Bayern Preview: Belief & Concentration Required

sThe Champions League returns tonight with Bayern Munich in town. As Arsène rightly put it yesterday, it is impossible to argue against them being considered the best team in the world at the moment even though the 2010 Barcelona remain the best he has faced. You sense a lingering “so far” was needed to qualify his statement. Steamrollering their domestic league whilst being reigning World and European champions indicates their form. They aren’t unbeatable as Manchester City proved in the group stage but that was a difficult match to assess; Bayern had qualified already with the result only mattering to their visitors. But it punctures the air of invincibility, even if it is but minor pin prick providing a very slow release.

Arsenal have to buck recent history to progress to the quarter-finals. Poor performances in the first legs over the past two years have undermined exceptional wins in the returns. To this day it is still unfathomable how Milan did not concede the fourth and fifth goals whilst pondering how the outcome would have changed twelve months ago had the second been scored twenty minutes earlier, has whiled away more than a few minutes. The damage was already done by humiliations weeks earlier and a repeat of these scenarios must be avoided if the tie is to be won.

The win in Munich is widely credited with being the inspiration for the run of results at the end of last season and the form of this campaign. Sunday’s victory over Liverpool suggests that the recent wobble in belief is being cured, albeit slowly. In truth the squad has been out of sorts since the trip to Southampton. Crucially, they had until Anfield, been able to grind out results, to win ugly or draw in situations where previous seasons would have tasted defeat. The only lingering concern is that these performances have seen the side make slow starts, cede early possession which as we found a year ago will prove costly against Bayern. Arsène is acutely aware of this problem,

It is important [to make a fast start] because every minute counts in a game of this stature and we are conscious of that and we’ll try to start very strongly. We have big home strengths recently because we don’t give goals away and that will certainly be vitally important in this tie.

Whilst he is right to focus on not conceding, it is disingenuous to claim this a strength. Szczesny outwitted van Persie but Sturridge should have scored at least once on Sunday; it was no more than poor finishing. The sense is that Arsenal escaped rather than solid defensive work being at play. Once the team shakes the cobwebs, there is little complaint; the whole team defends and that is a genuine strength. Diligence, work-rate, these are commendable attributes for the squad but they should not mask deficiencies.

Tonight will see a few changes from the weekend, I would expect Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna to return to compliment the central pairing of Mertesacker and Koscielny in front of Wojciech Szczesny. Midfield once more causes the manager to think about his team selection. Mikel Arteta is suspended so Mathieu Flamini will remain in the centre. With the attacking outlets further ahead, Wenger will be looking for some snap and hard work from others. For that reason, Jack Wilshere is likely to return to the starting line-up, injury permitting. The England international has been criticised for his recent form, particularly for the United match with disgruntlement at his own performance manifesting in petulance. As Vincent Kompany observed last night, refereeing standards in the Champions League are more pernickerty than domestically and Wilshere will need to contain his opinions and frustrations.

It is attack where the telling decision will be made. Assuming that Olivier Giroud’s dalliances have not sapped his strength, the question is whether Lukas Podolski or Tomas Rosicky joins the dynamic duo of Santi Cazorla and Mesut Özil. Logic dictates that the Czech will be preferred, Wenger has made no secret of his belief in the midfielder and quite rightly so. However, is it a case of too much familiarity in that trio, smaller, creative midfielders with similar styles that Bayern may find more straightforward to neutralise in an attacking sense? I also believe that including Podolski from the outset offers more defensive cover for Kieran Gibbs. It might be Cazorla is the one to make way but given recent form, it seems unlikely. Of course, if Wilshere is injured the situation changes but somehow it strikes me that Wenger will retain confidence and faith in the quintet that steadied a rocking ship against United.

That is harsh on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain whose recent contributions should not be dismissed but as a learning curve, he is still on a sharp upward trajectory following the injury suffered on the opening day of the season. The only concern I have about the side is that natural width is missing and on Sunday, that provided a useful outlet when the defence was under pressure. And of course the route for the winning goal.

It means the line-up will probably be:

Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Wilshere, Flamini, Rosicky; Cazorla, Özil; Giroud

Jack Wilshere was quick to point out that tonight is as much about not conceding a goal as winning. The combination of the two puts the victors in a strong position, inducing some caution for the second leg but that is too far in the future with the standard of the opposition dictating that this tie be taken ninety minutes at a time.

Can Arsenal win tonight? Of course, a bloodied nose was issued to Barcelona in the home legs at the turn of the decade. Arsenal were well-beaten in the returns but that is the past, the squad is in a ‘better place’ this season than then. It comes down to whether they really believe that victory is possible, how they react to any adversity. We won’t know until – if – it happens. I prefer the ‘if’ option. Equally, chances tonight will be at a premium and Olivier Giroud will need to be ready to seize on those moments. It’s another reason to include Podolski, offering another goalscoring option, certainly a more obvious outlet than Cazorla, Rosicky or Özil in that respect. We shall see.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

434 thoughts on “Bayern Preview: Belief & Concentration Required

  1. I think that’s right, LG. The CL wasn’t ours anyway and a brave failure does only good.

    Except foe the effect on Ozil who hardly came back fighting after his stupidity.

  2. kozzer gave a nailed on pen away poodle but ref missed it..
    fuck all to do with the ref that ozil cant take pens and gibbs got injured leaving us with monreal and ozil who were nowhere all night..
    just one of those games..
    concentrate on the league now
    got a few fixtures to gain some points before back to back big teams again..
    and then theres the fa cup..

    bollox to this we havent won it in 17 attempts its just a money spinning sideshow..

  3. Could have been much worse – we did well; the amount of fuken moaning!! Sell Ozil??? What? Get a grip. Now to focus on cups we can actually win.

  4. @bad robot Suarez if he was a more clever player would have gotten that pen. but he’s not so he never got it. Maybe he has conned Webb ones to many before? That is what happens when you cry wolf all the time. And i think it had little to do with Webb doing US a favour, more that he dislikes not Liverpool but Suarez.

  5. I think the boys can be proud tonight…… but the penalty was the turning point, whoever gave Ozil the go ahead to take a penalty? But give them credit, down to ten men, I think we can still do it in Munich with Rambo back in the team

  6. @poodle. Aye i am pretty sure it was the theatrics after the foul that stopped Webb awarding that. I am more talking about the incredible amount of whining that has been emanating from any forum or comments section from ‘pool supporters. It’s been quite a lot of fun to read for me.

  7. Must admit I wasn’t too bothered by cl till we bossed em and got a pen.
    Out to Munichs 12 wit ten men fighting.
    Let’s do the bloody league now and kill this Shit next year when we have theo, rambo a settled ozil. A few new names, easier group and shaktar in the quarters

  8. @Bad Robot they take it very personal and fail to realise no refs really hate them, the just can’t stand Suarez cos he makes their job harder… he always cheats… and as a ref it must be horrible to have to deal with that all the time..

  9. Oh well..

    Proves again that CL is a matter prestige and money for us. I agree we are not ready to compete in there.

    Why did Ozil take this penalty?…

  10. Nope, Bayern were average, i keep saying it and i sound like a parrot. But they were, simple as that.

    We were better, and 11v11 and i back us all the way, Liverpool’s Suarez and Sturridge were more scary.

    We went down to 10 men and it’s game over, Bayern were already a possession team.

    So give the the ball against a team that is down to 10 men and trying not to concede another away goal, and any CL team worth their salt would have dominated.

    They are champions of Europe, but not tonight. Tonight was our night. Until we got dicked over.

    Why are people saying Bayern were better? Stupid dick sucking english media.

    I’m gonna go before i get myself in trouble 🙁

    Sorry Yogi for the profanity.

  11. but they played well and a red card ruined the game basically. I don’t think anyone has to be ashamed o this game. Its not like the pathetic Liverpool game. We held our own against Bayern. 10 men down. loosing only 2-0. that is not bad tbf..

  12. I agree, Bob. I hoped he would fight back and take initiative to force some action, be determined to make a bit of magical quality to turn the game. He hung his head for a while and then we went down to 10 men and he just isn’t best suited to that sort of match. I would have taken him off when WS went out or for TR or at least switched him to the right.

    I think fans should not roast him though. We need him to pick himself up. We don’t want him to turn into a scapegoat for a tie we were never favorites in. It wasn’t his fault we gave up that second goal.

  13. Really gutted by the final result. Thought we could get by with only 1 conceded.

    We fought really hard but it was not to be. It will be nearly impossible to turn this one around but we still have the league and FA cup to fight for. Onward and upward.

  14. Not a disaster………. we weren’t slaughtered. Going into our next few games, if we play like that then the league is ours.

  15. Bayern were not fantastic, goal deficit is a bit big & Ozil is tired …..not used to the number of games in english football, he has played PL to Fa cup to CL, can’t seem to understand why wenger would not pull him out and leave players who have not had as much games, for me chamberlain should have remained on the pitch.

  16. Bayern seemed very different from last year no? Or is it us that were better? I mean we would not have managed to withstand that much last year, but then again bayern may have been a bit more direct too?

  17. Poodle:

    They did not play as well and overall we played better then lasts years first leg. I don’t know if you can read more then that into one game.

    The one thing we do know for certain based on everything we have seen this season is that our team defense is much much better this year compared to that home leg last year.

  18. The team gave everything tonight. Unfortunately we had 10 men against a supetb football team and they made it count. Wr really needed to keep it to 1 0.

    Surprised AW kept Ozil on. Not the man for a defensive rearguard. Shame really overall ad we started so well. Nothing really to complain about, we just had bad luck.

    Schzezney had to make the challenge, but ultimately a red card was the correct call (by the rules). That was the turning point though.

  19. Andy:

    Fair summary. Both teams were given penalties so its hard to say we were done wrong by the ref. The rule is crappy and I guess he could have used his judgement and held back from giving a red but you can’t complain if he follows the rules.

  20. @andy aparantley OX carried an injury and had to come off… we already used a sub for gibbs and one for fabianski. No more subs left…

  21. papers tmrw:….



    Several turning points in the game tonight. Our bad luck seemed to snowball, starting with the ozil penalty miss, gibbs getting injured resulting in a totally defensively inept left hand side, and then the kosielny bravery/rush of blood/stupidity that resulted in flamini becoming centre back losing the runner and ultimately a another goal.

    Not sure about all this blaiming ozil though, we all know he is defensively switched off (despite that fact that he can run as much as the best of them) as is carzola and podolski so any of those options would have resulted in the same outcome… dodgy left wing. today is not the first time our left wing has been mercilessly attacked and exposed but to be honest, its difficult to suggest a solution to that one.

    Fair play to arsenal for getting at them in the early stages of the game though as it could easily have been another result.

  22. Disagree that it was a red. Robben’s touch took the ball well away from him and had he not been fouled he may not have even been the first there. And cover arrived. Robben had taken away his goal scoring opportunity with a bad touch before Szcezny’s contact.

    No complaint about the penalty but the red was IMHO a bad decision.

  23. 42.5 million.Can’t take a pen,can’t take a free kick.doesn’t bother to defend.Llanana is better,just as good a passer,and would have cost half that.And you wonder why people say Ozil is a waste of money?If he had signed for United,Chelsea or Tottenham and was performing as badly as he is,Arsenal fans would be pissing themselves.Or maybe Wenger is ruining him like he did with Reyes and Arshavin.Still,can’t criticise the old man can we?

  24. Hell no.reading British press today you may think Bayern was so good Arsenal so woeful.what a piece of nonsense from some of these papers.why so much hate on Arsenal.its a British team for christ sake and show some love.anywaytha fact is Arsenal were a better team for good 35 minutes and that only changed after the red card.Penalty yes Red card, um um,nada,no.anyway that is how life is about.lets just keep on supporting our team and just ignore gutter rubbish from gutter press in wonder why England are perennial failures on big occasions.Ozil was Ozil lets just give him a chance.he will come good.Arsenal till we Drop!!!!!

  25. Sorry if I appear as unforgiving as many of you!

    I’m just wondering? From reading the comments, it sounds like we did our best and they were average, yet the result is 0 – 2. What if, we did our best and they were great….What would the result be?

    It makes me think that their SHIT is better than our BEST.


    Mesut Ozil needs to drink a few Red Bulls because I think he ran out of steam a few games back. The problem is, we don’t have anybody else to play.

    Kind of highlights the fact that we are still short at least a couple of high quality players.

    History suggests, that Arsenal and Arsene should immediately write off two players to injury for half of any given season. Also write off a player immediately for the entire season.

    The Result: We are always short about 3 good players a season.

  26. Sorry if I appear as unforgiving as many of you??!

    In my current state this means: Sorry if don’t appear as forgiving as many of you!

  27. G4E

    The whole Ozil thing…He’s simply tired, that’s it! He’s played so many games since his arrival and he’s basically played 90mins in all of them! Plus F.A cups, International Friendlies and no break over the Christmas period, something that Pod and Mert also struggled with in first season!

    For all bayerns possession…1 Goal from outside the box that would have beaten any keeper and 2. a counter attacking goal when Kos was commited to a free kick up the other end!

    They never impressed me, i was actually more worried about conceding when we played Liverpool! For all their passing, it’s an advanced version of our worst feature…Passing sideways slowly and suffocating the game until someone makes a run! Not good to watch IMO!

    Baring in mind also, we started with Sanogo (Who i thought wasn’t that bad considering), no Ramsey (Best player this season) and Theo!

    Over all…I think the biggets thing we need to look at is the players diet and fitness routines, because season after season we’re top of the injury table by a country mile

  28. MesutsLeftFoot…………Agreed.

    Only thing is, big games have morale and confidence values much higher in importance than the apparent value of the 3 points. When you lose %80 of the time to big teams, you’re not one of them.

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