The knockout stage of the Champions League got started with a bang on Tuesday, with Manchester City losing out at home against Barcelona (2-0) and PSG showing it’s attacking luster against Leverkusen (4-0). This week’s games are only getting better, as we see the mighty Bayern Munich making the trip to North London in a rematch of last season’s Champions League round of 16 against Arsenal.
In last season’s games, we saw Bayern come into the Emirates and put three goals past the Arsenal defense. Thinking there was no way Arsenal could come into the German fortress and net three in response, Arsenal came within one goal of beating the eventual champs. As we head into Wednesday’s fixture, here are a few keys to Arsenal’s game to keep last year’s champs from becoming the first ever team to repeat as champions.
Defense is vital
Arsenal’s defense has been a strength and a weakness all season long. With attacking players like Thomas Müeller, Arjen Robben, and Mario Götze, Arsenal’s defense must find ways to contain their speed and creativity in every area of the pitch. After a solid defensive showing to draw with Manchester United and conceding only one goal (though it could have been much worse) against Liverpool, Arsenal need to rally around the positives they see defensively and put in a top notch performance. Per Mertesacker will need to captain his side well and keep the shape of their defensive unit.
Quick counter attacks
With the majority of Arsenal’s “regulars” rested against Liverpool, Arsenal should be able to send a recharged and energetic team out against Bayern. The likes of Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, and Thomas Rosicky should be available and refreshed ready to counter attack quickly against Bayern. Even though Arsenal are generally a team that enjoys keeping possession for most of the match, they may have to concede it for spells and sit deep in their own third and wait for the perfect moment to spring into attack.
Overlap from the fullbacks
With both Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna rested against Liverpool, the duo of Arsenal fullbacks should be chomping at the bit to get back into the game. Both of these fullbacks enjoy overlapping on the wingers and crossing the ball into the middle of the 18-yard box. Bacary Sagna is right near the top of the league, when it comes to crossing the ball into the box. With both of these boys refreshed we should see more chances for Oliver Giroud and Lukas Podolski.
With Arsenal having won the previous meeting between these two clubs, there is a feeling of hope that Arsenal can pull off a good result against Bayern Munich. If Arsenal’s defense and counter attack are on display on Wednesday, we could see Arsenal take an early edge at home. Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Bayern Munich.