Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side welcome Bayern Munich to Emirates Stadium on Tuesday evening. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
Time will tell whether Bayern Munich are Europe’s best side in 2015/16, but they’re unquestionably the most tactically exciting team in the Champions League.
Whereas many expected Pep Guardiola to turn Bayern into a second coming of Barcelona, instead he’s created a tremendously unpredictable, exciting team that can score goals in various ways.
This season Guardiola has generally used three systems: 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 and, most interestingly, 3-3-1-3, which features a midfield diamond between two trios. The latter was used in the recent 5-1 thrashing of Borussia Dortmund, and if Guardiola is feeling particularly brave Bayern might use that system on Tuesday.
The tactical excitement starts from the back, where Bayern’s incredibly high defensive line means Manuel Neuer has taken the ‘sweeper-keeper’ concept to a new level, often positioning himself way outside his penalty box and darting forward to make interceptions.
Guardiola can call upon a couple of fine centre backs, in Mehdi Benatia and Jerome Boateng. However, the coach has also fielded left back David Alaba and holding midfielder Javi Martinez in the defensive line, helping to ensure Bayern’s possession play starts from the back.
In Alaba and Philipp Lahm, Bayern have the best full-back pairing in Europe - although, like Alaba, Lahm can be used in other positions, and has played on the right of a midfield diamond at times this season.
In midfield, if Lahm, Martinez or Alaba aren’t played there, Guardiola can call upon an all-star trio of Xabi Alonso, Thiago Alcantara and Arturo Vidal. Alonso sits deep, dictates play and can spray passes out to the touchlines, Thiago is a fleet-footed playmaker who raises the tempo of the game, and Vidal can storm forward dangerously into attack.
Guardiola also has the option of two German World Cup winners, Mario Gotze and Thomas Muller, to play in the No 10 position. Gotze plays deeper and controls the game more, and can also play out wide, whereas Muller does his best work in the final third, ghosting into dangerous positions to support the main striker.
Whereas Guardiola’s Barcelona used wide forwards running in behind the defence, his Bayern side has more emphasis on tricky dribblers in wide positions.
Frank Ribery and Arjen Robben are well-established but have suffered from injuries, so Guardiola signed Douglas Costa from Shakhtar Donetsk in the summer. His pace is truly incredible, although his end product has been inconsistent.
Up front, Robert Lewandowski is Europe’s in-form player. A brilliant, instinctive finisher capable of dispatching the ball first time, often on the turn, the Pole is also excellent at moving towards the ball and becoming involved in build-up play, with Muller running in behind.
With so many attacking options, Bayern have an answer for almost every question.
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.