The Gunners travel to Munich in the knowledge that, in spite of their excellent 2-0 home victory a fortnight ago, they are still bottom of Group F in this year’s Champions League.
Nothing is impossible among Europe’s elite, and Pep Guardiola’s side will certainly be looking to bounce back from that surprising defeat – especially after their goalless draw with Eintracht Frankfurt on the weekend.
Arsenal will be equally bullish about their chances of securing a positive result from the game, as the team is arguably as strong as it has been in recent years, with plenty of critics suggesting they need to add consistency against the bigger sides in order to challenge for trophies on a regular basis.
With injuries gradually beginning to pile up in north London, Wenger will be understandably reluctant to tinker with his starting eleven too much – especially after being heavily criticised for his selections during the first two matchdays.
Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott (both calf), Tomas Rosicky and Danny Welbeck (both knee), Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (both hamstring) are all sidelined for respective time-periods, varying between after the international break, and even after Christmas too.
Wenger confirmed that both Mikel Arteta (ankle) and goalkeeper David Ospina (shoulder) will return to full training on Friday, as they recover and aim to regain match fitness in the coming weeks.
That being said, the visitors will be forced into at least one change from their away win over Swansea ahead of kick-off, with Hector Bellerín being ruled out of contention with what has been described as a ‘small groin injury’.
The severity has not yet been disclosed, but from Arsenal’s point of view, they’ll certainly be hoping that Hector is not out of action for too long. Impressing both defensively as well as on the attack against the Swans, he is a role model for the youngsters coming through the ranks in both the u21s and u18 squads.
This news means that in the young Spaniard’s absence, Mathieu Debuchy will start. During the press conference, Arsène was unsurprisingly asked questions about the Frenchman, but reiterated the confidence he has for the former Newcastle man.
“I trust Debuchy – he is a very dedicated player and works hard in training. He played the full game fortunately last week [vs Wednesday] so physically, he should be ready.”
17-year-old attacking midfielder Jeff Reine-Adelaide, who has recently returned from international duty with France’s u17 World Cup squad, has travelled with the rest of the first-team and is in the matchday squad.
Possible XI: Čech; Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Cazorla; Campbell, Özil, Alexis; Giroud.
Their draw on Friday evening was an intriguing one, ending a winning run of ten Bundesliga fixtures in the process. Do not be deceived though – Bayern are no easy challenge.
As their squad is shimmering in both depth and quality in each position, it’s hard to predict the starting eleven that’ll face Arsenal. There are endless possibilities that Guardiola can select.
Arjen Robben marked his return to the first-team with a goal against Köln two weeks ago, but it may be unlikely that the exciting Dutchman plays the full ninety minutes.
Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller, will be expected to lead the line. A deadly duo, Arsenal will definitely have to be weary about the threats posed by those two – as well as Douglas Costa, who’ll relish the chance to make Debuchy’s night a forgettable one down the flank.
They’ve got plenty of viable options to call upon from the substitutes’ bench too, including the likes of Joshua Kimmich, Thiago Alcantara and Kingsley Coman.
Possible XI: Neuer; Rafinha, Boateng, Martinez, Alaba; Lahm, Alonso, Vidal; Costa, Müller; Lewandowski.
Plenty to compete for
Another win for Arsenal could give them the added edge as they face Olympiakos and Dinamo Zagreb in their final two group stage games, meaning that plenty is at stake.
Morale is relatively high within the Gunners camp, just a week after they were knocked out of the Capital One Cup with a second-choice side to Championship side Sheffield Wednesday.
All things considered, supporters and staff alike will be hoping for a similar display to the one which had everyone excited at the Emirates. Despite all of their possession, Bayern struggled to make it count in the final third as they were shifted out towards the wings.
This in itself was an intelligent move, as it helped to nullify Bayern’s fluidity going forward, being pressured into making mistakes and ultimately seeing turnovers in possession.
However, Arsenal will know they have to switch up their game plan – even if it’s a slight change this time around. Away from home, they’ll have to utilise their chances in-front of goal to good effect when they do indeed arise while conceding possession and holding firm defensively. The same strategy that served them so well in the home leg.
If they can do that, maintain a high tempo and avoid lapses in concentration, there’s no reason why they cannot snatch all three points in Bavaria.
It’s a massive ask, though.