Arsenal can beat Bayern and Walcott will get his hundredth goal
Match Preview: Bayern Munich vs. Arsenal – Champions League – 15.02.2017
Having been knocked out of the Champions League as second-in-the-group qualifiers for five seasons it was paramount that Arsenal topped their group. They did what was required of them and Arsenal looked to have an easier path to the quarter-finals. Fate was not done with the Gunners and it was almost assured that Arsenal would draw Bayern, who finished second in their group.
And draw Bayern we did. The mood amongst the crowd is low, the results have been disappointing, our best performers look jaded and all the bookmakers’ predictions for Bayern vs. Arsenal have the Bavarians coming out on top, FootballPredictions.com has the score at 3-1 for the German side. However, this match is not a foregone conclusion.
The good news is Bayern are beatable. The better news is Arsenal boast a much more rounded and talented team than they did the last time they played their German foes. The bad news is we never know what kind of Arsenal is going to show up.
The Gunners have won in Munich before and arguably with a less talented team. Bayern, whilst still formidable, have lost a touch of the seeming invincibility they have possessed in recent years. Key performers like Boateng and Ribery will miss this match and midfield lynchpin Xabi Alonso faces a late fitness test. Bayern are unbeaten in all competitions since November and, as Arsenal know all too well, the longer you remain undefeated the harder it gets to stay so.
Vital to success in Bavaria will be the manner in which Arsenal start the match and the personnel. It is crucial that Wenger’s side presses with the intensity and tenacity we saw in the 3-0 win over Chelsea as well as demonstrate the dogged determination shown over 180 minutes against PSG as a visibly sloppy Arsenal battled under an onslaught. The back five are practically nailed on for most matches with only the goalkeeper rotating depending on the competition so it is in midfield and attack that selection will make or break this fixture.
Arsenal possesses a highly talented side who, in most matches, can overcome the majority of oppositions irrespective of how optimal the line-up is. However, Bayern are not most opponents and will require precise tactics and personnel to be overcome on their home turf. Fortuitously, Arsène’s options in midfield have swelled with the return of Xhaka from suspension and Elneny from international duty. So too have his options been deepened further by the performances of Oxlade-Chamberlain in central midfield.
Calls for Özil to be dropped or pushed out wide have been made far and wide. Many masquerade as ruminations of deeply tactical thinkers however the truth is far more simple. Mesut has been poor for a month or longer and has done little to justify his position in this match or any other. Supremely talented, the German midfielder’s best self gets into any team in the world and such a player cannot be dropped when fitness is not an issue. Placing him in a wide position seems like a fair compromise to those who recognise his talent is such you cannot take the risk of dropping him but do not wish to play a passenger in the heart of our attack.
Özil’s form is symptomatic of Arsenal’s form in general. He is at his best when Arsenal are at their best. Shunting him to the flanks, foisting defensive duties on him in the process, immediately unbalances Arsenal with no suitable counterweight. Thus Arsenal start the match at a disadvantage and neither player nor team can be at their best. Mesut must stay in the middle where he is best – I trust him to produce the goods when it matters.
Alexis could move back to the left flank with Welbeck providing a more physical challenge to Bayern’s defence as well as a Giroudesque focal point for Arsenal’s attacks, creating space and opportunities to take advantage of for the Chilean and possibly Walcott on the opposite flank. Cometh the hour and cometh the man – I think tonight could see Walcott’s 100th career goal considering his enviable, yet highly underrated, record in the so-called big games.
We’ll know within the first 20 minutes whether Arsenal have a chance of progressing or not. Fourth time lucky perhaps.
Ospina; Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal; Coquelin, Xhaka, Özil: Alexis, Welbeck, Walcott.
I expect to see substitute appearances from Oxlade-Chamberlain, Elneny and Giroud.
“I have no doubt that we play in Germany and Ozil is highly focused to have a good performance” – Arsène Wenger
Last 3 Meetings
- Bayern 5-1 Arsenal (04.11.2015)
- Arsenal 2-0 Bayern (20.10.2015)
- Bayern 1-1 Arsenal (11.03.2014)
We find the Bavarian club sitting pretty at the top of the Bundesliga, 7 points clear of RB Leipzig, but they struggled to a 2-0 win over Ingolstadt at the weekend where stoppage time goals saved their blushes. There is some talk of unrest among their players following the shock announcement from Philipp Lahm that he will retire in 3 months time. How much that will affect their performance, if at all, remains to be seen.
- Arsenal were the first team to beat Bayern at the Allianz
- Bayern have knocked Arsenal out of the Champions League in 3 of the last 4 seasons.
- Alexis Sanchez has 20 goals in all competitions already this season.
- Harry Redknapp, football soothsayer, claims Arsenal have a 0% chance of winning tonight.
Courtesy of Opta & BBC Sport.
1-0 to Arsenal.
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