By Tony Attwood
How are Bayern doing this year? They are of course top of the league as the constitution of the federal republic demands, but the feeling is that they are not the sophisticated team they used to be. They are seen this year as not stylish, not the Barcelona of the north, but a team that gets along and then gets the win in the last ten minutes – just like Liverpool! used to do when they were winning the league all the time. Now Liverpool! are still the same but they don’t get that inevitable goal in front of the Kop with a minute to go, assured that no one but no one in the media would dare ask if anything was ever amiss.
The Guardian called it “Bayern-Dusel, something more than luck and perhaps better described as jamminess….The winner, it seems at times like this, is always Bayern.” It makes you wonder exactly what they are saying about it and why no one in Germany has questioned it. It certainly doesn’t all even out in the end.
The official line instead is always “you make your own luck,” and that’s what the media will always say. And who knows. With Bayern maybe it is true.
Bayern are taking Arsenal far more seriously than the aaa sponsored English media. Robben for example didn’t play at the weekend, except for the last quarter or an hour being rested for this game.
Bayern have taken 25 points out of the last 27 and had the joy of seeing all the teams in what really is a rather weak German league from second to seventh losing at the weekend. (That’s what you get when one team wins all the time)> The captain Lahm has declared his retirement at the end of the season so they anticipate that automatically this means he will play in the Champs League final.
Back with Arsenal Granit Xhaka has been cleared of any suggestion of racial abuse and his four match ban is over so having had a long rest he could presumably be picked. We know that David Ospina will be in goal and of course at once the media (in the form of the Independent) are suggesting that Cech is in such poor form he has been dropped.
Franck Ribery and Jerome Boateng are both injured. Arsenal have no new injuries – so the squad expands with the return of Elneny from foreign parts and the aforementioned Xhaka. I suspect Kieran Gibbs will drop back to the beach allowing Monreal to return.
Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal;
Coquelin, Elneny [or Xhaka or the Ox]
Walcott, Ozil [or Xhaka], Iwobi;
So what I am suggesting is that Xhaka could either play alongside Coquelin or could play in front of Coquelin and Elneny to give a real protection to the defence, leaving a three man attack of Walcott, Iwobi and Alexis, with Giroud added later if need be.
Taking the team without anyone in brackets in the starting XI, included the beach (if they had one in Munich) would be
Xhaka, the Ox, Giroud, Cech, Pérez, Gibbs, Gabriel.
We are of course top scorers in the Premier League (joint with Liverpool) and currently have three of the players in the top 17 league scorers playing for us (Alexis on 17, Giroud and Theo both on 8). One of them will have to drop out though.
And maybe we have a bit of history in our favour. We were unbeaten during the group stage for the first time since 2005/06. And that year we reached the final. On the other hand Bayern have won their last 15 home Champions League games, the longest winning run in the history of the entire universe since it was created by a gigantic spark (or a spaghetti monster if you are a Pastafarian) 13.8 billion years ago. (Or 6021 years ago if you believe Genesis).
Olivier Giroud scored in three of his last four CL games against Bayern Munich, including in two of his last three away games against them. So if my lineup is right, expect him on as a sub. If not, don’t.
Predictions of an Arsenal win are hard, if not impossible, to find (well I didn’t find one) and you can get around 13/2 on an Arsenal win. The common belief is Bayern will win 2-1 or 3-1.
And as everyone says over and over again, Bayern have knocked out Arsenal in their three previous round of 16 games (2004/05, 2012/13, 2013/14). BUT two things run in Arsenal’s favour. All runs end sometimes, and Bayern have already had one run ended for this is the first time they have not topped their Champions League group since 2009/10.
Plus here is an omen. The only previous CL game between Carlo Ancelotti and Arsene Wenger was in the 2007/08 in… the round of 16. Arsenal beat AC Milan 2-0 on aggregate.
And let me throw this in. Arsenal have developed the counter attack plan – the plan and approach developed by Herbert Chapman that made Arsenal the greatest team in the world in the 1930s. The fulcrum of this is the quick move out of defence, with Ozil finding the pass to Alexis Sanchez, and Theo and Bellerin having all the speed in the world. This could be the moment.
PS from Walter : I will be watching the match on the German TV channel that we can see in Belgium. So I am practicing my German a bit to not miss anything. If the sky doesn’t fall on our heads which could lead to no TV in my living room there will be a match report shortly after the match. Selbstverständlich, meine Freunde.
Arsenal History Books on Kindle
The novel “Making the Arsenal” by Tony Attwood which describes the events of 1910, which created the modern Arsenal FC, is now available for the first time on Kindle. Full details are here.
Also available on Kindle, “Woolwich Arsenal: the club that changed football” the only comprehensive history of the rise of Arsenal as a league club, and the attempts to destroy the club, from within and without. For full details please see here.