How Arsenal should line up to beat Bayern Munich
Updated Wednesday, 13th March 2013
Arsenal will have to setup just right to get anything out of their second leg against Bayern Munich.
The Gunners face a daunting, and many feel, impossible task to overturn a 3-1 deficit from the first leg. The London club must feel some comfort in knowing that stars such as Franck Ribery, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Jerome Boateng are missing for Bayern. Things aren't so bright for the Gunners either with news that Jack Wilshere and Bacary Sagna will be unavailable (via Arsenal.com).
Unfortunately there's still plenty of world-class talent for the Gunners to deal with all around the pitch. There's power in the midfield, skill and speed on the wings and clinical finishing up top. Arsenal's 4-2-3-1 formation will be remain but the personnel chosen will have a big effect on the result. We'll focus on how the personnel can stop who they're matched up to and how that can help the Gunners when they transition to attack.
Here's how Arsenal should set up to win back their pride against Bayern Munich.
Vito Mannone ? With the news that Wojiech Szczesny will be rested Vito Mannone should get the nod for Arsenal. The Gunners second choice shot stopper will relish this opportunity to show what he can do against a team of Bayern Munich's calibre and will not want to make a mistake.
This will be an advantage to Arsenal as the keeper will be trying his best to keep a clean sheet and impress Wenger.
It's a risky proposition to start Carl Jenkinson, but it's a move Arsene Wenger will need to make. Whether he faces Arjen Robben or Xherdan Shaqiri he will have a tough task. Still, with his energy, pace and 6' 1" build he should be able to keep up with whoever is opposite him. One could also add the fact that he's a self-confessed Arsenal fan and will play his heart out for the side regardless of the situation (via Daily Mail).
He may not shut down his opponent completely but if Jenkinson has a solid game defensively Arsenal's chances of a decent result increase. He likes to get forward and will have to curb that a bit in this game but he should focus on getting one or two quality crosses into the box.
Laurent Koscielny provides more mobility than Per Mertesacker, and that's the reason for this pick. Per Mertesacker's height and reading of the game are useful assets, but his lack of pace can be real detriment to Arsenal's defense. He was the worst performer in Arsenal's back four the last time these two teams met due to his inability to deal with the quick, technical Bayern attackers. Koscielny is decent enough in the air and will be quicker stepping in to collect stray passes. If his central partner needs to be covered the Frenchman has the pace to clear up any danger. If there's good delivery from Arsenal's set-pieces he can be a danger to the Bayern defense.
Thomas Vermaelen's continual lapses this season have been a major worry for Arsenal fans. Unfortunately those lapses have occurred whether the Belgian has played centrally or as a full-back in defense.
The Arsenal captain prefers to play centrally and in a big game like this, if Kieran Gibbs is fit, he should play in this position. Pairing him with Laurent Koscielny will give the Arsenal back line some decent speed and mobility. Like Koscielny, Vermaelen is solid enough in the air. The duo had some success playing together in various parts of the 2011/12 season and can hopefully replicate it in this game. Vermaelen can use his left-foot to try some angled long-range through balls and will be a good target on set-pieces.
Kieran Gibbs' return would be a welcome sight for Arsenal fans. Despite being a bit rusty he would provide solidity down the left flank and would prove a good match for Thomas Muller.
Bayern Munich attacked constantly down the right side during the last encounter, and having Gibbs in the fold will certainly help the Gunners. Indeed, if he works well with his left-wing partner they could decrease the effectiveness of Bayern's right-sided attack and create one or two good opportunities for Arsenal on the break.
Mikel Arteta will continue to try and orchestrate things from a deeper position for the Gunners. Getting balls quickly to the Gunners two wide men will be important for Arsenal's success and Arteta has the quality to provide those passes.
Defensively Arteta should be tasked with staying as close to Toni Kroos as possible. Statistically speaking the Spaniard has been the club's best tackler in the league according to WhoScored.com Arteta shouldn't be asked to man-mark Kroos but should stay near him and do his best to hassle him in possession.
Luiz Gustavo and Javi Martinez are likely to be the two players in Bayern Munich's double pivot on Wednesday. That makes for a powerful midfield duo.
Abou Diaby is the most physical presence in the Arsenal midfield and, while he cannot take on both players, he can certainly nullify the threat of one. Javi Martinez would be the more dangerous of the two for Bayern's attacking moves, and in that case Diaby should focus on him. Tackling isn't necessarily the Frenchman's strong suit, but he can use his physical strength to unnerve the Spaniard.
Diaby won't just be important defensively. His driving runs on the attacking end can unsettle the Bayern defense and hopefully open opportunities for his teammates. His decision-making will have to be quick and good if the club is to make anything of those moments.
Theo Walcott's pace didn't have a great effect in the last game but things could be different this time around. Bayern Munich were comfortable attacking away from home and will be even more comfortable attacking at home. This could result in the German's leaving space behind for Arsenal to exploit.
If the Englishman works well off the ball his teammates could find him in dangerous positions to take on a central defensive duo who can't catch him. David Alaba gets forward well, but Theo Walcott should have no problem keeping up with him on pace alone.
With Jack Wilshere out, Santi Cazorla will return to the middle three of Arsenal's attacking midfielders. Luiz Gustavo is likely to be the man most likely to close him down during the game and that will be an interesting battle. Cazorla puts in a good shift defensively but shouldn't be given exact instructions on the day. Just as Gustavo will be close to him, he should be close to the Brazilian when Bayern attack.
His movement, dribbling and eye for the pass will all be key with two speedy wingers to play through and a target man to combine off.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's pace and work-rate will be key on the left flank. He may not provide the finishing touch of Lukas Podolski but the focus here is to stop Philip Lahm. Oxlade-Chamberlain can track back and almost mark Lahm out of Bayern's attacks.
Offensively he can work of the target forward and look for long diagonal balls from Mikel Arteta or more intricate passes from Santi Cazorla. Oxlade-Chamberlain should also take the time to run at Lahm when the ball is at his feet to test the German defensively.
Olivier Giroud may not be scoring goals lately but if he and the Arsenal side play well that just may happen. Giroud will use his physical stature to battle with Bayern's central defensive partnership for any long balls.
His hold-up play will be key as Arsenal transition from attack. Giroud will have to work well with the three men behind him in order to create opportunities for himself and them throughout the game. He'll be important for set-pieces on both ends of the pitch.