For those of you who don’t know this yet: Bayern Munich have spent every single day of the season at the top of the Bundesliga table. They currently have a record of 17 wins, 3 draws and 1 defeat; with 55 goals for and 7 against. They kept 19 clean sheets in 30 games in all competitions, and only once did they have less possession than their opponent (1-0 victory at Lille).
This season is certainly Bayern’s best in a very long time and it could become the best Bundesliga campaign ever.
So why are Bayern that good?
Key to their game is the last statistic I mentioned – possession. The man who runs the show in the middle of the park is Bastian Schweisteiger. In my opinion he has established himself as Bayern’s most important player over the last couple of years. Despite earning a lot of criticism after missing the penalty against Chelsea, and playing a very bad Euro 2012, he got back to full fitness and form in this season. He is an exceptional passer of the ball and directs the play to the wide areas most of the time. He also has a very good shot, and is never shy of joining the attack and appearing in the opponent’s box himself. He is simply perfect at running the show.
He also enjoys a good partnership with Toni Kroos, who plays directly in front of him. The young German has a very free role. He is a very good striker of the ball and will look for cut-backs or little one-twos and through balls, to set up chances for himself and the players around him. Both Schweinsteiger and Kroos move around a lot and they seem to be everywhere.
The most important aspect of Bayern’s style going forward is their wing-play. With Robben, Ribery, Müller and Shaqiri they have 4 wingers who have everything a winger needs: pace, trickery (Müller a little less), good crossing, good shooting from distance, and they all like to get into the box to score themselves.
Another key to their wing-play are their full-backs: David Alaba and Philipp Lahm. These two go on the attack whenever Bayern go forward and try to link-up with the winger ahead of them. They either create the space the winger needs or get a good cross, pass or shot away.
The man lurking for all those crosses and through-balls is their centre-forward. Mario Gomez played this role in the last two season scoring 80 goals in 97 games. This season Gomez’ faced a long injury break, and Bayern reacted before the season by bringing in Mario Mandzukic, who scored 16 in 24 games this season. Both of them score most of their goals from inside the box which is the final part of Bayern’s wing-play. These are two of the most prolific goal scorers from inside the box, and seem to be able to score out of every position with every part of their body.
All this going forward is only possible with a decent protection at the back. At this time last season Bayern had already conceded 14 goals and lost 5 games in the Bundesliga. The biggest change regarding this aspect has been the arrival of Javi Martinez. The Spaniard sits in front of the two CB’s and provides all the cover that Schweinsteiger and the full-backs need in order to go forward. On top of that he is very good on the ball himself and also has the ability to create chances with good build-up play from the middle of the park.
How to beat them
I think there are two teams we can learn a lesson from: Borussia Dortmund, who have beaten Bayern five times in a row before their draw in this Bundesliga season; and Chelsea, who of course won the Champions League Final against the German giants. Key to the successes over Bayern for both of them was their disciplined defending.
Their wingers had to work back more than they worked forward. They always doubled-up with their fullbacks to keep Bayern’s normally so effective wing-play to a minimum. This also left the opportunity to run counter attacks and this is exactly how we can hurt Bayern as well.
Our ideal line-up for the Bayern match:
I think that Arsenal should start against Bayern with a 4-2-3-1 formation because I cannot see us winning with only one holding midfielder. So I would slot Wilshere in next to Arteta, to stop Kroos and Schweinsteiger from operating through the middle, but also to double-up on the wings. In addition, Wilshere will be able to apply a lot of pressure on Schweinsteiger as soon as he gets the ball. Especially at the Euros, he made a lot of mistakes when he wasn’t given any time on the ball and that might be a factor we could capitalize on. Wilshere will be able to win a lot of balls in this position and play or run the ball forward.
The most likely way for us to win this match is on the break, which is why Theo should play up front. His pace and goal scoring form will be exactly what we need. I want to see Ox on the right because of his commitment towards defense. He will track back against David Alaba a lot more than Theo would and with his pace he will be a great support to Theo on the break. Podolski has shown time and time again for Germany how reliable he is on the left wing, when it comes to defending duties. He should also play, because he knows really well how most of his opponents play.
Podolski and Santi are not the quickest players, but should be great support on the break. Santi should also play attacking midfielder to direct the play, when we manage to get stuck in Bayern’s half. He seems to always find the right pass to put Theo, or Ox, or Pod into scoring position, and is very deadly himself, of course.
I would love to keep Mertesacker out of the starting line-up because of the pace of Ribery, Müller, Robben and Shaqiri (last two could feature as subs), but now that the Verminator has to play left-back there is no other option than to play him. With Mandzukic, Martinez, Dante and Boateng Bayern have 4 real targets for set pieces, but I think with Mertesacker, Vermaelen and Koscielny we have good cover.
Yes I haven’t mentioned our in-form striker Olivier Giroud yet. I think he is at his best in games where we control the game and can put a lot of balls into the box, but I just can’t see that happen.
I believe that Bayern will control the game and our main priority – even at home – should be counter attacking. Just like we did against Barcelona two season ago.
With the above formation and tactics we could beat Bayern, but I am really interested in hearing your views on whether, and how, we can beat them on Tuesday as well.
Come on You Gunners!
Finally, I want to thank the host of this blog for giving me the chance to express my opinion on our Champions League tie with Bayern Munich.
Written by: Nik (A Gooner based in Germany).