Bayern Preview: The Big Game Players Need To Stand Up & Be Counted
All the talk and speculation will shortly end when Arsenal take to the field in the Allianz Arena. The last sixteen of the Champions League, so often the graveyard of our European ambitions, returns this evening and no matter the past, no matter how lop-sided the tie appears, hope still springs eternal.
Newspaper headlines about goalkeeper decisions were never there to be written. David Ospina was always going to play tonight; Arsène hasn’t been contemplating change in his policy because he hasn’t had any reason to. Ospina has played well this season in this competition and is in the side on merit. Is there some argument for his promotion to first choice? I’d listen, although I am not convinced.
The only other news is that Lucas Perez has a hamstring injury and remains in London. Per Mertesacker meanwhile, travelled with the squad but is more likely to play at Sutton United in the FA Cup than in his homeland.
Since I began typing this, David Ornstein of the BBC reports that Theo Walcott starts from the bench, which makes the next bit very relevant!
Arsène has seen plenty of advice to drop Mesut Özil in recent days but it isn’t going to happen in a month of Sundays. Not tonight, anyway. More likely is that Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott will drop to the bench, making way for Danny Welbeck and the need to keep the very in-form Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the starting line-up.
My preference would be for a more conservative midfield, primed to counter-attack but I doubt that Wenger will alter the formation to 4-3-3 tonight. A base of Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Xhaka works best for me, although making room for Elneny who, by all accounts, had an outstanding African Cup of Nations with Egypt, isn’t an issue. That would push Ox out to the right where he will provide support for Hector Bellerin against Robben and Costa.
That’s the reason I’d drop Iwobi. He’s played well recently but defensively, I think Welbeck offers more. Bayern are dangerous on the flanks and the art to keeping Lewandowski quiet is to cut off his supply line, We managed that when he was at Dortmund so that’s the process we need to repeat tonight.
All of which means no place for Olivier Giroud; I can’t see playing him up front ahead of Alexis providing us with any advantage whatsoever.
The biggest obstacle to success is ourselves. Mentally, we’ve got to put last season’s 1 – 5 drubbing out of our minds and remember the 2 – 0 win and 1 – 1 draw. Both those results put us in a strong position to qualify for the last eight. We have to believe in ourselves to be able to do that and confidence has been in short supply at times.
We also need to play a lot better in this big away match than we’ve managed in any other this season. I can’t think of one domestically or PSG which we’ve deserved to get anything out of. Let’s change that tonight!
And above all else, still be in with a chance of going through at the final whistle!!!!