Arsenal are generally perceived as a side that embodies a free-flowing and an attractive brand of approach to football. But, under Arsene Wenger, in recent years, Arsenal have also learnt to play and win ugly.
The Gunners are in a precarious situation at the moment. While they are flying high in the Premier League, Wenger’s side are sitting uncomfortably at the bottom of Group F in the Champions League and are facing an early exit from the group stages.
A victory in Munich however can change the scenario. But we all know it is easier said than done.
After defeats against Zagreb and Olympiakos, Arsenal returned to winning ways by beating Bayern 2-0 at the Emirates in their last Champions League game.
In an uncharacteristic manner, Wenger abandoned the philosophy of playing the free-flowing football and instead went direct using long ball tactics to disrupt Bayern’s passing threat.
Pep Guardiola expects Wenger to return with a similar strategy on Wednesday as well.
“Arsenal want to attack and build up but when you press Mertesacker and Koscielny, they don’t want to play,” Guardiola said as quoted by The Guardian. “They play long balls to Giroud. Also, if they lose the ball and we make two or three passes, Mertesacker doesn’t want to stay high up, so they go back in their box and defend there.
“Arsenal will try long balls to Giroud. Cech will not play the ball to defenders, he will try long balls to Giroud. We have to defend well and be ready for that.”
Arsenal successfully deployed the long ball strategy against Bayern (made 19.8% long passes) where they capitalised on the ariel threat of Giroud nicely. Arsenal’s two-fold attacking strategy usually relies on the pace of Walcott and “a bit more direct” approach with Olivier Giroud.
With Walcott currently injured for the Gunners, it is likely Wenger will depend on Giroud upfront. Wenger admits that the best way to approach the game is by going on the attack, but at the same time he maintains his side must keep the balance and discipline at the back.
“When we have to defend, we must do it well and get through these moments,” Wenger said. “And in our good periods, we want to attack. We didn’t only want to defend at the Emirates but we organised ourselves to defend well in certain situations.
“We changed and played on the counter. It’s difficult to know who will dominate but it will probably be Bayern.”
Arsenal have enjoyed recent success at the Allianz Arena, where they won against Bayern in 2013 and drew in 2014. Furthermore, the Gunners are heading into this fixture on the back of an impressive form in the league, winning their last five league games. As a result, they have climbed up to second in the league behind Manchester City and are separated only by a better goal difference.