Arsene Wenger’s men return to Champions League action on the back of one of their most impressive European results in recent years.
Their 2-0 win at The Emirates showed a defence who can withhold immense pressure despite what critics claim, and an attack that was opportunistic and efficient.
The problem is, the Gunners next opponents are the very same who were humbled in that match – and they will be looking for revenge.
Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich side were shellshocked to have lost after a perfect domestic campaign and no dropped points in the Champions League prior to the 2-0 reversal. From the flavour of comments coming from some of the players since that result, it would seem that they are of the opinion that the score will be somewhat different. They believe it will be Arsenal who will be under pressure, even though it is the German side who will be playing at home.
So, what of the lineups that will be duelling at the Allianz Arena?
Guardiola has the luxury of being able to pick potent Dutch winger Arjen Robben for this game. The Dutchman was sorely missed and his trickery will be an asset. Douglas Costa, who played so well in the loss, will also line up. Sole striker Robert Lewandowski, on such a hot streak of late, has hit the skids in the last two domestic games and will be looking to rejoin the goal trail.
Arsenal have more injury woes as vital right-back Hector Bellerin has been sidelined – though it is unclear if it will leave him unable to play for the North London Derby on Sunday – so Mathieu Debuchy will step in. Left-back Keiran Gibbs is also in line for a return, in the unconventional post as a defensive winger in place of Joel Campbell, who will be benched. Olivier Giroud will lead the line in the absence of Theo Walcott, who along with Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, will be missing until the forthcoming international break ends in two weeks.
As mentioned above, the Gunners also have the small matter of a match with rivals Tottenham Hotspur on the near horizon, so rotation will be vital if freshness is to be maintained and niggling injuries are to be avoided.
Arsene Wenger may prioritise the North London derby on Sunday as returning back home with any points from the home of Bayern Munich would prove difficult for the best of teams in Europe. Also, the remaining ties left in the group – at home against Dynamo Zagreb and away to Olympiacos – still represent the best opportunity to further Arsenal’s progress in the competition.
Either way Arsene Wenger approaches the game, he faces a problem. Does he take the foot off the gas in Europe and hedge his bets on the remaining fixtures, thus enabling his team to keep a little fitness in reserve for a huge game in the weekend? Or does he throw everything at Bayern Munich in the hope of maintaining confidence with a win and boosting their qualification wishes in the process, but as a result his players will be more fatigued for the game against Tottenham?
His game approach will be different, but the amount of chasing possession won’t be. Guardiola’s men will keep the ball and the Gunners will look to rely on the counter attack.
Any points from the home of Bayern Munich is an uphill struggle. Arsenal will need to give their all if victory is what they seek.
No more injuries would be a good thing for Arsenal too.