UEFA Champions League: Why Arsenal Can Beat Bayern Munich in UCL Last 16

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterDecember 20, 2012

UEFA Champions League: Why Arsenal Can Beat Bayern Munich in UCL Last 16

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    Arsenal were rewarded for their perseverance in escaping the clutches of Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 with a trip to Bayern Munich.

    Hardly the most attractive proposition, but the Gunners must host the Bavarian giants at the Emirates and then travel to the Allianz Arena and secure a result over two legs to progress.

    How on earth is Arsene Wenger going to manage this one?

Situations Differ

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    Coming off the back of a 5-2 dismantling of Reading, Arsenal managed to pull themselves up to within 15 points of current league leaders Manchester United.

    That result, in addition to a 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion the week before, has helped gloss over a dodgy start and rough patch of form.

    Things can change exceedingly quickly in football, though. A win at out-of-sorts Wigan Athletic this weekend could see the Gunners obtain a three-game win streak coming into the busy Christmas schedule.

    In stark contrast, however, Bayern Munich are in the middle of a potentially record-breaking season.

    Such is the confidence of a side who are currently nine points clear at the top of the Bundesliga table, that deputy chairman Karl Hopfner has said (via SkySports.com): "Now we have the first match in the competition in the Allianz Arena and we are happy to play against Arsenal."

    Die Bayern have conceded just seven goals all season, yet they've scored 44. I suppose that's reason enough for confidence.

Underdog

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    In the 2011-12 season, Arsenal were drawn against Milan in the UEFA Champions League round of 16.

    It was seen as a relatively even contest, yet the Gunners returned from the San Siro facing a massive 4-0 deficit at the hands of Robinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (via BBC.co.uk).

    That was it. Game over. Finito.

    Roll on the return leg—and under absolutely no pressure of expectation whatsoever, Arsenal took the Rossoneri all the way and ended up winning 3-0 to fall just short of extra time (via BBC.co.uk).

    Bayern are the overwhelming favourites in this tie, but we've already seen them slip up once against BATE Borisov in Belarus.

    Jupp Heynckes' side were also the clear favourites in the UCL final, and we all know how that went down.

Right Personnel

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    Was it so long ago that Arsenal had a solid defence and a potent attack?

    The Gunners started the season unbeaten in six, recording two five-goal margin victories over Southampton and Coventry City.

    Abou Diaby, Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla were beginning to look like a world-class midfield, while goals were flowing from all over the pitch.

    According to The Guardian, Diaby has a rare biomechanical issue. One of his legs is longer than the other. The years of having one stronger side has taken its toll—he's shattered more than 20 muscles in his legs over the past few years.

    This is a problem Arsene Wenger is aware of and knows he needs to manage. If Diaby can regain fitness for 2013, he can be used sporadically as a big-game player.

    Add the return of Jack Wilshere's fitness and form to Diaby's resurgence, and all of a sudden Arsenal are a force.

Right Positions

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    Arsenal can beat anyone on their day, but their day is unlikely to come round if Arsene Wenger continues to make strange positional decisions.

    The amount of angst about where players are played is palpable, with staff and fans getting frustrated.

    Theo Walcott wants a chance as a striker and a new contract. Lukas Podolski wants to play as a centre-forward and not a left-winger. Aaron Ramsey is not a wide player.

    This one, by and large, is the easiest to fix. I'd recommend starting with Ramsey.