When the draw for the knockout round was announced in December, Guardiola looked nonplussed (sorry the gif is a bit choppy). This was not the draw he was looking for, not with the likes of Zenit, Olympiakos, or Galatasaray available. After all, there is the memory of last year’s stunning second leg to dispel, not to mention the idea that (at the time, at least) we were regarded as the toughest team anyone of the group-stage winners could face. Our 12 points in the Group of Death not only bests all other second-place finishers; it matched group-winner Chelsea and was only one point behind Barcelona and Paris-St. Germain, and all three of those squads played in much-softer groups.
The downside to this, of course, is that there will be no underestimating us this time around. While I don’t buy the idea that Bayern assumed they would coast through the second leg—or stopped assuming, oh, about three minutes in—I also don’t see them as ruthless as they were last year, when they were apparently obsessed with finally winning the Champions League after finishing as runners-up in 2012 and 2010. That might sound silly to say, when their form this season is every bit as impressive as it was last time through. They have now extended their undefeated run in the Bundesliga to 46 matches (stretching back to last year), so what hope do we have of improving on last year’s scoreline?
Even for as shaky as we’ve seemed in the last month or so, we’re a far cry better than we were even during the final run-in. The additions of Mesut Özil and Matthieu Flamini have added verve, grit, and experience, while the squad-wide cohesion that was forged since last season’s first leg has been invaluable. However, I’m not going to wax rhapsodic about fraternité as if starting the match by holding hands and singing kumbayah will lead to victory. No, thankfully, if Olivier Giroud’s singing skills are anything to go by.
We went into that first leg last year not only looking shaky but with some odd squad selection. Vermaelen was pressed in at left-back, and Walcott played through the center. Walcott never really threatened from that position, and our attack floundered for most of the match. With Giroud having rested since last Wednesday’s draw with Man U, he should start, restoring a big target for the build-up around whom midfielders like Ox, Özil, Cazorla and others can ping and flit. Just as significant will be his willingness to drop down to receive the ball and defend. Interestingly, the absence of Walcott might even invite Bayern’s back-line to play higher up the pitch, offering more space behind for through balls and for counterattacks.
A more-direct lesson from the Anfield Anomaly™ refers to our defensive shape. At Anfield, Gibbs and Sagna played their standard roles, playing high up the pitch to contribute crosses and to offer an outlet for midfielders to pass back to. However, this conceded acres of space for Sterling and Sturridge to work, which they did to devastating effect. Mertesacker and even Koscielny just don’t have the pace to make plays in the open field like that, whether it’s chasing down a through-ball or tackling a dribbler who’s already at speed. At the Emirates, Monreal and Jenkinson played more conservatively, hewing closer to midfield even when we pressed forward, and this denied space behind for the most part. With Flamini to shield them, there should be less space between midfield and defense for Bayern to exploit.
These factors—a strong forward who can link up with the midfield, and a disciplined defense that stays close to home—may not be enough to deliver victory on Wednesday, but it may just be enough to secure a draw. Heck, maybe it will be enough to deliver victory. It’s about time we shook off this pattern of losing infamously at home and winning almost more famously on the road.
Why not? Arsenal 2-1 Bayern. There. I said it.
No disrespect because I admire Arsenal but I just don't think your squad can hold off Bayern much less win even at home. I wish you all the best in Prem but we do look forward to advancing again, this time without the melodrama of last year.
LOL we taught u a lesson, make sure Webb refs all your matches so you can win. too bad he's not available for your match w/ BM or should I say bowel movement? because they're gonna shit all over you.
Apparently a few Liverpool fans still trolling. Sad. Anyway, good write-up, we should certainly be able to improve on last year (to the day, IIRC) even if Bayern look as fearsome as ever. I don't quite share the same optimism you show, though. I think we'll go down to a 1-goal loss, maybe 1-2, 2-3, something like that. Remember that last year was 1-2 until Mandzukic's terribly lucky goal?
Based upon latest gossip, Giroud may have more motivation and more pressure than usual to play well on Wednesday
Let's hope so. He did score the opener against them at Allianz Arena. Doing the same on Wednesday would go a long way towards helping the British press forget whatever it is that happened with him in that pic…
Arsenal need to get the first goal like against us the other day as you could see the confidence go into the Arsenal players. If Sturridge had of scored one of his early chances you could see Arsenal would've crumbled. So first goal vital. Good luck.
i think mugsmashers gave us a scare 2x that we have to come out from the 1st whistle or it'll be all over. Bayern won't waste the chances we allowed Liverpool in those 1st ten minutes.
Yes, Liverpool was a wake up call and the best preparation. Losing them made us refocus and then beating them lifted our spirits. Bayern is tough but we can get the results. Hopefully, 2-1 for me as well!