Last season the first encounter between these teams in the same stage was quite the unfair one, but Arsenal see themselves as a much improved side compared to 12 months ago. For Bayern Munich, trying to become the first to defend their Champions League trophy, it’s about not getting complacent.
Last year Bayern came and hardly allowed Arsenal to clear the ball from their own box until the game was over, coming away with a 3-1 win at the Emirates. Arsenal nearly erased all that with a 2-0 win in Munich, but couldn’t find that winning goal in another display of good football a bit too late.
This is a different Bayern team under Pep Guardiola. Just as lethal and ruthless when it comes to their results and finishing. They haven’t dropped points in the German league since October and have conceded only one goal in their last five matches.
The big mean machine in their win last year was Javi Martinez, but he’s not going to be starting. Guardiola has based his midfield on Philipp Lahm as a defensive midfielder who presses a little bit differently, while Bastian Schweinsteiger plays in front of him. Franck Ribery isn’t playing as well, but it’s hard to say Bayern Munich lose anything with Mario Gotze starting instead of him, and the whole interchanging thing between the front players, switching positions with ease and not having it affect their quality should be the same.
Arsenal view themselves as different, stronger. Is that truly the case? Their league form has been disastrous of late, winning only once in the last four matches. Is the cup win over Liverpool enough to put them back on track? If Arsene Wenger continues to play Jack Wilshere as one of the two central midfielders he’s in for a rough match, and that statement is doubled if Mesut Ozil continues to look like the depressed player he has been for quite some time.
Missing Aaron Ramsey has been a huge hit on Arsenal, missing his ability to break from the second line and provide a better option for Olivier Giroud to team up with. Mesut Ozil is a better passer, but Giroud needs another player to be close to him in order to either assist or free himself up. Santi Cazorla doesn’t provide the same ability, and Oxlade-Chamberlain does better when he’s playing in the middle than on the wing, but Wenger persists.
Prediction – Arsenal might be better than they were last season, but they’ll find the same difficulties in moving the ball against Bayern’s press, and the defense that seemed like the best in the Premier League isn’t going to be able to withstand the pressure Bayern apply on them, giving the Germans an away win that already puts them in the quarterfinals.