4th November 2015: Champions League Preview – Braced for Bayern, the brilliant ball hogs

Welcome to Wednesday on TremendArse. So it’s Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena tonight, as Arsenal aim to repeat our feat from a fortnight ago by beating the Bavarians.

Brace yourselves Gooners. Because it’s unlikely to be easy viewing later, what with Pep Guardiola’s penchant for creating football teams that hog a football like Frank Lampard does all-you-can-eat buffets.

If Pep’s Barcelona were the epitome of efficiency in possession, he’s fashioned a Bayern side that exhibits similar levels of exhilarating economy, through quick-witted and rapid-fire ball circulation, with a breathtaking killer instinct to top off their domination of the ball.

Frankly, as an opponent, it must be hellish at times trying to stay focused, composed and motivated amidst a blur of opposition ball retention. A bit like those drills you see in training when four or five players form a circle and pass it around, as one poor sod is tasked with trying to intercept from the middle.

If you’ve ever been the piggy in middle in a situation like that, you’d no doubt admit that after a while of having the ball zipped marginally beyond your reach, it’s hard to fight the urge to simply slide in with abandon and clatter into one of your tormentors.

Yet that’s exactly what we have to make sure we do – avoid losing our heads and stay defensively controlled, as Arsene Wenger highlighted at his pre-game press conference last night. And the boss listed this need to stay mentally robust, as part of a three-point plan if we’re to be successful this evening, telling Arsenal Player:

Firstly we need to convince ourselves that we can do it and after that find a strong defensive performance without diminishing our offensive potential. It’s in three steps – the first hurdle is psychological, the second is to be at the right level defensively as a team and the third is try every time we can to attack.

Watching that interview, and remembering Arsene’s comments after the game between the sides at Emirates stadium last month, you get the impression we didn’t expect Bayern to dominate the ball to the extent they did before the game.

Yet once the match kicked-off and it became apparent we’d enjoy a lot less possession than we’re used to, the boss dropped Mesut Ozil deeper and decided to adopt a full-blown counter-attacking set-up during the course of the first-half.

He also attributed the success of our more direct attacking once Olivier Giroud had replaced Theo Walcott up front, to the latter’s contribution in stretching the Bayern defence earlier in the game.

The inference being that not only had Theo tired their back-line by the time Giroud entered the action, but perhaps having to face a very different type of threat in the brute physicality of Giroud later in the game was too much for them to cope with.

In fact, I remember Rio Ferdinand, speaking after the game on BT Sport and from considerable experience of course, saying how hard it would be for a centre-back to have to adapt late in a game from facing the threat of blistering pace to sheer strength and an aerial battle.

Unfortunately, unless say, we unexpectedly start with Joel Campbell at the tip of our attack and leave Giroud in reserve for the later stages again, we don’t have the personnel to do the same tonight.

But perhaps it can work in reverse. Giroud can soften their defence up a little with aggressive hold-up play, before a more pacey, nimble option comes on to run at drained legs. Although the only options we’d be able to call on would be the raw duo of Alex Iwobi and Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Campbell if he doesn’t start, or a defender like Kirean Gibbs.

Time will tell of course but it’s worth remembering that on our two games against Bayern in Germany over the last couple of years, we’ve won one and drawn one despite fielding, for me at least, two inferior starting XI’s to the one we’re likely to boast tonight.

Encouragingly, our midfield terrier Francis Coquelin, seemed in bullish mood when he spoke alongside Wenger at the pre-game press conference, declaring:

We’re up for it and the team is ready.

Let’s hope so.


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