The week’s passed by and we are just hours away from our next Champions League knockout phase. It’s been a long time since we haven’t reached the next round of the Champions League.
Before a match against the current cup holders it’s time to take that into account and get praised for it. I know we won’t as we are not a journo’s favourite. But at least I took the opportunity to remind ourselves of what we have achieved over the last years in that particular department.
So now let’s face reality. It’s Bayern Munich again. We came second in the Group Stage just like last year and we are “punished” by drawing the German “Übermannschaft” Munich, who are without a doubt the favourites to defend the Champions League title for the first time in its history. But what makes them so strong? Are they stronger than last time around?
Bayern Munich have always been at the top of Europe’s elite and they probably forever will be. But having won last year’s competition, everyone was sceptical about Pep Guardiola’s new tactics, and how he and his team would adapt to his new philosophies. And with some surprise, it went pretty smoothly.
Bayern are top of the table in Germany in are cruising. No competition at all. Even Borussia Dortmund can’t get close to them this season which is basically due to a lot of injuries in my opinion.
But that’s exactly what makes Munich beatable. The lack of domestic competition may be the key factor to Arsenal’s possible success. Arsenal have to make them work, put them under pressure, give them a fight on a same level. All of these things haven’t happened once yet so far this season in the Bundesliga. The few points Munich have lost were due to a lack of concentration. A fact we can’t count on.
Arsenal’s midfield will be the key. Mathieu Flamini and Jack Wilshere, who I both expect to start, have to pressure the Munich midfield high up the field. They need to restrict players like Thiago Alcantara, Mario Götze or Arjen Robben from getting into their passing rhythm. Pep Guardiola’s tactics are based on possession. It was based on that at Barcelona and currently is at Munich. Every player should have at least two/three options to pass the ball in a kind of diamond formation at each passing scenario. That’s where you need to keep your midfield tight and limit their passing options.
I don’t want to go into detail about how good their starting XI and their squad is a whole is, everyone already knows that and you most probably will continue to read about it prior to the match.
I say let’s focus on our squad, on our performances this season. We have played a massive season so far. I know we are not getting the praise we should get but who the hell cares. We have a good squad (a bit thin to be honest). We have quality players. We have matured since last year and we are more than capable of knocking them out. We have played on a high level against very good opponents over the last number of weeks and that may give us the certain push. We know we can compete on a high level and we’ve done it in Munich last year.
I assume that we will play the same tactics as we did against Chelsea in December or Manchester United last week at the Emirates; and that’s fine by me. Saying that, Arsene Wenger is known to be hard to predict when it comes to tactics and team line-ups, so it’s time to get inside the poker world of Le Prof.
Mainly though, it’s about control and coolness, and if we get a goalless draw then that would be fine with me. We can finish them off away. But let’s play the first leg first. Maybe we get slaughtered and everything I’ve just written is a massive laughing stock.
Come on Arsenal!