By Nik Brumsack in Munich
“Firstly we need to convince ourselves that we can do it and after that find a strong defensive performance without diminishing our offensive potential. It’s in three steps - the first hurdle is psychological, the second is to be at the right level defensively as a team and the third is try every time we can to attack.” - Arsene Wenger
It was back to winning ways for Arsenal in Saturday’s convincing victory at Swansea City.
After an inconsistent start to the season, Saturday’s win in South Wales was the Gunners’ fifth from their last six. While it did come at a cost - Hector Bellerin suffered a groin strain and will miss Wednesday’s match at Bayern Munich - the result ensured that Arsenal kept pace with Premier League leaders Manchester City, and was further evidence of a team beginning to hit top form.
The manager feels that performance is a blueprint for how his side must approach Wednesday’s reverse fixture at Allianz Arena.
“They have such a level of confidence, they dominate so much the teams who play in the Bundesliga, so I would say the first hurdle for us is psychological,” he told Arsenal Player.
“With many teams, once the team has a reputation, they lie down. For us, firstly we need to convince ourselves that we can do it and after find a strong defensive performance without diminishing our offensive potential.
“It’s in three steps - the first hurdle is psychological, the second is to be at the right level defensively as a team and the third is try every time we can to attack.”
|Bayern Munich: Ribery (ankle), Gotze (adductor), Badstuber (thigh), Benatia (thigh - doubt)
Arsenal: Bellerin (groin), Ospina (shoulder), Ramsey (hamstring), Walcott (calf), Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring), Welbeck (knee), Wilshere (ankle), Rosicky (knee), Arteta (ankle)
The win over Bayern was further demonstration of Arsenal’s improvement in the ‘big games’ this calendar year. While the Gunners were at their free-flowing best when beating Manchester United two games before, they employed a much more cautious approach against the Bundesliga champions. Wenger’s side had just 27 per cent of the play, often retreating inside their own half before springing quick counter-attacks.
“We are used to having possession in England,” the manager said. “On the night, Bayern had more possession than us. After, I decided to accept that, make it difficult for them to score and try to get them on the break.
“I knew that we had two different options going forward. One was with the pace of Walcott and Alexis, and the other was with a more direct game with Giroud.
“On the night, when we went more direct, it worked. Certainly the work of Walcott helped. Sometimes to give the opponent a contrasting problem can be efficient as well.
“I believe it will be a similar battle again. What I mean by that is that at Bayern, they may have the possession so we will have to defend well as a unit. Our opportunities to be dangerous could come on counter-attacks or on direct play or set-pieces.”
ONE TO WATCH
Unsurprisingly, much of the talk at Wenger’s pre-match press conference centred around Mesut Ozil.
Arsenal’s player of the month for October is in the best form of his Gunners career and provided another two assists - his eighth and ninth of the season - in Saturday’s win at Swansea.
Nobody in Europe’s top leagues has created as many goals in 2015/16 as Ozil. His display when Bayern visited London two weeks ago was in stark contrast to when Pep Guardiola’s side knocked Arsenal out of the Champions League in 2014. Ozil missed a penalty in the first leg of that tie before being substituted due to a hamstring injury in the return match.
Wenger believes Ozil has gained confidence since then and is nearing his peak.
“I think he’s developed himself well and has won a lot of self-belief,” the manager said. “The World Cup probably helped him too.
“Now he’s being recognised in England. Even in Germany, there was always a bit of doubt. For me he’s a super player, a big player and he has positively developed. He’s very intelligent and has worked really hard.
“I think he’s at the best age now, where you know the job, know what’s expected. I think between 27 and 32 is the best age for a player.
“What we want is for Ozil just to be on the continuity of the performances he’s made until now.”
Bayern’s statistics this season make for daunting reading: 17 matches in all competitions, 15 wins, 48 goals.
|- Bayern Munich have won their last seven at home in the Champions League, keeping five clean sheets and conceding just three goals in that run.
- Arsenal have lost just one of their last seven away games in the Champions League against German opposition (W3 D3).
- The Gunners have scored three goals in the final 15 minutes of matches so far in this Champions League campaign; a competition high
While Robert Lewandowski’s prolific run during September and October caught the eye, Thomas Muller has again excelled throughout.
The forward has already scored 18 times in 20 appearances for club and country this season, further establishing his partnership with Lewandowski, who has 23 in 20, in the process.
“Bayern always have an extremely convincing team,” Wenger told Arsenal Player. “At the moment they have a lot of self-belief and that’s why it’s always difficult to win in Munich. But I think we can achieve it.
“In terms of the players that played well against us, there was Lewandowski, Alaba, Boateng and Xabi Alonso. But every Bayern player is very good and can make a difference. That’s why we need to be organised as a team and not just focus on one player.
“Douglas Costa, Thomas Muller, all players can make a difference. And that’s why it’s important for us to concentrate on giving an excellent performance.”
FROM THE ARCHIVES
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