Will Arsenal again rely on counter-attacks?
Arsenal's tactics against Bayern two weeks ago came as a surprise. Arsène Wenger's troops dropped very deep at home despite their high individual quality and tried to beat dominant FCB with counter-attacks. It worked, despite the Gunners finishing with a mere 27 percent of the possession. Arsenal beat Bayern with rapid, precise and efficient transitions. Pep Guardiola's men were dominant, but failed to penetrate the Arsenal rearguard.
Will it work a second time at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday? Or will the Gunners, who currently lie second in the Premier League, take more risks this time? Karl-Heinz Rummenigge expects Arsenal to be "very defensive again." The Bavarians have to be prepared, according to the FCB chairman, "we don't want to wring our hands, but play like we did against Köln and Wolfsburg and find ways to overcome their defence."
Comments by Arsenal players and officials suggest they will indeed play defensively and bet on counter-attacks again. "We have to be as disciplined as in the first leg," demanded Mesut Özil, "we can be a threat to every team, even Bayern."
Key players miss out
Arsenal, who have won all of their last five league games, left for Munich on Tuesday afternoon after the final training session in London. However, some of their key players had to stay in England. Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey (muscle injuries), Jack Wilshere (hairline fracture) and Danny Welbeck (knee surgery) miss out.
"They're strong enough nonetheless," warned Pep Guardiola, "if we press well they will play long balls to Giroud. If they get those balls they have the quality to play it to its conclusion." Bayern have been warned. But Arsenal too are aware of their opponents' strengths. "They're an outstanding team," commented Arsène Wenger, "every player can make the difference, so we have to be very disciplined. We need a fantastic performance."
German world champion Mesut Özil is one of Wenger's key players. He excelled with two assists in the last match away to Swansea City, a clear-cut 3-0 victory, and he scored the decisive second goal against FCB in the first leg. "It's going to be very, very thrilling," said Özil, "we know exactly how strong Bayern are. They're among the favourites for the Champions League, but we travel to Munich aiming to take three points again."