Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents. Arsène Wenger's side take on Bayern Munich on Tuesday, so to find out more we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and local journalist Mathias Frohnapfel for their views.
It’s easy to understand why Pep Guardiola has chosen to coach Bayern Munich from next season. The German league leaders average the second-highest possession, and the second-best pass completion rate in Europe this season - in both measures, only Barcelona are ahead of them.
Retaining the ball and winning it back quickly are the key features of Bayern’s play, and Tuesday's game will be a fascinating battle of passing and pressing in midfield.
Current boss Jupp Heynckes uses a flexible 4-2-3-1 system, and Bayern control the tempo expertly. The key player in this respect is attacking midfielder Toni Kroos, a fabulously versatile midfielder who is Bayern’s equivalent of Santi CazorlaMichael Cox
Current boss Jupp Heynckes uses a flexible 4-2-3-1 system, and Bayern control the tempo expertly. The key player in this respect is attacking midfielder Toni Kroos, a fabulously versatile midfielder who is Bayern’s equivalent of Santi Cazorla.
Kroos can drift right and left, then deep into midfield or high up, close to Bayern’s central striker. He’s constantly involved in the play, creating overloads and playing neat passing triangles.
Kroos will play just ahead of Bastian Schweinsteiger - once an inconsistent winger, now a top-class passing midfielder - and Javi Martínez, who was signed from Athletic Bilbao last summer to provide a secure, calm presence in front of the back four. He’s a reliable distributor of the ball, but also strong in the tackle, and powerful in the air.
Up front, Mario Mandzukic has overthrown Mario Gomez to become Heynckes’ first-choice striker. Mandzukic has been a revelation in the league, already beating his Bundesliga goal tally from each of his two campaigns at Wolfsburg, but has yet to register in the Champions League. As a tall, penalty-box poacher, a high defensive line is probably the best way to stop the Croatian.
Mandzukic depends upon reliable service from the two wingers. On the left, Franck Ribery will drop deep away from international team-mate Bacary Sagna to receive possession, before dribbling inside and playing one-twos.
On the other flank, Arjen Robben has encountered yet more injury problems this campaign, so Thomas Müller has started more regularly. They have very different qualities - Robben stays high up before cutting onto his left foot and shooting powerfully, whereas Muller tends to drift inside, becoming a second central playmaker.
David Alaba will play at left back - he’s attack-minded and very quick, so his battle with Theo Walcott will be fascinating. On the other side, former Bayern forward Lukas Podolski will battle with captain Philipp Lahm, a wonderful two-footed full-back.
Lahm loves overlapping energetically when Muller or Robben move inside, pushing his opponent back. Bayern will attempt to pin Arsenal into their own half, so smooth transitions and quick counter-attacks will be crucial for the home side.
MATHIAS FROHNAPFEL, SPORT1
I think it will be a game full of attractive football. Bayern Munich are having a good season and have a 15-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga. But they're up against a dangerous side in Arsenal who, in Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski, will have two highly-motivated German players. I think it's a good chance to put right Saturday's result against Blackburn.
Bayern already had a very strong squad, but they've strengthened further with the addition of Mario Mandzukic. He gives them another option in attack and, when Mario Gomez got injured, he came in and has scored 15 goals this season.
There's real depth to the squad. If Ribery or Muller don't start, Heynckes can call on the likes of Xherdan ShaqiriMathias Frohnapfel
The defence has improved too. Jupp Heynckes has got stars like Franck RIbery and Thomas Muller working hard defensively. The team has grown together too. They've been in the Champions League final twice in the space of three years and I think that has made them stronger.
There's real depth to the squad. If Ribery or Muller don't start, Heynckes can call on the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri.
Thomas Muller recently said that he wants to hold the Champions League aloft. The chances have got better. Pep Guardiola will take charge next season. I think in the past, Bayern wanted to be in the top four teams in Europe. Now you can almost say that they are in the top two.
Muller is having a great season. He's scored nine goals and assisted seven. His creativity is really important for the team. Bastian Schweinsteiger is another crucial player, as his midfield partner Javi Martinez. Manuel Neuer has only conceded seven goals in 22 games, which is a fantastic record.
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Bayern have played five games since the winter break. They've won all five and conceded no goals, but they haven't played a team of Arsenal's calibre. Arsène Wenger's team are offensively strong and this season has shown that when they score one goal, they can add one in a really short space of time.
I think the score will be 1-1.