Arsenal v Bayern Munich Match Preview
19th February, 2014
Arsenal welcome Europe's premier side to North London tomorrow night in their most taxing engagement of the season. Bayern have gone 3,789 games unbeaten in Germany (or thereabouts) and are the defending European champions.
Arsenal managed to salvage some pride in the Allianz last March after a chastening home defeat from the continent's finest. A year on, Arsenal are a better, more mature and defensively sound side, that win in Bavaria last spring was a catalyst for that improvement.
Indeed, this blog Click Here suggests that watching Bayern's masterclass in North London last February was watched rather studiously by Wenger.
Bayern are still the team to beat in Europe. Under new manager Pep Guardiola they're a slightly more high energy outfit and no less devastating for it. Arsenal will really have their work cut out.
It will be interesting to see how Arsenal line up. I think 10 of the 11 players probably pick themselves given Arteta's suspension. The key selection will be whether Wenger opts for Rosicky, Chamberlain or Podolski.
The German scored against Bayern last year but has become increasingly peripheral ever since. Rosicky could start on the right hand side of midfield to give Arsenal security in possession. Chamberlain however, has the attributes to drive at Bayern and in behind them. Three very different options that will reveal much about Wenger's approach.
Arsene Wenger believes his side have the belief to eliminate Bayern Munich this year, having been eliminated by the Germans in 2005, 2013 and in the second group stage in 2001.
''We have a strong team spirit, a strong desire to do well and a united team. Belief is built by results and on that front, we are stronger of course,' he said.
'Last year, we went out on the away goal, so that shows it's important not to concede at home. Our home form will be vitally important in this tie.
'But I think we are in much better mental shape than we were a year ago. We lost against Blackburn at home in the FA Cup and that was a big disappointment for us, but this year we won against Liverpool and we are really determined to win this game tomorrow.
'Since the start of the season, we have done well and it's now down to us how well from game-to-game we can show the same spirit and focus we showed against Liverpool.
'Every minute counts in a game of that stature and we are conscious of that and we will try to start very strong.'
'Since the start of the season, we know that in every game we have to be absolutely 100 per cent. We believe we can do it but it's down to the quality of the performance.
'With the quality of players on the pitch on both sides, it's nearly impossible to play without style. They will produce a quality game.'
Bayern coach Pep Guardiola is wary of the threat that the hosts will pose his side, ''Always they have good shape and good movement,' he said. 'Always they are organised with the ball and when during the game we let the ball go to them, we are going to suffer.
'I have never won here.
'I have learned you can never dominate 90 minutes against Arsenal. With their quality of player, a complete 90 minutes is impossible.
'What happens, is you can dominate for certain moments. Until maybe before half-time. But Arsenal, with this quality players, will always give you have a problem at some point.
'We will try to make a good game as best as possible. I donıt even think too much about the second game. We need to concentrate on what we have to do tomorrow. I hope it's going well.
'Bayern, here, won good but after in the Allianz Arena it was difficult last five or six minutes,' Guardiola said. 'I have a lot of respect for my colleague Arsene, he always likes the good, good players, always likes the good style - I know Tomas Rosicky, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, they have experience. And Olivier Giroud is terrible in the box.' (shall we presume he meant 'terrifying'?)
'Mesut Ozil is a top player,' he said. 'I know him very well because he played in Madrid. He was a fantastic player in Germany. He is a big talent - good passes, good vision.
'His team-mates from the national team explained to me that he is a good trainer and a good guy, so we have to control him. The best way to control him is when Bayern have the ball.'
Arsenal Team News:
Mikel Arteta is suspended for Arsenal after his red card in Naples. Jack Wilshere returns from a back problem.
Thomas Vermaelen (knee), Theo Walcott (knee), Aaron Ramsey (thigh), Kim Kallstrom (back) and Abou Diaby (knee) are all out.
Arsenal (from): Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Rosicky, Arteta, Podolski, Wilshere, Özil, Giroud, Chamberlain, Monreal, S.Cazorla, Flamini, Fabianski, Sanogo, Bendtner, Jenkinson, Gibbs, Gnabry.
Player to watch: Jack Wilshere
Paddy Barclay said in a recent interview with the Gooner fanzine, 'Wilshere is an extraordinary player. Except when he tries to take on the world, then I think he looks ordinary.'
Wilshere's best performances are typically in games that Arsenal control. Yet in the heavy defeats at City and Liverpool, he lost his head and became an island in the midfield. A law unto himself, he submitted to his frustration and played without intelligence.
Arsenal are not going to dominate the game against Bayern. They will face long periods without the ball and Wilshere is going to have to show maturity not to lose his head and try to take on the world. His job in the midfield 3 is as a connector between the pivot and Özil.
Against Liverpool he abandoned both of those teammates and isolated them. Wilshere will need to be disciplined, calm and intelligent. If he can master that, then his technique can take over afterwards. And few can match his technique.
Bayern Munich Team News:
Bayern are without Franck Ribery, who is recovering from surgery on a torn buttock muscle. is likely replacement, Xherdan Shaqiri, pulled a thigh muscle after scoring two goals agaimst Freiburg on Saturday and also misses out.
Bayern Munich (from); Neuer, Dante, van Buyten, Thiago, Martinez, Mandzukic, Robben, Rafinha, Pizarro, Boateng, Gotze, Weihrauch, Lahm, Starke, Muller, Alaba, Badstuber, Schweinsteiger, Kroos.
Player to watch: Thomas Muller
There are many, many players to choose from in this Bayern outfit, but Muller ruins even the most organised defences with his ability to find space where none seems to exist.
His threat is almost impossible to isolate because so many of his attributes are most apparent when he doesn't even have the ball. You just need eyes in the back of your skull to see him.
Match Facts & Stats
Lukas Podolski plays against his old club.
Arsenal have lost both knockout contests with Bayern Munich in the competition. They were eliminated 3-2 on aggregate in 2005 and on away goals in 2013 after a 3-3 aggregate score.
Arsenal have lost their last three home games against German clubs in the Champions League (v Schalke and Bayern Munich last season, v Borussia Dortmund this season).
Bayern Munich have won their last two away games against English teams in the Champions League, both with a 3-1 scoreline (against Arsenal and Manchester City).
Arsenal are the only team, alongside Real Madrid, to have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League in every season since the new format in 2003/04.
Arsenal have lost only three of their 18 Champions League knockout games at home (10 wins, 5 draws): against Chelsea in 2003/04 (quarter-finals), Manchester Utd in 2008/09 (semi-finals) and Bayern Munich in 2012/13 (last 16).
Bayern Munich have reached the final of the Champions League in three of the last four campaigns.
Bayern Munich have won their last five Champions League games in the knockout stages (13 goals for, 1 against).
Arsenal have scored eight goals in the Champions League this season, all from open play and inside the box.
Italy's Nicola Rizzoli officiates this one.
I'm afraid I just see Bayern being too powerful. I think they will come away with a 2-1 win. Muller and Mandzukic for Bayern, Cazorla for Arsenal.
Arsenal play at home to Sunderland on Saturday. Bayern have Hannover away on Sunday.