Arsenal travel to Munich where they’ll face Bayern at the Allianz on Wednesday. This will be the third time the Gunners faced Bayern Munich in the Champions League round of 16. Both other times the German giants went through to the next round.
Neither club are in the best of form. Although Bayern haven’t lost since their match against Rostov in the group stages, they’ve returned from the winter break a little rusty. Arsenal had two devastating losses last week and sputtered through a nervy 2-0 win against Hull City on Wednesday. Both Arsene Wenger and Carlo Ancelotti could make a few changes.
Speaking ahead of the match, Wenger gave little away. He seemed to cast doubt over whether Mesut Özil would start. The manager expressed concern regarding Özil’s confidence after the Hull win, but assured fans the German playmaker is raring to go Wednesday. The manager also wouldn’t say whether Granit Xhaka would return to the lineup, but confirmed David Ospina would start in goal as he has done in all of Arsenal’s Champions League matches.
There has been some suggestion that Wenger may change his formation slightly to account for Bayern’s style of play, Özil’s confidence, and the form of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. It seems a likely course of action and wouldn’t be out of character for Wenger who has previously changed things up soon before a big match. The last time that happened, Alexi Iwobi put in a stormer at the Camp Nou and solidified his place in the squad as a first team player.
With that in mind, here is Arsenal’s most probable starting eleven on Wednesday versus Bayern Munich.
Goalkeeper – Ospina
As stated above, Ospina starts in goal over Petr Cech. This isn’t news or some kind of statement regarding the goalkeeper situation at Arsenal. Ospina has started in all of Arsenal’s Champions League matches.
Right Back – Bellerin
Hector Bellerin starts at right back. The Spaniard hasn’t hit top form since injuring his ankle this winter. He’s a tad slower, and his decision-making has been slightly off. However, those are the sorts of issues a player can play out of. Regardless, Arsenal don’t have better options.
Center Backs – Mustafi & Koscielny
Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny partner at center back. Per Mertesacker has also made the trip, meaning he’ll be on the bench for the second time this season. It appears Mertesacker is in line to make his first appearance next Monday in the FA Cup against Sutton United.
Left Back – Monreal
Nacho Monreal starts at left back after giving way to Kieran Gibbs last weekend. Gibbs was ordinary if anything – not doing anything wrong but not doing anything that particularly stood out.
Expect both players to be rotated in and out of the squad regularly as Wenger opens up the competition at left back.
Defensive Mid – Coquelin
Francis Coquelin starts at defensive mid. He’ll sit slightly deeper than usually with two central midfielders playing ahead of him instead of just one.
Coquelin has come into criticism from some fans lately, but he’s a player who is playing largely within his means. That isn’t a criticism but rather a reality check that Coquelin is not going to be the player to move the ball around. Rather he is going to be a disrupter, although, he hasn’t been at his best in that area lately either.
Central Mid – Xhaka
Xhaka returns to the starting eleven after missing the past four matches due to suspension. Wenger may hesitate to start him considering his disciplinary problems this season, but Xhaka is such a phenomenal passer and works hard in defense that his presence would be missed. In fact, his presence has been missed the past three weeks and his return is more than welcome.
Central Mid – Oxlade-Chamberlain
Oxlade-Chamberlain has excelled in central midfield, putting in another quality performance over the weekend. He’s established himself as one of Arsenal’s most reliable midfielders over the past month and it’s hard to imagine him being dropped – even when certain players return from injury.
Although they haven’t played next to each other yet, Xhaka and Oxlade-Chamberlain could be an exciting midfield duo with their work rate, mobility, and passing. Both players possess an array of types of passes and Arsenal could be dangerous going forward with Xhaka and Oxlade-Chamberlain next to each other.
This midfield duo could also aid Özil as it may open up space between the lines for Özil to exploit.
Wide Right – Welbeck
Danny Welbeck starts on the right. He’s been due a start for a bit it feels like. Theo Walcott put in a passive performance over the weekend and Lucas Perez is out with a hamstring injury. Iwobi could start on the right but that would mean both of Arsenal’s wide players are natural number 10s.
Welbeck brings pace, finishing, a direct style, and defense to the wing.
Wide Left – Özil
Özil starts on the left, but plays in a freer role, allowing him to move centrally and out wide. From a positional standpoint, his defensive duties lay out wide. The three man midfield might free up Özil a little more and could help Arsenal counter quickly through the left.
Striker – Alexis
Alexis starts at striker with Olivier Giroud backing him up on the bench. Even when he isn’t in the greatest of forms, he manages to score. His brace last weekend was an example of that.