Why Arsenal cannot relish escaping Barcelona with their Bayern Munich UEFA Champions League draw
Arsenal has not drawn Barcelona in the Round of 16 of the 2012-13 season of the UEFA Champions League. However, they have once again drawn a team which is capable of playing just about any opposition off the park.
Arsenal FC is one of two clubs left from the English Premier League in the Champions League. They could be sent tumbling out of the Champions League very soon. In FC Bayern München, they will play a team which poses threats in every area of the pitch. FC Bayern can be ruthless on their day.
Last season, Bayern beat Hoffenheim 7-1 coming into their Champions League second leg in this stage of the competition against Basel. Heiko Vogel was rather merry before as Basel led the tie 1-0. He said that whatever happened, he knew that his side would not concede seven goals.
Unfortunately for Basel, that is exactly what happened.
Basel was played off the pitch, 7-0. Basel however is not a big name in the world of football. Manchester City, the champions of England however is a different beast. They were paired with Bayern in the group stages and they were played off the park at the Allianz Arena. 2-0 down, Roberto Mancini introduced Nigel de Jong to limit the damage. Bayern could have easily added two more.
The hardest part for Arsenal is that Bayern is well equipped to take advantage of their play. Arsenal likes to pass the ball around and build up play. Bayern has added pressing to their strategy this season which means that Arsenal will have to speed up their passing. Arsenal’s full backs haven’t been the most reliable this season. Bayern’s main strength comes down the wings.
Arsenal requires Santi Cazorla to function in order to win. Bayern has two defensive midfielders who are both capable of shutting down the Spaniard in Luiz Gustavo and Javier Martinez. Arsenal cannot sit back and defend. Bayern only struggles against teams which sit back and defend. Arsenal is vulnerable to counter-attacks. Bayern has plenty of pace in the side with the likes of Franck Ribery and Thomas Müller.
The aforementioned Cazorla is not a player who likes to defend. He will need to help out as Bayern has a special player in the centre who will need stopping in Toni Kroos. Behind him is the indomitable Bastian Schweinsteiger. Schweinsteiger can orchestrate play; he is the heart of the side.
Also, the Arsenal central defenders fare poorly against big strikers. Mario Gomez, Claudio Pizarro and Mario Mandzukic are all very good strikers. Bayern has scored quite a few goals from set pieces despite being generally wasteful with them. One of Arsenal’s weaknesses is defending set pieces.
Arsenal has trouble against physical opposition. Bayern can be physical when required. Overall, the tie does not favour Arsenal at all. Considering Bayern’s brilliant away form this season in the Bundesliga and their brilliant home form in the Champions League, Arsenal is in for a bad time.
However, not all hope is lost for Arsenal. Lukas Podolski feels that his side can beat Bayern despite the fact that Bayern can be considered unbeatable on their best day. Podolski, a former player for the Bavarians, perhaps knows about the complacency which sometimes gets Bayern into trouble.
Also, Bayern was poor for two months last season between January and March and the same could happen again. Bayern’s back-four has been very good this season but has two or three breakdowns from time to time. Bayern does not like conceding the first goal at all in matches.
Some teams have resorted to keeping the grass long and to watering the pitch prior to home games against Bayern. The Emirates is an excellent stadium and Arsene Wenger is unlikely to stoop to such levels. However, his side, despite the presence of some excellent players such as Cazorla, Podolski and Jack Wilshere, will need massive improvement. Each player in each position at Bayern is world class.
However, at the end of the day anything can happen in a knock out round. Arsenal can beat Bayern München if they manage to hold on like Chelsea did last season. Chelsea was lucky to win but they won mainly because Bayern was incredibly wasteful.
Bayern has strengthened after their heart-breaking defeat in last season’s final. They have returned stronger than ever this season. They have their eyes on the big prize. Arsenal must watch out.
It is not FC Barcelona they are facing this time around. Unfortunately, it is FC Bayern München.