After successfully predicting a Bayern Munich slip-up at the Emirates, Kevin Hatchard believes the German giants might not have things all their own way on home soil either…
Bayern Munich v Arsenal
Wednesday November 04, 19:45
Live on BT Sport Europe
The Bayern Express finally hit the Bundesliga buffers on Friday, as the champions were held to a frustrating goalless draw at Eintracht Frankfurt. Eagles boss Armin Veh claimed ahead of the match that he had a gameplan, and he was proved right. Frankfurt doubled up out wide, with Haris Seferovic protecting left-back Bastian Oczipka, and Aleksandar Ignovski working well in tandem with Makoto Hasebe on the right.
Apart from a few moments of individual brilliance from French teenager Kingsley Coman, Bayern struggled to make an impact in wide areas, and their play through the middle was unusually ponderous. Striker Robert Lewandowski has made the extraordinary seem mundane this season, but he cut an isolated figure for most of the match. Even unflappable skipper Philipp Lahm was put under pressure, giving away his first foul since September 2014, a run of 24 matches.
While Frankfurt’s tactical model won’t always work, it does show that Bayern can be contained through lung-busting graft and the maintenance of concentration levels usually reserved for chess grandmasters. It’s also worth noting that Pep Guardiola picked an incredibly strong line-up for Friday’s trip to the Commerzbank Arena, with Thomas Muller and David Alaba the only key men rested, and both players were thrown on as Bayern pushed for the win.
Bayern appeared a bit rattled by Friday’s game, with defender Jerome Boateng whining that Frankfurt’s display wasn’t good for German football. All-action midfielder Arturo Vidal claims confidence is still high, and that Bayern will reveal their true selves against Arsenal on Wednesday.
Looking at statistics, Bayern certainly have every reason to feel they can get back to winning ways.
They have thrashed both Wolfsburg and Borussia Dortmund 5-1 at the Allianz Arena this season, and have won every home game they’ve played. The German champions have scored 29 goals in just seven outings in Munich, and have conceded just three times.
Mario Gotze and Franck Ribery are out injured, while Muller and Alaba should return to the starting eleven. Arjen Robben has now made two Bundesliga appearances since returning from a two-month injury absence, and it will be interesting to see if he starts.
After a run of five consecutive Premier League victories, Arsenal are joint-leaders of the English top flight, and their 2-0 victory over Bayern in the reverse fixture raised hopes that the Gunners can rescue their Champions League campaign.
Although Arsenal ceded plenty of possession to Bayern a fortnight ago, they took their chances when they arrived, and used their pace on the counter to exploit Bayern’s high defensive line. The win in north London was effectively played like an away game by Arsenal, so a trip to the Allianz Arena will run along similar lines.
Although the Gunners have been dumped out of the Champions League twice by Bayern in recent seasons, they performed well in both games in Munich, winning 2-0 in 2013 and drawing 1-1 last year.
Towering centre-back Per Mertesacker knows Bayern well, as he shared World Cup success with many of their German players last summer. He says Bayern will be furious, and will be determined to prove they are better than Arsene Wenger’s men. Strange as it may seem, that determination may play into Arsenal’s hands, because if Bayern over-commit (centre-backs Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez pushed absurdly high in the closing stages in Frankfurt), Arsenal will have plenty of space to exploit on the break.
Although Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are both injured, Joel Campbell put in a very encouraging display against Swansea at the weekend, and Alexis Sanchez has the pace to cause Bayern a problem if the Bavarian side lose possession high up the pitch.
Although Arsenal lost their first two group games, Arsene Wenger has admitted he would take a point in Bavaria, and I’m expecting a similar approach to the one Arsenal employed at the Emirates. Arsenal will need Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Francis Coquelin to stay strong in their defensive positions (Coquelin has arguably the most vital job as the midfield screen), and the Gunners must make the most of their chances when they break.
Mesut Ozil is on excellent form, and the German international playmaker will need to produce the incisive passes that he has been coming up with so often in the Premier League (he has nine assists in ten league games), while Olivier Giroud must do his best to hold the ball up and take the pressure off his team-mates.
Bayern are 1.42 to win, and I think that is too short. Much as I love the Bundesliga, there is no doubt that Arsenal are the best team Bayern have faced this term, and this will be a stern test for Guardiola’s side.
If Bayern play as well as they possibly can, as they did in the first half of a recent 3-1 win at Wolfsburg in the DFB Cup, they should win. That said, I expect in-form Arsenal to push them really hard, and we can use the Asian Handicap to our advantage.
Arsenal can be backed +1.5 at a healthy 1.85. That means that even if the Gunners lose by the odd goal, we still net a winner.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
The market expects goals, with Over 2.5 Goals trading at 1.55. While that makes sense given the firepower on show, and Bayern’s staggering 4.14 goals per game average at the Allianz Arena, I’m not so sure it will be a shootout.
None of the last four meetings between the teams have featured more than two goals, and Arsenal have managed four clean sheets in their last six games. Keeper Petr Cech is on fine form, and centre-backs Koscielny and Mertesacker are fit and working together well. Of course Bayern are capable of hitting top gear and having one of those periods where they are simply unplayable, but they didn’t find that form at the Emirates or in Frankfurt, and I think 2.78 for Under 2.5 Goals is too big to ignore.