Following a drab international break, Champions League football will make its well awaited return. And in perhaps the most eye catching fixture, German champions Bayern Munich take on English giants Arsenal. A couple weeks back, this fixture seemed to hold only one destined outcome, a Bayern victory.
Arsenal had lost both their first two Champions League group stage matches in quite a drab fashion. Unforgivable mistakes were made in both matches prompting many to rule Arsenal out of the English Premier League title race as well as a knockout place in Europe.
But a week later, things have definitively altered. Arsenal coasted through a Manchester United side with three goals to the good, showcasing ruthless cutting edge and dominance. This performance symbolized what the North London club can achieve when on form.
With a fixture against Munich approaching, is the renewed hope of a fight back well founded? Well, it is firstly very important to note that Pep Guardiola’s side have continued their sublime dismantling of every opposition they have faced.
Bayern have always possessed one of, if not the strongest squad in the world. However, they will be armed with even more firepower thanks to superstar forward Robert Lewandowski. The Polish hitman has struck up an alarming number of goals already, notching 18 in 11 games. This makes for embarrassing reading from an Arsenal point of view, when you consider the fact that Arsenal’s top scorer has yet to even hit double figures.
Overall, there is no getting past the obvious gulf in quality between the two sides. There is some, albeit a sliver of a chance for the Gunners. Wenger executed a formidable, new tactical plan against Manchester United as his side placed extreme pressure as soon as the first whistle blew with an intense high press. This resulted in the constant conceding of possession, leading to multiple chances in dangerous areas.
But what truly impressed me was how Arsenal behaved after scoring the goals. They didn’t pile men forward, in search of more. Instead they sat back, forming a resolute, impenetrable wall. The same plan could pay off to great dividends against Bayern Munich. Nonetheless, against such a world class side, attacking early on would be a hit or miss sort of scenario.
Such brave tactics could leave Arsenal exposed to start the match, but any other, more patient style of play to in the opening stages, would almost certainly result in a loss given the German club’s talent.
All in all, Arsenal’s hopes of a win while improved, are still slim. Even so, form and stature is so often thrown out the window on a special European night.