When Bayern Munich travelled to the Emirates in the mid-week Champions League fixture, the hosts were hoping to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat. Instead, they simply added to the misery of crashing out of the FA Cup and let themselves down with a 3-1 loss. The loss translates to 3 away goals, a trip to Bayern Munich and in all probability, a consecutive eighth year without silverware. Speculations of Arsene Wenger nearing the axe are completely untrustworthy, and like they say, “He will leave when he wants to leave.” That being said, Arsenal need to quickly figure out a strategy to counter the supremely efficient German side. Here are the three areas Arsenal will have to focus on.
In the first leg, Arsenal were so eager to subdue the German outfit, that they almost started reacting to every play Bayern made, rather than focus on the outlined game plan. Every move Bayern made was met with a premeditated, custom response which did not show any creativity. The frustration showed in the ranks, with five yellows, three of which were earned in the first 45 minutes.
When Bayern drew first blood, Arsenal were immediately scampering for their move, without the custom regrouping and reinforcing of formation. It cost them when the Germans rallied for their second against a team which looked more vulnerable than they could afford. In the return leg, the Gunners will have to ideally use zonal marking to counter the blistering pace of the German side. The power of the opposition will be hard to negate given the usual form of soft football that Arsenal relish, but the big ones can pitch in here. Mandzukic and Ribery will have to be shut down, similar to what Messi encountered against Milan. Sagna will hopefully be back, and in with Vermaelen should form the centre, leaving Jenkinson and Monreal to cover the flanks.
A resolute Bayern defence gave little away in terms of space for creativity, rendering the wings more or less useless. This quickly limited what Theo Walcott had to offer, and even his pace didn’t trouble the opposing backline. With the exception of maybe Jack Wilshere, no one really delivered on the day.
The way forward is using the flanks to find either Giroud or Podolski in the penalty area. Bayern players aren’t the tallest of the lot, and using the wingers and the wing backs should pose questions to them. Monreal and Jenkinson will have to double up as wingers and Arsenal should throw more bodies up front, automatically increasing the probability of chances in front of the goal. Arteta and Cazorla will also need to take their shots, from distance or otherwise, and hope it bobbles in the area for a clean shot. Arsenal had only 8 shots, as opposed to Bayern’s 17, which points to the lack of attacking intent. Arsenal also had 56 percent of the possession, which leaves you wondering what Arsenal did with so much of the ball.
If Arsenal need to pull something back, they will need to do it very early. Ditch the single target man and pour bodies upwards. The defence will go for a toss, but that is how Wenger will have to play his cards. Force Bayern to play on the counter, and let Arteta sit a little further up, along with Cazorla. Podolski and Giroud should lead the attack, with Walcott and Wilshere bringing up the midfield.
Use the wingers to cut down on the countering rampage, nipping Lahm or Buyten in the bud. Mueller will need to be man-marked, preferably by Vermaelen. Arsenal have the pace and the work rate to match, but will need to pile up on the aggression if the Allianz Arena is to yield any points.
Basically, Arsenal need to throw caution to the wind. It is a double edged sword at the end of the day, and it may possibly backfire, because Bayern is not going to sit back and watch Arsenal pass the ball. Either way, the Londoners have nothing to lose, and it has come to this particular fixture to rescue another season. Arsenal got 3 against a Milan side, but that was at home. Arsenal had a chance to shut down Bayern at the Emirates and they would have done well with a drab nil-nil. How they will cope up against the premier side of Germany, in Germany, is a pundit’s nightmare.