Tomorrow night, in the futuristic, brand new Allianz Arena, Arsenal will play a ‘nothing to lose’ Champions League game against the reigning European Champions. Anything can happen tomorrow: from a drab goalless draw, to 120 minutes of spectacular football followed by a nail-biting penalty shootout; from a glorious aggregate win over Die Lederhosen to a very heavy defeat. I cannot predict the outcome but have no doubt that Wenger will field his strongest team, with a strategy to win whilst playing football as it should be played.
So, no parking of the London double bus as the London Oilers once did, but also no kamikaze approach. Getting the balance right is key and Bayern might not give us much chance to play our game anyway; as, especially under Guardiola, they like to dominate teams and suck the lifeblood out of them. They will want to do the same to Arsenal but let’s pump some lead into them instead.
So let’s cut to the chase: how should we line up to give ourselves the best possible chance?
Four things are vital:
- Solid approach to defending as a team: especially the two players in the DM pivot and our mid-wingers are key and need to be picked with defending duties and qualities in mind;
- Possession of the ball will be key and we need players who can pass and hold on to the ball in confined spaces as good as possible;
- We need players who are able to add thrust and speed to our attack; especially our midfielders need to possess these skills;
- We need leadership and composure and, of course, passion.
Gibbs is not available and neither is Nacho, and realistically, we have two options: Vermaelen or Sagna (Jenkinson to be our left back). I have a feeling Wenger will go for Vermaelen this time as he will need Sagna on the left to keep Ribery quiet. Vermaelen needs support though, and we will play either Cazorla or Rosicky as our mid-left. I have a feeling it will be Rosicky.
FlamTeta in the DM pivot again? Yes, I reckon that would make sense. The area in front of our D will be most important for keeping it tight and both Arteta and Flamini will have to give their all to keep the Bayern midfielders away from our box, and also not allow them to shoot from just outside it as much as possible (often our Achilles’ heel against Bayern)…..they also will have to support the full backs and will simply be tested to the max. We could play Ox or Rosicky next to Flamini (or Arteta) but I reckon we need both of the Frenchman and Spaniard’s experience to fully protect our back-four.
Then the most exciting area: ‘the front four’. What is Wenger going to do? Sanogo is injured, so we should expect Giroud to start, but…… Wenger might go for speed up-front, as BM will play with a high-line and Giroud might not be as effective as he usually is in the centre of attack, as he lacks the speed to really worry them. But, he might be very important for our ability to hold on to the ball and get our midfielders involved in our attacks…
Wenger might suprise us once again with an alternative attacker…maybe Ox, or even Gnabry? I am going to go with Giroud, just marginally. He scored at Bayern last season and looked sharp and refreshed against Everton, but it is his hold-up play and ability to bring the midfielders into play which will add so much value to the team.
If we do not opt for speed and thrust in our CF, we will need to have it in our midfielders; especially as our normal ‘wingers’ – the full backs – will not be able to go forward a lot in this game. Ozil is a given, and, in current form, Ox is as well. It was two years and five days ago when AOC played the best game of his career – against Milan at home – and let’s hope he can produce a similarly dynamic and inspiring performance.
But who to complete the (attacking) midfield: Cazorla, Rosicky, or even Pod? As said earlier, I reckon it might be Rosicky as he adds so much drive and energy as well as good control of the ball in tight spaces. But Cazorla played well on Saturday and starting to hit fine form and also scores a lot more than the Czech….
The slightly conservative predicted Wenger line-up is:
But I reckon he will do something a bit more daring, as to be able to play his very best players and find a good balance between solidity and attacking prowess.
So maybe, he will go for this more adventurous line-up (with one of Flamini and Arteta):
We will have to wait and see, but I reckon both line-ups have their merits and will provide plenty of leadership, composure and passion to the team.
Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners – Make Us Proud!