As we do from time to time, we've exchanged a few pointed questions with an SB Nation sister blog ahead of Arsenal's big Champions League match against Bayern Munich. Today our expert witness is Davis VanOpdorp of Bavarian Football Works. So I'll shut up now, and get to the questions and answers.
Q: It looks like Bayern has had some issues with injuries of late, so who do you expect to be available and starting against Arsenal? What crazy formation is Pep Guardiola going to run at us?
A: Actually, Bayern released a pseudo squad list for what feels like the first time ever! The odd thing about Bayern’s injuries during Guardiola’s tenure is the odd timing of them. He has never had to make a difficult personnel decision because of it, or ever had to rotate a squad significantly. The attack is where injuries probably affect Bayern the most right now considering how inventive Guardiola has been with defense. Douglas Costa, Robert Lewandowski, and Thomas Müller will probably be the three to start not necessarily because they are the best options, but they are the only options with Arjen Robben not quite fit and with Mario Götze and Kingsley Coman picking up injuries in the International break. Not having their one of their best center backs, Medhi Benatia, also hurts.
Q: Pep’s always been very vocal with his praise of Theo Walcott, and Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez have been hot of late for Arsenal. What do you expect Guardiola to do tactically to counter Arsenal’s counterattacking skill?
A: Counterattacking is something Bayern have infamously struggled with under Guardiola’s tenure, but he has approached it in an unconventional way. The biggest "nuance" this year is moving David Alaba to center back, but while his pace and power help Bayern keep possession, he is a real liability in any aerial situation. Juan Bernat has also been a nifty little wild card too, Guardiola using him to man mark pacy, elusive wingers like Alexis Sánchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The other big key for Bayern is winning the ball higher up the field, one reason why Douglas Costa and Arturo Vidal were such important acquisitions over the summer. The defensive work rate in midfield is probably the highest it has ever been.
Q: No team is perfect, even the best ones. What weaknesses do you see in this Bayern side, and what does Arsenal have to do in order to be the first team to get a result against them in months?
A: I think you hit the nail on the head with the counterattack. I have been rather impressed with how Arsenal can get numbers forward quickly on breaks, even though the chances have not necessarily ended with goals. It is something Bayern still struggle with – even against a team like Werder Bremen who they "only beat 1-0" over the weekend. There have been occasions too when Bayern have struggled to build up the play in midfield, but that should not be a problem with Guardiola pretty much forced to play three center midfielders. Arsenal’s interplay is also top notch, especially when they get into one-touch passing mode, and Bayern have not faced a team like that so far this season. Bayern are a great all around team this year, but injuries obviously limit what Guardiola can do sometimes.
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