How Arsenal Should Line Up Against Bayern Munich in Champions League Last 16

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2013

How Arsenal Should Line Up Against Bayern Munich in Champions League Last 16

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    The Champions League draw against Bayern Munich presents a very stern test for Arsenal.

    Bayern are the runaway leaders of the Bundesliga and one of the favourites to lift the cup with the big ears in May.

    If Arsenal are to overturn the German giants, Arsene Wenger will have to get his team selection spot on.

    Over the next few slides we examine the options available to the Arsenal manager, working from defence to attack, and ultimately select the XI best suited to help Arsenal progress to the quarterfinals.

Show Faith in Per Mertesacker

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    In several big games this season, Arsene Wenger has tended to go for a centre-back partnership of Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny.

    In the two Premier League games with Chelsea and Manchester City, that move backfired spectacularly, with Koscielny scoring an own goal in one and being sent off in the other.

    It is time for Arsene Wenger to show faith in Mertesacker and believe that the German can produce on the biggest occasions. Although his performances have tailed off a little in recent weeks, he remains Arsenal's most consistent centre-back, and he'll be particularly keen to put in a big performance against his countrymen.

    Alongside him it will be the captain, Thomas Vermaelen, while Wojciech Szczesny's position as goalkeeper will not be put under any threat from either Lukas Fabianski or Vito Mannone.

    Kieran Gibbs is a similarly obvious choice at left-back. The alternative, Andre Santos, is out of favour and out of form, and seems to be on borrowed time at Arsenal.

    There is a choice to be made at right-back between Bacary Sagna and Carl Jenkinson. Sagna's form has been patchy since he returned from injury, and in the meantime Jenkinson has evolved in to an excellent defender and full England international. For the first time since Sagna's arrival, the Frenchman faces genuine competition for this place.

    Nevertheless, I expect Sagna to get the nod for this game. His experience will be vital against Bayern's dangerous winger Franck Ribery. 

Count on Mikel Arteta

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    Whenever Mikel Arteta is absent from the Arsenal side, they lack balance.

    His replacements are not bad players. Francis Coquelin has greater stamina than Arteta, and Aaron Ramsey has more power. Abou Diaby combines athleticism with outstanding if unconventional technique.

    None of these players, however, offer the unstinting professionalism and positional intelligence of Arteta. 

    Against a side with attacking threat of Bayern, Arteta's inclusion is essential.

    Alongside him, Jack Wilshere is a guaranteed starter. Since his return from injury he has emerged as the very soul of this Arsenal side.

    As the third central midfielder I'd go for Santi Cazorla. Although he can be squeezed out of games in the Premier League, European football typically gives him more room to flourish.

Unleash Olivier Giroud

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    Arsenal's hopes of Champions League progression have been boosted by the recent performances of Olivier Giroud, who is finally looking like a centre-forward worthy of inheriting Robin van Persie's place in the side.

    Giroud will be particularly keen to make an impact against a side he almost joined before signing for the Gunners. Giroud himself revealed that his agent held discussions with Bayern in May (Daily Mail), before Arsenal stepped in and secured Giroud for themselves.

    Another man with a point to prove is Lukas Podolski. Podolski played for Bayern in an unsuccessful stint between 2006 and 2009, before being sold back to FC Koln—the very club Bayern signed him from.

    Podolski's goal threat and crossing ability make him a certain start on the left-hand side. On the other flank, Arsenal can call upon Theo Walcott, their current top scorer with 17 goals.

    It's a bold front three, but Arsenal's best form of defence may well be attack.

The Final Selection

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    So here it is: the final team selected to take on the might of Bayern Munich.

    What do you think? Would you choose differently? Let us know below.