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Arsenal can beat Bayern... if the team selection is right

bayern munich arsenal champions league knockout match preview 2017

Match Preview: Bayern Munich vs. Arsenal - Champions League - 15.02.2017

When the ticket bearing the legend 'Bayern Munich' came out of the hat for the Champions League second stage draw I don’t think a single Arsenal fan out there was remotely surprised. Disappointed, frustrated, annoyed maybe, but not surprised. So here we are again, another tough draw, another huge night ahead and another chance to make a statement to make Europe sit up and take notice.

Despite what many would initially think, The Gunners record at the Allianz Arena is not actually too shabby, in fact Arsène Wenger’s men have only lost one of their last 3 meetings in Germany, all be it a 5-1 hammering last season. Looking at the game in 2013 though, a 0-2 victory coming with a team with far less going for it than the current crop, so the optimism, whilst muted, does exist that the feat can be achieved again.

Fresh from the victory over Hull City at The Emirates the squad flew out to Germany missing only a handful of names pushing for the starting XI. Midfield is the area where the manager must focus most keenly. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has performed admirably in a central role, Mohamed Elneny has returned from the AFCON and Granit Xhaka is available again so there will be tough competition for a starting berth.

Francis Coquelin may find himself lucky to remain in the team, but it is my belief the Frenchman has a key part to play in this game. His ability to shield the back 4 has not been shown enough this season, largely due to an adapted role given to him by Arsène Wenger, asking him to press higher and link play from an advanced position. This is something I would like to see changed for this game; a 3 man central midfield with Francis at the base with The Ox and Xhaka alongside makes for a tougher spine.

Should we opt for a stronger central formation this will mean a wider role for Mesut Özil. With the German returning to his native land we really do require a big performance from him in this fixture. Cutting a largely confidence-drained figure of late this is the night for the gifted playmaker to stamp his name across a huge match. Similar can be said of Alexis Sanchez; the Chilean will likely play the centre forward role and his runs off the ball and in behind Bayern’s defenders could prove crucial in the making and taking of chances on the night.

Defensively this is a huge test foe The Gunners; David Ospina comes in between the posts and the partnership of Laurent Koscielny and German international Shkodran Mustafi will be vital in keeping out the dynamic forward line Carlo Ancelotti can boast. The Italian manager can call on any one of Lewandowski, Costa, Robben, Muller or even young Kingsley Coman to cause havoc, and havoc they will wreak if allowed in between the lines. The onus will be on Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal to push on and force Bayern back rather than sit in to invite width.

So what of our opponents, well, it’s a mixed bag for the Italian Ancelotti, granted we find the Bavarian club sitting pretty at the top of the Bundesliga at time of writing, 7 points clear of newcomers RB Leipzig, but as the weekends performance against lowly Ingolstadt demonstrated that Bayern are far from free flowing right now. Only 2 goals in stoppage time saved their blushes in that fixture. Talk of unrest amongst some players including Douglas Costa and Philipp Lahm suggests all isn’t rosy in the garden, something that Arsenal have to look to exploit.

Whilst The Allianz can be an atmospheric stadium, a wholehearted, all guns blazing style from Arsène Wenger’s men could produced one of those famous nights in Europe. Any less however and I fear the knives will be out once more and another year will pass with Arsenal being labelled as the ‘nearly men’ of European Football. It is my belief we can go to Germany and win and return to London to finish the job in a few weeks time and after that. Well anything is possible right?

COYG!

arsenal 2 bayern 0

Last 3 Meetings

  • Bayern 5-1 Arsenal (04.11.2015)
  • Arsenal 2-0 Bayern (20.10.2015)
  • Bayern 1-1 Arsenal (11.03.2014)

FACTFILE

  • Arsenal were the first team to beat Bayern at the Allianz
  • Bayern have knocked Arsenal out of the Champions League in 3 of the last 4 seasons.
  • Alexis Sanchez has 20 goals in all competitions already this season.

INJURIES

Cazorla, Ramsey and Perez miss this match.

POSSIBLE STARTING XI

Ospina; Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal; Coquelin, Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Alexis, Özil, Iwobi. 

GOONERSPHERE'S PREDICTION

Bayern 1-2 Arsenal.

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