Arsenal head into tonight’s Champions League tie with Bayern Munich with some concerns and questions over who should play in the back-line. With Laurent Koscielny facing a late fitness test, Kieran Gibbs injured, Nacho Monreal cup-tied and Andre Santos joining Brazilian side Gremio on loan last week they are left slightly bereft of numbers.
It is likely that skipper Thomas Vermaelen, who returned from injury against Blackburn Rovers at the weekend, will revert to his secondary position at left-back. Assuming that Koscielny does not recover in time from his calf injury than Bacary Sagna, who impressed at centre-half against Sunderland recently, will likely revert to the middle and partner Per Mertesacker with Car Jenkinson coming in at right-back.
So for all Arsenal’s defensive troubles it appears, that in the Champions League at least, left-back is still the biggest worry.
For their opponents however the left-back position is by far a problem; in fact it has been one of their strongest positions all season.
While Arsenal come into this game with a mini-crisis in the position Bayern Munich’s Austrian full-back David Alaba has been in fine form.
After suffering a broken foot in pre-season and having to undergo surgery many would not have begrudged Alaba a slow start to the season when he made his comeback in October. However he soon entrenched himself as a regular in the side once again but since the turn of the year that form has excelled to new heights. He has become a phenom from full-back; justifying the decision of Jupp Heynckes to turn the player bought as a midfielder from Austria Vienna in 2008 into an attacking minded left-back.
Indeed he was sorely missed in Bayern Munich’s Champions League final with Chelsea last season after picking up a suspension against Real Madrid in the semis; where his dynamic runs may have caused considerably more problems for Jose Bosingwa than his replacement Diego Contento.
His good form culminated recently with two goals against Arsenal’s Champions League Group Winners Schalke 04 and he will be one of the main threats both defensively and offensively that Arsenal have to deal with over the two-legged tie.
Things can only get better for Alaba; and with Pep Guardiola set to become the new Bayern manager next season his career is certainly on an upward trend. We know how much Pep likes a dynamic, technical and attacking left-back don’t we?
image: © Steenbergs