dortmund won 2-1 in France to top the Group.
Qualifying out of the Group of Death represents an achievement but they like other teams left in the Competition would have their eyes on the Final at the Estadio da Luiz.
Arsenal’s last three home games against German opposition have all ended in defeats; 0-2 loss to Schalke 04 in last season’s clash, a 1-3 loss to Bayern and another 1-2 defeat in the hands of the gengen-passers, Dortmund in the Group Stage of this season’s Champions League.
- P 6 W 4 D 0 L 2 GF 8 GA 5 GD +3 PTS 12
The European Champions began the defence in the Group D. They were grouped alongside Manchester City from England, Russia’s CSKA Moscow and Czech side Plzen.
They have so far been near flawless in the defence of their title. It started with a rout of CSKA at the Allianz Arena (3-0) and then a 3-1 win at the Etihad on Match Day Two followed. Consecutive wins over Viktoria Plzen ensured their qualification to the next round with two games to spare. They won 3-1 in an early kick-off in Russia before the Citizens gained some revenge in what is their first loss since the 0-2 loss to Arsenal last year.
They are yet to suffer defeat on their travels, and in their last three trips to the Queens’ Country, they have emerged victorious; a 3-1 win over Arsenal at the Emirates last year, Champions League Final triumph over Borussia Dortmund at Wembley and of course a 3-1 win at the Etihad earlier in the Campaign.
- P 6 W 5 D 0 L1 GF17 GA 5 GD +12 PTS 15(1st)
- Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott will miss the tie as they continue to recover from physical problems. The former’s goal-scoring and box-to-box abilities while the latter’s pace and direct running would be huge losses for the Gunners.
- Deadline loan signing Kim Kallstorm is also out of this tie
- Long term absentee, Abou Diaby still remains out and would definitely the clash against Die Bayern.
- Mikel Arteta would sit out of this game as He serves his one-match ban thanks to the red card he got in the 0-2 loss at Naples.
Oxlade Chamberlain is back and has looked sharp in recent matches most notably in the weekend win over Liverpool. His return is a big boost to Arsenal especially with Walcott, the other player who brings width and pace, out.
- Frank Ribery would miss this clash thanks to a buttock surgery which was carried out to repair a torn Blood vessel.
Xherdan Shaqiri tore his right quadriceps muscle in the routine 4-0 win over Freiburg over the weekend and would miss his side’s trip to London.
- Holger Badstuber is a long term absentee and would miss this clash
- On a positive note, Germany International Bastian Schweinsteiger is back and should start against the North London side.
MANAGERS AND EUROPE
- ARSENE WENGER(ARSENAL)
The Frenchman is a seasoned campaigner in Europe’s top flight Competition. He has guided his Arsenal side to their 14th successive knockout round. A brilliant motivator, there are very few around who can match his experience. He’s however yet to win the Holy Grail. The closest He has come to winning it was in 2006 where they lost to Barcelona 1-2 in Paris.
- JOSEP GUARDIOLA (BAYERN MUNCHEN)
He is one of the best Managers around if not the best. He is an extremely brilliant tactician with an eye for the little details. He’s introduced the 4-1-4-1 formation, got his team playing with a single defensive midfielder, played with a false nine while still staying loyal to the high-pressing and transition game which brought great success last season. He’s one of those few to win the UEFA Champions League as a Player and Coach. As a Coach, he’s won it twice with Barcelona in 2009 and 2011.
WHAT ARSENAL MUST DO
- Take Advantage of Narrow Full-Backs: One major difference between Guardiola’s Bayern and Guardiola’s Barcelona is the positioning of the full-backs. While Barcelona relied on Dani Alves and Alba/Abidal for width, at Bayern, he instead asks Rafinha and David Alaba to tuck in and provide extra passing options in the middle of the pitch and also help the pressing when they lose the ball. The disadvantage however is that space is left in wide areas that can be exploited. In Bayern’s 3-0 win over Dortmund, aware of their threat on the flanks, Guardiola gave his fullbacks a more conventional role. But since Arsenal tend to have their ‘wide’ midfielders come inside, Guardiola may not see the Gunners as a big threat down the flanks, and this also means Wenger could surprise him by starting Oxlade. As Guardiola tends to see his side’s failings early and adjust, they would have to take advantage quickly.
Play On The Counter: Bayern have the highest average possession in Europe, a whopping 71.1%.They will most likely see most of the ball on Wednesday so it is down to Arsenal to stay compact and hit them fast on the counter especially with gaps set to open up on the flanks and the fact that Pep plays with a single pivot in midfield would be of little help. I’m not suggesting park the bus as the Gunners would suffer for it but they have to really be patient, compact and take their chances when they see them. Dortmund exposed Bayern on the counter in the German Super Cup and while Pep has done a lot to work on that, the Bavarians are still prone to being caught out on the break.
Apart from Oxlade and the injured Walcott, Arsenal is not a team with natural width, as earlier noted the likes of Cazorla, Ozil and Podolski tend to drift in as the running fullbacks provide the crosses. Such approach would most likely be adopted on Wednesday and while it would stretch the Bayern side, it could leave them vulnerable to a potential break from the Germans. Most German sides have a swift transition from defence to attack so Arsenal would do well to be aware of this threat when they pump bodies forward. Dortmund’s second goal at the Emirates came from such situation. With Arsenal pushing for a winner, the Blacks and Yellows caught them on the break and it took just three touches to find the back of the net; a pass from Piszczek, a cross by Blaszczykowski and Lewandowski stabbed home the winner.
Close down the Pivot Man: One of the changes Pep has made to this team is playing with one defensive midfielder. Just as his Barca where Busquets was responsible for recycling possession, the person who is now responsible is Lahm. He’s one of the modifications made by the Spaniard and so far it’s been spot on. With the Central defenders drifting wide, it would be best if someone presses him to force a mistake. Lahm is one of the very few consistent footballers but that does not mean he can’t make a mistake.
Isolate Dante: Bayern are formidable both in their quality on the ball and in their physicality off it, but they aren’t faultless across the pitch. Since Pep Guardiola has switched to a single holding midfielder rather than the midfield pairing Jupp Heynckes preferred last season, the Munich side’s centre-backs have been exposed to one-on-one battles with opposition forwards more often than they used to be, and Dante in particular tends to struggle in those situations. The Brazilian has seen two yellow cards in his last two Champions League outings, and conceded penalties in both games, so if Arsenal can manage to leave him isolated with someone on his neck, then we could be in for a treat.
WHAT BAYERN MUST DO
- Go double on Arsenal Fullbacks: Arsenal’s heavy defeats in the English Premier League have come against teams that went double against Sagna and Gibbs/Monreal. Against City, it was Zabaleta and Navas while against Liverpool, Sterling and the SAS caused trouble from the wide areas. This was effective because the Arsenal midfielders especially failed to drop back and help the full backs. Bayern can take advantage of this.
ISOLATE GIROUD: If Bayern can manage to do this, they will reduce the chances of Arsenal scoring and also any meaningful link-up between the midfielders and the Frenchman. The likes of Ozil thrive on space and they love play between the lines and denying them space would limit any quality service to the Frenchman.
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN
- GOALKEEPER: SZCZESNY
- DEFENDERS:SAGNA/MERTESACKER/KOSCIELNY AND GIBBS
- MIDFIELDERS:WILSHERE/FLAMINI/OXLADE CHAMBERLAIN/OZIL AND CAZORLA
- FORWARD: GIROUD
BAYERN MUNCHEN (4-1-4-1)
- DEFENDERS:RAFINHA/DANTE/BOATENG AND ALABA
- AND ROBBEN
- FORWARD: MANDZUKIC
- Arsenal’s last success at this stage came in 2010 when they recovered from a 2-1 defeat at FC Porto to win 5-0 in London. That was their third successive victory in the round of 16.
- This is Bayern’s sixth successive last-16 appearance with the 2011 reverse against FC Internazionale Milano their sole defeat in that run.
This is Bayern’s fourth visit to England in 12 months and they have been successful on their three previous trips, including victory against Dortmund in May’s final at Wembley.
- They also met Chelsea FC in the UEFA Super Cup on 30 August in Prague, winning 5-4 on penalties after a 2-2 draw.
- Bayern’s record away to English teams is W4 D7 L6; overall it is W15 D14 L12. Bayern lifted the European Champion Clubs’ Cup with a 2-0 final triumph against Leeds United AFC in 1975, but have since lost finals to Aston Villa FC (0-1, 1982), Manchester United FC (1-2, 1999) and Chelsea (1-1, 3-4 pens, 2012).
- As Barcelona coach, Guardiola’s record against Arsenal was W2 D1 L1. His team lost 2-1 in north London in the 2010/11 round of 16 first leg but won the return 3-1.
Podolski played for Bayern from 2006 until 2009, scoring 15 goals in 71 league games. Either side of that spell he spent a total of six years with 1. FC Köln, and in ten games against Bayern was only once on the winning side.
Mertesacker scored SV Werder Bremen’s goal in a 3-1 home defeat against Bayern on 29 January 2011. After Robben’s equaliser, the defender’s own goal put Bayern 2-1 in front. During five years in Bremen Mertesacker faced Bayern 16 times, winning only two.
Mertesacker and Pizarro were team-mates at Bremen between 2008 and 2011, with Mesut Özil joining them in 2008/09 and 2009/10.
Tomáš Rosický scored 20 goals in 149 Bundesliga games for Dortmund between 2001 and 2006, winning the title in 2001/02.
Mertesacker, Özil and Podolski are national team-mates with Neuer, Boateng, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Kroos, Müller and Götze.
Robben scored in Chelsea’s 2-0 win at Arsenal on 18 December 2005. In his three years at Stamford Bridge, Robben faced the Gunners on four occasions and never lost.
Ribéry plays for France alongside Sagna, Diaby, Giroud, Koscielny and Flamini.
Müller scored in Germany’s 2-1 win in a Paris friendly against a France team that included Ribéry, Sagna, Koscielny and Giroud. Lahm, Podolski, Mertesacker, Özil and Kroos played for the visitors.
Giroud scored in France’s 2-1 friendly win in Bremen on 29 February 2012 against a Germany team that included Boateng, Kroos, Özil, Müller and Neuer. Ribéry also played for the visitors.
Martínez and Alcántara are Spanish team-mates of Cazorla and Monreal.
Vermaelen and Van Buyten both play for Belgium.
Gnabry was in Stuttgart’s youth team until 2011.
FIRST LEG PREDICTION: ARSENAL 1 V. BAYERN MUNCHEN 2