How can Arsenal compensate for Arteta out on Wednesday?

Arteta Arsenal

Arsenal midfielder and vice-captain Mikel Arteta is suspended for the Gunners’ visit from reigning champions of Europe Bayern Munich in the Champions League last sixteen this Wednesday.

The 31-year-old Spaniard has been one of the Gunners’ best and most consistent performers in recent seasons and was a crucial part of the team that went to win 2-0 against the Bundesliga champions at the Allianz Arena last term.

The holding midfielder is however ineligible to play this Wednesday with defensive protection surely a priority for manager Arsene Wenger whose side conceded three goals at home to Bayern Munich last time around.

Defensive protection

The major positive news for Wenger is that Mathieu Flamini is fit and available for selection and I would be very surprised if he wasn’t the first name on the team sheet, especially with Arteta out of contention in that role.

Flamini was a vital part of the Arsenal team that beat Liverpool 2-1 on Sunday to knock the Merseyside giants out of the FA Cup just weeks after their 5-1 demolition job at Anfield. Not only did Arsenal win the game but they stopped Liverpool scoring from open play and kept the partnership of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, dubbed the ‘SAS’, quiet for 90 minutes at the weekend.

Flamini’s marshalling of that space in between defence and midfield lines will be crucial to Arsenal’s challenge in this two-legged tie. If the axis of Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Flamini in front of them can keep the Germans from scoring away goals that’ll give Arsenal a very good chance of going to the Allianz Arena in March and really taking the game to the holders.

We know Arsenal are capable of doing that if they defend well and focus as a team on not conceding goals. In that sense, a clean sheet would be more important than a goal in this clash and Flamini is going to have that as his jurisdiction for 90 minutes this week.

Passing

Meanwhile Arteta is the Gunners’ most efficient passer of the ball and has been for a number of years now in the Premier League. He has so far this term operated an incredible 92.1% pass completion rate. Arsenal are still without Aaron Ramsey which means the manager will likely be asking for perhaps an improved level of performance and concentration from Jack Wilshere who will need to be the main man to compensate for Arteta’s absence in that midfield trio.

Leadership

The young No.10 will also need to bring back the fight and influence we saw him have over games last season for Arsenal. There were moments when he bossed the middle of the park even as a teenager in seasons passed and that is the kind of attitude he’ll need to show up with on Wednesday night rather than some of the more petulant and indisciplined displays he has had of late (most notably at Anfield).

Energy

Perhaps Alex Oxlade-Chamerlain will get a run out in central midfield as he did when he scored his brace against Crystal Palace. If the manager’s substitutions at the weekend in the FA Cup are anything to go by, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the England youngster (who was withdrawn with quarter of an hour left on the clock at the Emirates) feature against the Germans in midweek.

His ability to take players on and keep possession as well as his physical strength could be key if the boss finds the hassling and pressing play of Santi Cazorla and or Tomas Rosicky ineffectual against such strong opposition. Arteta’s suspension will be something the manager needs to think about undoubtedly but the Gunners have the players capable of stepping up to the plate in his absence.

images: © Ronnie Macdonald, © wonker

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