Build Up: Bayern Munich Vs Arsenal

As we approach the round of 16 of the 2016/17 Champions League there is one game that is starting to become a common feature, and that is Bayern Munich Vs Arsenal. Since the turn of the millennium the two teams have competed 10 times against each other in the Champions league, of which Arsenal have lost five and won three, with the rest resulting in draws. It is, in my opinion, obvious that Bayern are the superior team in the fixture and it is hard to see an upset at the Allianz tommorow night.

In the last two meetings between the teams the tactical play has varied. In the home leg for Arsenal in 2015, they played a 4–2–3–1, but ended up playing in a more defensive 4–4–2. they where effective the whole evening, blocking the easy forward passes for the Bayern defence by using man marking. this forced Bayern to play a slower game, with most passes going backwards or sideways or being forced forward, resulting in possesion changing feet. The Arsenal defence also did well to frustrate Lewandowski, forcing him into wider areas, as he wanted to become more involved in play. this left Bayern with no central striker, meaning they lost their edge going forward. Douglas Costa was Bayerns main man in the game, giving them vital width, which resulted in Arsenals two lines of 4 being spread wider. Even with this it was difficult for Bayern to score, as Arsenal did well to get men behind the ball and, with the presence of Mertersacker, they also had the arial advantage. In the end it was bad communication and a simple lack of concentration from Bayern, which Arsenal grabbed onto to score their 2 goals and win an all mighty smash-and-grab.

Celebration after a well worked Bayern goal

In the reverse fixture, Arsenal stuck with the same 4–2–3–1 and Bayern when with the same outfit, but with much more attacking intent and width this time, with the introduction of Coman on the left and Costa moving to the right. Alaba also went back to his origianl left-back position to act as almost a second winger for the majority of the game. Arsenal’s man-to-man marking was thrown out the window in this leg, and they went with a more zonal aproach which did not favour them. The real differece was the width that Bayern had, as they managed to stretch the arsenal lines and deliver crosses in or look for overlaping runs. This also meant Lewandowski did not have to come wide to make things happen, making it a harder night for the Arsenal back two. Alabas freedom was also key, as he often overloaded the midfield or wide left, creating good opportunities all game and an excellent finish as well. In the end Bayern where too strong for Arsenal and ran away with the tie with a 5–1 win.

Of course the main difference in the encounter this time is the managerial change that Bayern Munich have undergone, with a farwell to Josep Guardiola and the appointment of Carlo Ancelotti at the end of the 2015/16 season. He is similar to Josep Guardiola, in the sense he follows the earlier beliefs of Cesar Menotti, the South American manager in the 60's and 70's, who believed in attacking football to make the fans happy with creativity and attractiveness, similar to the beliefs of the late Johan Cruyff, who heavily influenced Guardiola when coaching at Barcelona. However, he does have his differences. As the so called father of the “Christmas Tree” formation, Carlo Ancelotti will look to change the team to benefit this formation,making a solid midfield three of Thiago, Alonso and Vidal, with Alonso playing a similar role to Pirlo in the AC Milan 2006/7 team, and Thiago and Vidal being versatile as box-to-box midfielders or as holding cover for Alonso. The tiki-taka play of Guardiola will be moved from the defensive regions of the pitch to higher areas where a player such as Müller can try and make things happen with a free license in the final third, much like Kaka or Ronaldo, in earlier Ancelotti teams.

My predicted line-up would be a 4–2–3–1. It is how Wenger normally likes to set out (especially against Bayern) and I see no reason for him to change. I think the adition of Chamberlin into the team will give more speed to Arsenals pressing game than someone like Xhaka or Giroud, and if he does not star, I am sure he will make an appearance at some point during the game.

Arsenal Predicted Line-up

My Bayern Munich Line-up would be a more conventional 4–4–3, with probably that bit more attacking intent in the form of higher full backs. The arrival of Hummels has provided some well needed cover in the central defensive area and means Alaba can stay at left-back in the absence of Boating, where he is much more useful. Also the introduction of Kimmich this season has allowed Thiago to move further up the field where he can use his creativness and flare to help create chances but, I would like to see them play with more width as they did against Arsenal last year with Costa and Coman, exploiting arsenal and cruising to a win.

Bayern Munich Predicted Line-up

Overall I think it will be a tight game with most of it concentrated in the middle of the park, but i believe Bayern will be too strong and come away with an important lead going to the emirates (3–0).