7 ways Arsenal can beat the "unbeatable"

Getty Images

In an recent exclusive interview with beIN SPORTS, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger laughed when asked how his team could beat Bayern Munich over two challenging matchdays to keep its slim Europe chances alive. "You mean, how do you beat the unbeatable?" he asked. 

Watch Arsenal v Bayern Munich LIVE on beIN SPORTS

Follow our live coverage on Twitter

Check out our match page for stats, live commentary and cool heat maps 

"Look first of all, by doing exactly what we have done against Man United, by playing at a huge pace and by playing with the same belief and by not letting them dictate the game, because Bayern likes to have the ball. They like to get you back and so we have to win the ball well, we have to be very organised and we have to use our opportunities to go forward with maximum pace."

Easier said than done. 

We've come up with seven other ways the Gunners can achieve 'mission impossible.'

1. Win the chess battle

 

It's such an easy sentence to write, but such a difficult task when it comes to facing the tactical behemoth at the helm of Bayern Munich. Just ask Borussia Dortmund manager Tomas Tuchel. At around the half hour mark of Dortmund's 5-1 loss to Bayern two weeks ago, Tuchel moved midfielder Gonzalo Castro into the forward line, creating an extra man to Bayern's back three. Dormund made the numerical advantage count, breaching Bayern's lines to score its only goal of the match. Guardiola immediately countered by moving Philippe Lahm into right back, thus snuffing out the threat of the extra man. Tactically, Guardiola's teams resemble the shape-shifting T-1000 from the movie Terminator 2. But sometimes the positional switches can confuse his own players. Arsene Wenger will need more than two formation variations if the Gunners are to trouble Bayern and expose this tactical fragility.

2. Protect the flanks

 

When Chelsea defeated Arsenal 2-0 earlier in the season, it targeted Gunners right back Hector Bellerin by stacking its left edge. The tactic yielded a goal. Bayern deployed a similar tactic against Dortmund, countering Tuchel's cluttered midfield by dragging players to the flanks to create extra-man advantages. Arsenal will need to be mindful of this, especially with the likes of Per Mertesacker vulnerable to pace. If the Gunners can win the ball back quickly on the wings, they can expose Bayern's weaker edge on the counter-attack.

3. Beware the long balls

 

Long balls and Guardiola teams go together like fingernails on a chalkboard. Or at least, they did. Bayern brutally exposed Dortmund's intense pressing game by spraying accurate balls over and around it from the back line. The main perpetrator was Jerome Boateng, one of at least four players at Guardiola's disposal capable of playing the role of 'pivot'.

Bayern's tactical flexibility and confidence in possession means its players thrive on the challenge of passing out through a high press, so man-marking these 'quarter-back' type defenders represents a high-risk strategy that leaves you open to counter-attacks. A disciplined defensive strategy and a stacked central corridor will help the Gunners take advantage of this, but they need to be wary of leaving players exposed out wide. 

4. Be comfortable without possession

 

When Real Madrid thrashed Bayern Munich 5-0 over two legs on its way to winning the UEFA Champions League two years ago, it surrendered more than 60 per cent possession in the first leg and a staggering 72 per cent possession in the second leg. Guardiola's men rattled off 18 shots to Madrid's nine, yet the spaniards scored four goals. While Madrid was barely sighted on the ball, its tactics could hardly be called parking the bus. Rather it carved the German team up with ruthlessly efficient counter-attacks through the pivotal Luka Modric dropping deep and feeding the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karem Benzema. It's a fait accompli that Arsenal will spend the majority of this match watching shadows. It needs to have a direct plan for when it gets the ball. 

5. Ozil the key in transition

 

If there's one man who knows Bayern intimately its Gunners play-maker Mesut Ozil, who trains with the majority of the players every time they congregate for Germany national team duty. Ozil has thrived in a central play-making role over the past few weeks but Wenger may think about deploying him in a deeper-lying position, alongside Francis Coquelin in a 4-2-3-1 - the role occupied by Santi Cazorla against Manchester United. Ozil's ability to dictate the tempo with his accurate short and long passing game could come to the fore against a team that has struggled to adapt to fast transitions out of defence. Think Barcelona v Bayern in last season's UCL. If Arsenal can win it back quickly and transfer the ball rapidly to speedsters Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott, it can expose Bayern's tendency to overload players on one side. 

6. Give Sanchez the car keys

 

Disciplined shape and patience without the ball were key factors in Madrid's ability to expose Bayern two seasons ago. In Alexis Sanchez Arsenal has an attacking weapon capable of unsettling the most organised defences. In the first leg of last season's semi-final the pace of Barcelona's front three wreaked havoc with Bayern's back three, prompting Guardiola to revert to a back four. It didn't matter though, with Lionel Messi leading Bayern's defence on a merry dance of destruction. 

Sanchez plays is a similar way to the diminutive Argentine, cutting in off the left and dropping deep to launch attacks. While Barcelona's front three of Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar will cause headaches for any defence, Arsenal has plenty of pace to call on and, should Guardiola start with his preferred back three, there will be opportunities to expose Bayern.

7. Destabilise the camp

 

Failing all of the above, what better way to ruffle feathers on match eve than by floating out a few rumours to the notoriously headline-hungry English press. Arsenal has already been linked with a move for Thomas Muller in the last transfer window, why not add to the collection with a few rumours of team disharmony, and a furphy or two about player's potentially swapping Bavaria for the Emirates. it's worth a try.

 


>