I love doing these Three Questions things. Sadly, I don't get to them as often as I would like, but I will try to make them happen more regularly for the rest of this season. Anyway, as we all know, Wednesday sees the arrival of Europe's current most dominant team, Bayern Munich, at the Emirates for the first leg of a Champions League round of 16 tie that I think we're all fairly nervous about.
I sat down, virtually, with Ryan Cowper of Bavarian Football Works, SBN's Bayern site, to ask him three questions about Bayern so that hopefully we can all be a little less scared. I don't think he helped that out very much, particularly with his second answer, but as someone who doesn't pay all that much attention to the German game, he gave me some good information. Away we go!
TSF: Bayern are widely reported to be the unstoppable force in the game this year - not just in Germany, but in Europe. Given that they were also very good last season, How much of that is Pep's influence, and how much of that is the team that Heynckes built?
BFW: It's about 50/50.The style of play that Jupp Heynckes developed with Bayern Munich is most accurately described as rigidly mechanized. The harmony with which they played defense was truly incredible to behold (see 7-0 defeat of Barcelona) yet at the same time they attacked with speed and power that was absolutely brutal (see 9-2 defeat of Hamburger SV). It was very much a team that aimed to win every match 6-0. Yet at the same time it was a one system team.
What Pep Guardiola has done is taken the next step and stacked that rigid mechanization with the ability to complement the strengths of every individual player to the point. This Bayern Munich squad has no real identity and varies from game to game tactically and behaviorally. But whichever style they choose, they execute it with almost mechanized precision. It's to the point now where most of us throw up our hands when the lineups get announced, saying "I have no idea what type of system we're playing this game and I have no idea what the gameplan is".
TSF: For those of us who don't watch German soccer on a regular basis, are they a typical Pep team that will pass you to death, or are they more diverse than that?
BFW: By typical Pep team you mean Barcelona, right? The fact is that Bayern Munich are absolutely nothing like Barcelona except in that Pep Guardiola says he likes to have the ball. It's the case of "If you don't have the ball you can't score" but where Barcelona aimed to keep the ball at all costs, Bayern Munich don't. When Bayern have the ball it's going to move, and move fast from player to player, up and down the pitch. They aren't afraid to take risks and turn over possession the way Barcelona was because they defend and press so well to win possession back with expediency.
Yes, Bayern Munich have the ability to pass you to death and win 1-0 - they've even used it occasionally. They also have the ability Route 1 you to death, cross you to death, shoot you to death, foul you to death, press you to death, and counterattack you to death. They can use any one of those methods with great execution to beat you. That's what makes them so dangerous.
TSF: If Arsenal are to have any hope of beating Bayern over two legs, what's one thing Arsenal can't get wrong?
BFW: Simple; the Arsenal defense has to be flawless on the ground. The fact that Franck Ribery is out recovering from compartment syndrome makes the job on the Arsenal right a little easier. Though honestly, having to face Arjen Robben or Mario Götze instead is like picking between being boiled alive or eaten alive. If the Arsenal defense can contain Bayern Munich spatially, limiting channels for dribbling, and limiting the opportunity to overload zonal marking, you force Bayern Munich to beat you with individual skill or on set pieces and crosses in the air where it's a 50/50 proposition.
Bonus question: Can we just have Julian Draxler? Y'all don't need him, right?
Bonus Answer: Bayern Munich have Xherdan Shaqiri. They do not need Julian Draxler. You may have him. Additional terms and conditions may apply.
Many thanks to Ryan for taking the time to do this. I'd love to say that other than on Wednesday, I wish his team(s) well, but he's also a Sounder fan, so. But he's good people and his stuff's always worth reading, so if you want to be better at talking about Bayern and the German game, Bavarian Football Works is a good place to hang out.
I answered some Arsenal questions for Ryan over at BFB; Here they are.