Bayern Munich vs. Arsenal: 6 Predictions for the 2nd Leg at Allianz Arena
Don't worry, this slideshow isn't going to be tailored to predicting a 4-0 Arsenal triumph, no matter how great that would be. The conclusion of Arsenal's last 16 UEFA Champions League tie with Bayern Munich may be all but assured.
However, there is still plenty to interest Gunners fans in Wednesday's second-leg encounter. The richest picking from the storylines involves possible tactical shifts that could be used to save the rest of Arsenal's season.
There is also the matter of a young star who must begin adding goals if he is to justify his new position. Speaking of adding goals, that's just what one misfiring striker must do sooner rather than later.
Here are six predictions for Arsenal's visit to the Allianz Arena to battle Bayern.
1. Jack Wilshere Will Score
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Although outlandish claims were ruled out, predictions don't come much bolder than suggesting Jack Wilshere will score. After all, he's only managed five goals in 90 first-team appearances.
However, it's high time the shot-shy playmaker started finding the net. That's not an indictment of Wilshere's overall talent.
It is, however, a declaration of one of his chief responsibilities as an attacking midfielder. He has been deployed as an advanced schemer for most of the season. Santi Cazorla has even been forced out wide to accommodate Wilshere in an attacking position.
The No. 10 spot he occupies is the crucial position for the Gunners. In Wenger's style of play, it demands endless creativity and a major scoring threat.
Wilshere has been woefully short of both at times this season. However, he will be buoyed by the "hopeless cause" angle of Wednesday night.
That will encourage Wilshere's natural competitive defiance and he will notch a goal to cause nerves in the Bayern ranks.
2. Wilshere Will Again Be Outshone by Toni Kroos
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In the first leg back in February, Toni Kroos gave Wilshere an object lesson in how to play as the focal point of a three-man midfield.
The precocious Germany international will again outperform his English rival. He'll do it by combining energy with intelligence and, more importantly, decisive and precise execution.
That last attribute is something Wilshere is currently missing. Kroos has no such problem. His off-the-ball runs are clever and well-timed.
His touch and control are both consistently excellent, as are his forward passes. Kroos will again harass a typically nervy Gunners back line and punish them once he gets on the ball.
3. Olivier Giroud Will Find the Net
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Perhaps there are bolder predictions than a Jack Wilshere goal after all. Tipping Olivier Giroud to find the net would certainly be a strong contender.
However, it would fit with his frankly bizarre debut season for the Frenchman to expose the Bayern defense. Giroud was last seen tumbling across the pitch and deflecting the ball off almost every part of his body in the North London derby.
Players signed by Arsene Wenger can often defy simple analysis, especially early on. However, Giroud has to be the most difficult-to-comprehend purchase of the Frenchman's tenure.
So often, it is easy just to label him "not good enough." After all, he provides that argument with plenty of ammunition.
At other times, Giroud shows hints that he can be invaluable to the Arsenal cause. The riddle of Giroud will continue at the Allianz Arena, when the ex-Montpellier finds the net.
Hopefully the goal will spark another scoring clutch from Giroud in time for the race for fourth. He can do it. Definitely. Possibly.
4. Arsene Wenger Will Leave Munich Determined to Sign Luiz Gustavo
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Even if he's left wallowing in despair, Arsene Wenger will leave Munich having identified his summer transfer priority. The Gunners boss will come away from the Allianz Arena enamoured with Luiz Gustavo.
Wenger will decide that the South American is the astute player Arsenal's midfield needs. That's because Gustavo will again showcase his blend of sound positional sense and efficient distribution.
He will also display the energy levels and combative style that are often overlooked in his game. That will be enough to convince Wenger to make his move in the summer.
5. Wenger Will Spring a Tactical Surprise on Munich
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Wenger will use the second leg to freshen up his team structure and spring a surprise on Munich. Many would contend that a change of formation could be a major boost to Arsenal.
For instance, this author champions a switch to 3-5-2 for the remainder of the campaign. However, Wenger may reach into the archives for another alternative.
He may opt for a version of the 4-5-1 he used to stabilise his defences between 2004 and 2006. Wenger used different variations of the formation, but the end result of improving defensive stability was the same.
It worked in the 2005 FA Cup final and keyed a run to the UEFA Champions League final the following season. Not only could it help a leaky defence, it could provide better protection and space for Cazorla and Wilshere.
Arsenal have been showing signs of moving back to this template in recent matches. Putting Cazorla on the left and letting Theo Walcott roam behind Giroud has created a five-man midfield.
Wenger will add the finishing touches to the formation before Wednesday and prepare Arsenal to be a more balanced team for the remainder of the season.
6. Arsenal Will Earn a Score-Draw After an Encouraging but Fruitless Performance
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Arsenal will have used their break well and will produce a far better performance than they managed at the Emirates Stadium. It will be enough to earn them a score-draw, with 2-2 the favoured prediction here.
Of course, that won't be enough to see Arsenal through. The hope will have to be that the Gunners show enough in Munich to at least prove to themselves they can salvage their top-four chances.
Because once the final whistle sounds at the Allianz Arena, the anxious attempt to be in next season's Champions League begins.