Monday, May 20, 2024

Bayern preview: Potential team changes, and Arsenal’s approach

Morning.

Arsenal are in Munich for tonight’s Champions League quarter-final second leg, after the 2-2 draw at the Emirates last week. As a tie it’s set up in such an interesting way, and we can look at the approach both teams might take shortly. However, the main issue for today is team selection and who Mikel Arteta will pick to do the job.

I think there are three positions he’ll change from the game against Villa on Sunday. First, left-back, where despite the manager’s public backing for Oleksandr Zinchenko, I think he will – fitness permitting – go with Takehiro Tomiyasu in this position. This might be a game where our plan is to keep it tight for the first half, before going for it a bit more in the second. On that basis, Tomiyasu is a better, more disciplined defender than Zinchenko, whose positional issues of late are such that it makes it just too risky to start him.

Of course, it’s possible that Tomiyasu isn’t fit enough to start, while Jakub Kiwior had a difficult time in the first leg, so Zinchenko might be seen as the best option for tonight, but I would be surprised.

In midfield, I think Jorginho will come back in to carry out that tempo-setting role his game allows for. Last week, Declan Rice felt a bit peripheral in the first half, but part of that was positioning him closer to Kiwior as kind of cover, and if it’s Tomiyasu in there, he doesn’t need that kind of attention. It’s how these two set-up that will be interesting, they can form a pair, but Rice pushing further forward helps him support Martin Odegaard, and with Kai Havertz the likely start up front, he’ll be more of an 8 than part of a double-pivot, but let’s see.

The other decision is who starts out on the left. After his goal last week in the first leg, I had talked myself into the idea that Leandro Trossard had played himself into the starting XI, but his performance against Villa has left me unconvinced now (how fickle are the football fates!). I also think that as the player you’d most back to make an impact coming off the bench, he might be held in reserve for that kind of eventuality.

So, the left-hand side becomes a toss-up between Gabriels – Jesus or Martinelli? For me, again fitness permitting, I’d like to see the former. He has plenty of experience in this competition, which is something to consider for a game of this importance, and as we saw last week when he came on, that ability to do things in tight spaces could be crucial.

I also think Martinelli’s form isn’t where we’d want it to be. Even before the injury he picked up against Sheffield United, he wasn’t quite at the level you’d like, and I don’t think any of his performances since have been particularly convincing. He has just 3 goals in his last 16 appearances, and two of those were the late strikes to give the Crystal Palace scoreline some gloss, so as much as Jesus in front of goal is also a worry, he can still give you a lot from wide areas so I’d go for him.

Asked about the approach in his press conference last night, Arteta said:

Depending as well on their approach – for sure, I want my team to be ourselves, regardless of the stadium. Sometimes you want to do certain things and the opponent doesn’t allow you to do it, and we’re going to be very clear how we’re going to play the game, how we want to play the game, and what is going to give us the best chance to win it.

As Lewis outlined in our preview podcast on Patreon, Bayern players and the manager have spoken publicly about this game as one in which they don’t want to dominate the ball and would prefer to play a counter-attacking game. Which is a bit remarkable considering they’re at home tonight, and their history in this competition, but does that then influence how Arteta instructs his team later on? Do we go for it, backing our quality and ability to score goals, but more or less giving them what they want? Or do we frustrate them, sit in, and don’t allow them to play the game they’d prefer? It feels to me like the kind of game George Graham would have loved to manage. Keep it 0-0 until the break, then nick it in the second half.

However, as last night’s games showed, there’s a streak of madness to this season’s Champions League, so even if the two managers want one thing, the players (and perhaps the officials) might serve up something else. At the very least, let’s hope that the players give a good account of themselves, putting that second half against Villa behind them quickly, and that we can reach a stage of this competition we haven’t been able to for such a long time.

Arteta says of a win tonight:

It will be unbelievable. If we make it happen tomorrow, we are in the semi-final, and we will be in a really highly emotional state. It’s something that we haven’t achieved as a club for the last 15-17 years and that’s the opportunity.

Let’s hope we can make it happen. It doesn’t have to brilliant, it doesn’t even have to be particularly convincing, it just has to be enough. Fingers crossed.

Remember, you can join us for live blog coverage later, we’ll have all the post-game stuff on Arseblog News afterwards, and as I said, our preview pod is available for Patreon members right now.

Ok, let’s leave it there. It feels like this could be a long, long day until kick-off at 20.00 later, so have a good one until then,

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