Saiguhan Elancheran provides a tactical analysis of the Champions League match that ended Arsenal 1-5 Bayern Munich.
Two teams with rich European experience faced each other in the 1st leg of the Champions league round of 16 tie last month. The game didn’t seem to be a match that was contested between two of Europe’s elite though, as Bayern Munich pummelled a helpless Arsenal team. Cometh the second leg of the same tie, two teams once again lined up against each other with many expecting the home team to show some respite by winning the game though they may not qualify given Bayern’s four goal advantage.
Arsenal(4-3-3): 13.Ospina // 24. Bellerin – 20.Mustafi – 6.Koscielny – 18.Monreal // 15.Oxlade-Chamberlain – 29.Xhaka – 8.Ramsey // 14.Walcott – 12.Giroud – 7.Sanchez
Bayern Munich(4-2-3-1): 1. Neuer // 13.Rafinha – 8.Martinez – 5.Hummels – 27.Alaba // 14.Xabi Alonso – 23.Vidal // 10.Robben – 6.Thiago – 7.Ribery // 9.Lewandowski
Arsene Wenger made notable changes to the side which lost 3-1 at Anfield. Ospina was preferred to Cech in goal as the same back four was deployed. In came Sanchez, Ramsey and Walcott to replace Coquelin, Welbeck and Alex Iwobi. The basic idea of the set up could be identified as Arsenal wanted to pack the central midfield to give them any good chance of winning the second leg and hence they adopted the 4-3-3 shape.
On the other hand, Bayern were able to rest certain important players in their previous game as FC Cologne looked a winnable opponents by Bayern’s standards and the result ended 3-0 in their favour. Bayern brought in Robben and Ribery into the squad to add maximum width. Ancelotti also welcomed Hummels and Alonso to replace Bernat and Muller. Bayern lined up in their familiar 4-2-3-1 shape, which has been their key going forward this season.
Arsenal dominate first half
Arsenal started the game very well initially and it was a great rise in confidence level and spirit which they lacked in the first leg. In the initial stages of the game, Bayern looked to overload the wings and it is how they usually start an attack. On the right flank Robben would cut inside and this allowed Rafinha to bomb forward in the channel vacated by Robben. This is similar to how they have played most of the times this season as it would be Lahm who would charge forward and carry the ball down the flank which then would be circulated into the centre to start the next phase in attack.
From the above instance we can see how Bayern Munich have overloaded the right wing as Thiago has now joined Robben and Rafinha in the wide areas. This tactic however seemed to fail for Bayern in the opening half as we could see huge spaces left free in the middle of the park. As soon as Arsenal forced a turnover in possession, they always looked to pass their way through the middle. As the attacking mentality of Vidal often came through, he was seen playing high up the pitch as we can see in the above instance. This helped Arsenal’s counter attacking ideas as they were able to provide Walcott with service upfront.
David Alaba often joined in during Bayern’s attack and is due to Bayern’s mentality of overloading the wings. He is seen high up the pitch and Walcott often won the race against Alaba. Whenever the ball is lost on the wings, Arsenal would try to play it into the centre either through Chamberlain or Xhaka and play it into the path of Sanchez. And it was Sanchez who would feed the final ball into Walcott who was the outlet in Arsenal’s gameplan for most part of the game.
As we can from the above instance, Alexis Sanchez plays a long ball to the centre into the path of Walcott who has huge space to run into, in the zone 14 and to find the important goal. This is due to Bayern’s loss of the ball after a run of play in the wings. And much credit should be given to Arsenal in the way they pressed in the first half an hour to forty minutes of the game as they won a lot of second balls in the middle. They also on most occasions denied Bayern to play out from their back by pressing high up the pitch. The below instance is one such example where Bayern is pressed very high up the pitch by Arsenal forwards.
Overall Arsenal played very well attacking wise in the first half and were the team to open the scoring in the game. The goal was from their best player on the pitch Walcott who looked lively by often occupying spaces and driving forward. In certain cases, Arsenal looked naive defensively as they let Bayern occupy dangerous positions. In some instances their midfield three failed to track back astutely and hence Bayern’s forward players Lewandowski, Ribery and Thiago were able to get themselves in between the lines. We can identify it from the below instance. But Bayern on the other hand failed to utilise these opportunities in the first half and the teams went 1-0 into the break.
Bayern take full advantage of the red card
From the above picture, we can identify Bayern’s average set up. The triangular combinations on the wings proved vital for Bayern as Thiago, Robben and Rafinha from the right and Alaba, Ribery and Vidal from the left were dangerous in the second half as Bayern started to settle well in the game.
At the Allianz Arena, everyone was able to witness how Arsenal failed to cope up without the presence of Koscielny at the back. Once again, Arsenal were asked to play without him as he was sent off in the 55th minute for a challenge on Bayern’s no.9 Robert Lewandowski. Lewandowski scored from the spot and with 10 men and five goals down on aggregate, Arsenal were desperate for more goals and ended up getting humbled.
They became mentally weak after the loss of their captain and caused themselves great problems. It should be stated that they suffered this huge loss once again because of their naivety and lack of composure in the field. Arsenal played weak passes and always wanted to drive forward to arrive at goalmouth. Poor distribution from David Ospina into the middle caused Robben to nick the ball from Sanchez who was able to send the visitors to 2-1. Exceptional play in the wing created the next goals as Douglas Costa scored and assisted one goal.
Photos credit: http://www.fourfourtwo.com/statszone
The pivots of the team Vidal and Alonso played sensibly as they looked to play their way into the wings. From the above two pictures we can identify their sideways passing into the wings in both directions which in most instances proved very vital for the team’s progression in attacks.
Suffering the heaviest defeat in the history of Champions League knockout stages, Arsenal looked a dejected team which clearly lacked quality in the side to compete with the level of Bayern Munich. The hammering will be a huge reminder for them in the upcoming seasons and they have to do immense work to overcome this huge failure. On the night Alexis Sanchez’s commitment to the team would be questioned as he was lazy on the field, comparatively and his defensive back tracks could’ve saved them from this flattering loss.
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