Five lessons Arsenal must take from last year against Bayern Munich

Emirates at Sunset

Arsenal face the champions of Europe this Wednesday at the Emirates in the first leg of their last sixteen tie with Bayern Munich.

The Gunners were knocked out of the competition last term by the Bavarians and it was the first leg at home that ultimately saw the North Londoners undone despite a superb effort in their 2-0 win in the second leg at the Allianz Arena.

1) Patience

The first lesson Arsenal learned in that first leg at the Emirates back in February 2013 was patience. Arsenal took a majority share of 56% possession in that game yet they were allowed just 8 shots across 90 minutes and managed 6 of those on target.

Pep Guardiola’s side now have been supreme in the Bundesliga and, furthermore, all competitions this term under the new boss whose system is entirely centered around possession and retention. Last term Bayern Munich had 17 shots of which 9 were on target despite taking less possession across the game. Arsenal will need to be patient against Guardiola’s side if they are to ensure they go to the Allianz Arena in March with at least a fighting chance in this tie. They must remember the tie will be won over 180 minutes, so they don't need to be naive and come out so quickly to their own detriment as they did last year.

2) Defending

Meanwhile, the Gunners have improved their defensive record, organization and discipline since that second leg at Munich last March. The back five of Wojceich Szczesny in goal, Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny in central defence and Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna in the fullback positions has stood up to the test more often than not this term in both the Premier League and Champions League. With all of them fit and available to Arsene Wenger this week, they’ll need to demonstrate exactly why they are the side that has kept the most clean sheets in the English top tier this term.

3) Concentration

Synonymously, Arsenal need to defend as a team this time around – the Gunners allowed the Germans to be 1-0 up after 7 minutes and 2-0 up after 20 minutes at the Emirates last year and there simply cannot be that kind of lapse in concentration this time around. It’s not just the jurisdiction of the backline to keep it tight but the shape and awareness of the whole team all the way up to the forwards.

4) Positioning

If the wide men such as Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamerlain or Santi Cazorla are going to make runs forward, they must be prepared to chase back and protect the fullbacks or it’s going to be a long night for Sagna and Gibbs.

In midfield, with Mikel Arteta out, I would expect Mathieu Flamini to marshal the areas in front of the back four but Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky, whoever sits in the central role alongside the Frenchman, is going to have to perform the way Aaron Ramsey was earlier this season.

They need to be operating that box-to-box role, committing to challenges and hassling the opponent without the ball and then bombing forward to help out the forwards when Arsenal break. Every one of the starting XI needs to be marking either a man or the space and they cannot switch off for a second.

5) Finishing

One thing Arsenal did achieve both home and away in the tie last year was making the most of their chances – as mentioned they didn’t get many chances in the first leg but they managed to get 75% of their chances on target compared to Bayern Munich’s more wasteful 52.9% on target.

They need to be efficient and daring enough to take the opportunities they get because they’re unlikely to get all that many against a team that are unbeaten in the Bundesliga so far and haven’t conceded a goal at all this month. Manuel Neuer has kept 21 clean sheets this term in all competitions and has conceded just three goals so far in the Champions League.

Lukas Podolski has been operating 75% shot accuracy level so far this season and a 90% pass completion rate and 75% aerial duel success rate but Olivier Giroud must improve on his poor 38% shot accuracy rate, 67% pass completion rate and 46% aerial duel success rate if he featured this Wednesday evening.

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