Arsenal vs Bayern Munich: Changes Gunners Need to Make for UCL Second Leg
Arsenal suffered a huge setback in their Champions League campaign, with German giants Bayern Munich taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the first leg.
Bayern came to North London and simply blew away the home side with breathtaking attacking raids, and appear all but set for a spot in the quarterfinals.
Barring a minor miracle, Arsenal will not be coming back from the dead against Bayern Munich—they need to score three goals against a team that is conceding less than a goal every two games, all without conceding a goal at the back themselves.
However, you never know when it comes to the UEFA Champions League tournament, with Chelsea proving last year that nothing is ever completely over. And if Arsenal stand any chance of coming back against Bayern—which is a pretty big if—they'll certainly need to improve from what we saw from them Tuesday night at the Emirates Stadium.
Here's three big changes the Gunners must make for the second leg.
Start Olivier Giroud
Frenchman Olivier Giroud has gotten over his slow start to the season with Arsenal and has seemingly found his feet well at the North London club.
The striker has 10 goals and six assists for the year so far across both competitions—he has given the Gunners a much-needed presence at the top of their attack.
Why he wasn't included here against Bayern Munich was a bizarre decision from Wenger—as was the fact that Wenger didn't bring him on until the 71st minute.
With his first touch of the football, Giroud nearly netted the equalizer, and he continued to cause problems for Bayern's defense throughout. He might not have had long to prove himself, but the time that he did have, he showed that he was a much-needed inclusion in this team.
Giroud gives Arsenal a go-to man at the top of the attack—something that Theo Walcott just can't offer because of his lack of size and physicality. Giroud is a big man with good skills on the ground, and he gives Arsenal a target in the box that they can't get elsewhere.
He has to start against Bayern in the return leg.
Utilize their left winger as an attacker
Lukas Podolski started out on the left wing for Arsenal in this match, but looking back at the tape, you really couldn't tell it from his positional play.
The German international spent most of the match drifting towards the centre of the field to fulfill needed defensive duties, or he was tracking back into left defense to help out Thomas Vermaelen, who doesn't normally feature out on the left side of the field.
What Podolski wasn't here was an attacker, and it allowed Philip Lahm far too much space to operate down the right hand side of the field. Lahm is a great attacker and a brilliant wing-back, and his crossing game in particular proved to be a real handful on the night—creating the game-clinching goal for Bayern and also creating another one earlier in the first half.
The images below show the space that Lahm had to cross the ball in both times—simply because Podolski wasn't there as a left-winger.
Arsenal need to positionally use their left-winger as a left-winger—attacking at every possible opportunity and perhaps even sacrificing a little defensively in order to give Podolski that space. Perhaps that means Vermaelen needs to push up more and meet Lahm earlier up the pitch, but Podolski simply cannot be that far back in defense if the Gunners' attack is to thrive.
The German attacker should be pushing high to give an extra attacking dimension for Arsenal and trying to catch Lahm out of position as a result.
Maybe don't start Podolski out there. Maybe start Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Santi Cazorla—both of whom would be good options for Wenger to consider.
Either way, their left-winger really needs to start playing like one.
Start with confidence and attacking direction
Again, Arsenal conceded the first goal in a football match.
Again, their heads dropped and they started to play more tentative, passing football—not wanting to concede another goal and fall further behind. And yet again, the second goal came against them after a period of sustained attack from their opponents.
Yet interestingly, once again, Arsenal responded in the second half. They got their bit of luck on the corner—which every team needs—and suddenly the Gunners looked like scoring three or four goals against the previously solid Bayern Munich defense.
We've seen it time and time again from Arsenal this year, as they come back into matches and seriously threaten to win the game. Despite the fact that, previously, they didn't even look like offering any sort of real challenge going forward.
It was perhaps most clear against West Ham where, for 10 minutes, Arsenal looked unbeatable as they piled on four goals to record a huge 5-1 victory.
But the question has always been about where it is at the start? Where was the confidence and the attacking direction at the start of the match? For surely, if it was existent at the start, the Gunners wouldn't have gotten two goals down and they could have well saved the result.
If Arsenal are to beat Bayern, they'll need to start like it's the 60th minute. It sounds bizarre, but for the Gunners, it's exactly what they need to do. Start like they did the second half against West Ham and anything could happen against Bayern Munich.
Yes, even the incredible.
What changes do you think Arsenal need to make for the second leg?
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