It seems to me that this game has more of a psychological value than anything else. Yes, there is a remote chance that Arsenal could still qualify, but I doubt even Wenger will genuinely believe in his team’s chances at the Allianz Arena.
The Gunners could still come back with a respectable result though and it is a performance capable of deserving such a result that Arsene will seek from his squad. The Frenchman’s made all the right noises about attitude, commitment, and a bit of luck. Play with freedom, try to break Bayern’s sense of security, a feeling of invincibility, if you will, and see what happens.
In theory, that’s absolutely the right approach to take. The only problem is, the Arsenal teams of recent years have not responded well to major disappointments. If they go for it in this game and get picked off on the counter – let’s not forget just how clinical and tactically astute Bayern were in the first-leg, and indeed have been throughout the season – it could really have a negative impact on the only meaningful goal that they have remaining. Is it worth going for a miraculous result or is it better to play a clever game in order to conserve energy and mental strength for other challenges ahead?
As far as tactics are concerned, the preview and post-match report from the first-leg cover pretty much everything I have to say. Bayern are about as tactically complete a team as I’ve seen in recent years.
The Germans received many flattering compliments in light of their impressive victory at the Emirates, most of them fully deserved I have to say, but few noticed that they conceded possession to Arsenal in that game and controlled the game defensively after taking an early lead. They made it seem effortless while the Gunners huffed and puffed without really going anywhere. That affected the perceptions of many watching the game but you could see how cautious Heynckes’ side were.
It will be interesting to see if they take the same approach at home in front of their own fans. The onus is on Arsenal as the visitors will need a minimum of three goals. Will Bayern simply invite pressure and rely on their clinical counter-attacking skills to complement their defensive organization and work ethic?
Will Wenger send his team out so fired up that they can raise the tempo to match their efforts against Milan? It would be popular among certain sections of the fans but the manager knows it can’t work.
We can have a real go without being silly. We can’t think that the game lasts 30 minutes and throw everything forward from the first minute on. We want to be positive but also intelligent.
Against the Italians, at this stage last season, the Gunners ran out of steam after the hour mark and one got a feeling the visitors would have found a way to score if they needed it. At 3-0 down they still had an extra gear when the hosts were completely drained. Such an approach in this game, against a side as wily as this Bayern outfit, would simply spell disaster.
Arsenal have to find a way to attack without leaving their defence exposed. Sounds simple enough but as we’ve seen time and again, it’s as hard to do as it’s easy to write.
Wenger has talked about having an ambitious plan and the ten days he’s had to prepare for the game. It sounds interesting but could just as easily be deemed ominous.
Without Wilshere and Podolski Arsenal lose some attacking edge. But there is enough quality in side to still ask some genuine questions of this much-vaunted Bayern defence provided they get a reliable defensive base to build it on. Offensive players cannot express their abilities consistently and effectively if every other transition puts their own goal under threat.
The manager has an unenviable task in selecting the starting eleven for such a game. I am not sure what he’ll do but Vermaelen, Cazorla, Arteta, Walcott, and Giroud are likely to be on the pitch at kick-off. Gibbs will start if he is fit and Fabianski could find himself between the sticks.
That leaves four other slots up for grabs. I doubt many will disagree with the inclusion of Rosicky. Jenkinson would be the orthodox choice for the right-back slot but Ramsey could do a job there in a more ambitious line-up. With Ribery likely to miss this game it might be a gamble worth taking.
Given Wenger’s selections thus far, Mertesacker also seems a certainty in the starting eleven. I’d prefer Koscielny, particularly if the Gunners want to play higher up the pitch.
The final position could be a tossup between the likes of Diaby, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho, and Arshavin. Neither is a genuinely inspiring choice given their current form and/or fitness states, but one of them is likely to get the nod.
I’d go with,
Fabianksi – Ramsey, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs – Arteta, Rosicky, Diaby – Walcott, Giroud, Cazorla.
That team has enough players who can circulate the ball under pressure. Diaby’s presence can help the defence and his loping stride could be helpful while defending counter-attacks or even in replacing some of the drive that Wilshere’s absence will cost. Of course, that’s assuming we see the best of Diaby. We could just as easily find a lumbering, dawdling individual who is neither here, nor there.
Gervinho on the flank with Cazorla in midfield is also a tempting option. Again, those who’ve followed the Ivorian’s Arsenal career will be able to imagine the pros and cons of that selection quite easily.
Irrespective of who Wenger selects, I hope the players go out and enjoy their game. Forget about the result and hopefully the handbrake will be lifted. Who knows it might even help the defence as they play instinctively rather than second-guessing themselves at vital moments.
Arsenal are better than the side that lost 1-3 at home against a brilliant Bavarian unit. The key questions are – Do they themselves believe that to be true? And can discover that completely different animal?Follow @goonerdesi