The Breakdown: Bayern Munich preview

We are back in Champions League action on Wednesday night when we face Bayern Munich in the first leg of our last-16 tie at the Allianz Arena.

Ahead of the match, tactical expert Michael Cox and former Gunner Adrian Clarke discuss our opponents in detail:


MC: Carlo Ancelotti needs little introduction. The three-time European Cup-winning manager has won major trophies in Italy, England, France and Spain – and it would be a great surprise if he didn’t add Germany to that list too. A calm, personable figure who concentrates primarily on keeping his star players happy rather than making unnecessary tactical readjustments, Ancelotti is a Champions League specialist.
AC: I think the Premier League has got some of the best coaches in the world but Ancelotti is definitely in the top five. He’s outstanding. His teams are very powerful, he’s a good man-manager too, so it surprises me that there’s a little bit of unrest at Bayern. They’ve got a lot of senior players. Some of the old guys are getting on a bit and I imagine there’s a lot of conflict there as they’re perhaps fed up of the youngsters taking their place. 


MC: Bayern played 4-3-3 for the first three months of the campaign, but now play more of a 4-2-3-1 system. It’s a relatively familiar starting XI considering Arsenal have faced Bayern so many times in recent years: Robert Lewandowski is still supported by Thomas Muller, with two or Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Douglas Costa providing width.


MC: Bayern dominate possession like no other side in Europe – their average for this season is 64 per cent. While Xabi Alonso – in his last season as a professional – is the purest passer in the side, everyone in this Bayern team is comfortable on the ball. The centre-back pairing comprising two of Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels and Javi Martinez is perhaps the classiest in Europe, while full-backs David Alaba and Philipp Lahm have both played in midfield before.
AC: They’ve certainly missed Jerome Boateng. Boateng and Hummels is supposed to be their defensive partnership but injuries have scuppered that for lots of the season. They’re spoilt for choice though. If you look at their squad, it’s unbelievable. If you look in the wide areas, you’ve got Ribery and Robben, the old guard, Costa, Coman and Muller who can come in off the flanks. It’s a ridiculous squad and we couldn’t have had a tougher draw.


MC: Lewandowski has been on fire this season. He managed five goals in the group stage and has been banging them in the Bundesliga too. Although primarily a goalscorer, Lewandowski can also drop deep to allow others, particularly Muller, into goalscoring positions too.
AC: I’m slightly worried because our full backs love to break forward and that’s been a real issue lately. I talk about it in this week’s Breakdown, about our full backs picking and choosing the right times to fly forward. At the moment they’re doing it a little too often and if you do that against Bayern Munich with their power and the wingers I’ve just talked about, they can hurt you. I would like to see us have a more compact approach with our back four staying a bit more compact and choosing the right times to go forward. 


MC: Bayern’s only league defeat this season came away at Dortmund, who attacked quickly into the channels with Adrian Ramos and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The likes of Alexis and Theo Walcott could be key here, as Arsenal might find themselves counter-attacking rather than dominating. 
AC: I’d also like to see Danny Welbeck given a game in this one. We’re not going to have a lot of the ball because Bayern will dominate, so we have to be solid and then clinical when we counter because we won’t have many chances.


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