How Arsenal Will Line Up Against Bayern Munich

Charlie MelmanCorrespondent IIFebruary 18, 2014

FILE PHOTO - EDITORS NOTE: COMPOSITE OF TWO IMAGES - Image Numbers 452603077 (L) and 452615683) In this composite image a comparison has been made between Arsene Wenger the Arsenal manager (L) and Head coach Josep Guardiola of Bayern Munich. Arsenal and Bayern Munich meet in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 match 1st leg on February 19,2014 with the 2nd leg on March 11 ,2014.  ***LEFT IMAGE*** CARDIFF, WALES - NOVEMBER 30: Arsene Wenger manager of Arsenal looks on prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Cardiff City and Arsenal at Cardiff City Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)  ***RIGHT IMAGE*** MUNICH, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 30: Josep Guardiola of Bayern comes onto the pitch before the Bundesliga match between Bayern Muenchen and Eintracht Braunschweig at Allianz Arena on November 30, 2013 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Bongarts/Getty Images)
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Arsenal will host a small German side named Bayern Munich in one of the most highly anticipated Champions League clashes in the round of 16.

As we all know, the Gunners have been through this song and dance before. Exactly one year ago, they hosted Bayern in the first leg at the same stage of the competition and got completely played off the pitch. Three goals to one was a charitable scoreline.

But that set Arsenal up for a performance that is arguably still affecting their play. Traveling to the Allianz Arena and winning 2-0 injected the Gunners with enough confidence to roar back in the Premier League. They have carried on that defensive stability and precision to this day.

Arsenal are certainly a better side than it was a year ago. While everyone who started in the 3-1 drubbing is still with the team today, each (with the exception of the suspended Mikel Arteta) has elevated their level of play and is a valuable member of the squad.

Of course, there have also been notable new arrivals. Mathieu Flamini's tenacity has been invaluable, while Mesut Ozil gives Arsenal a world-class attacking threat, despite the tepidity of some of his performances.

Yet Bayern, too, are much improved. Though they will be without Franck Ribery and Xherdan Shaqiri, Pep Guardiola can simply slot Mario Goetze or Thomas Mueller into the left flank and will lose little incisiveness.

He also has Bastian Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez, Toni Kroos and Thiago Alcantara as potential options in midfield.

So, essentially, Arsene Wenger will have to choose his team well. And, because he rested several key players against Liverpool at the weekend, he is more able to do so. Here's a look at the XI he could put on the pitch, with a few interesting notes.


There aren't any surprises in the back five. Wojciech Szczesny, Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs return after a much-needed breather, while Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny are all but assured of their places.

Flamini would probably start even if Arteta was not suspended. But the Spaniard is, and Flamini will have to be at his pugnacious best to thwart Bayern's utterly relentless midfield.

Arsene Wenger's real dilemma concerns who to place further up the pitch.

He might be tempted to start Tomas Rosicky in favor of Jack Wilshere in central midfield, given the Czech's ability to counter Bayern's press and propel the team forward. But Wilshere did not see the pitch last weekend and Rosicky was left out of that team completely.

Moreover, Wilshere's participation in the pre-match press conference with Wenger seems to portend a start. While Rosicky is not listed in Arsenal's injury report, his absence against Liverpool was somewhat conspicuous.

If he is healthy, Wenger could put him on the left wing. But, since Ozil will certainly be given the central attacking midfield spot, that flank will belong to Santi Cazorla if the Spaniard has shaken off his cold.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19:  Santi Cazorla of Arsenal in action against Philipp Lahm of Bayern Muenchen during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match between Arsenal and Bayern Muenchen at Emirates Stadium on February 19, 2013 in London,
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

It would also be the perfect spot for Lukas Podolski, who scored in this fixture a year ago and at the Emirates a few days ago. But if Wenger wants to include both Cazorla and Ozil, there does not seem to be a spot for the goal-poaching German in Arsenal's formation.

There is, however, a ready-made place for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. As John Brewin of ESPN FC noted after the Liverpoool match, the Ox adds the pace and forward drive to Arsenal's midfield that has been missing since Theo Walcott's ACL tear.

That should be enough to guarantee him a place on the right wing, supporting Olivier Giroud through the center.

Giroud will have to put in one of his best shifts of the season against arguably the best and most physically intelligent defense in Europe.

Much of his role will be a supporting one, but if a goalscoring chance ever falls to his feet, he must be more clinical than he has been for much of the season. A week of rest will do him a world of good.

Giroud will almost certainly be involved in any attacking success Arsenal have. And his ability to defend set pieces will be crucial against a Bayern side that can score through literally every method.