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Ribéry Ruled out of UCL First Leg, Making the Trip to London not as Sweet

A left flank without Ribéry is a black whole, sucking the attack away from the left side.

Lennart Preiss

The good news is that Franck Ribéry, who had minor surgery on his buttock after experiencing compartment syndrome, is "on a good path" as team doctor Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Müller Wohlfarth. According to, the winger is expected to do movement rehabilitation by weeks end and join team training a week later.

The bad news is that Ribéry, who has three goals in five champions league matches, will be unavailable for FC Bayern München's excursion to Arsenal in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16.

Having dealt with minor injuries throughout the 2013/14 Campaign, Ribéry's absence will not cause major tremors in the squad's foundation. Regardless, it will hurt any club to not have arguably the best player in the side.

In the Frenchman's absence thus far, the left wing has been somewhat of a revolving door. Left-footed wingers Arjen Robben and Xherdan Shaqiri have started matches on the left flank, but inevitably have moved their way to the right. Attacking midfielders Mario Götze and Thomas Müller float over like rafts to the left, but they do not commit to providing the consistent service that Franck Ribéry does.

The 30-year-old is a match-changing piece, a spice that changes the whole flavor of attack. Just look at how the attacking zones fluctuate with and without Ribéry in the starting XI.

Action Zones* Left Center Right
w/ Ribéry starting 35.5%
26.3% 38.2%
w/o Ribéry starting 30.0% 27.8% 42.6%

*statistics from Bundesliga, UEFA Champions League and UEFA Super Cup (via

FC Bayern always tend to have a strong presence on the right, especially considering the quality of interplay on the right between Rafinha, Robben/Müller, and Mario Mandžukić/Götze. What is astonishing is the lack of commitment to the left side of attack when Ribéry is not there to run at the opponent's right backs. While David Alaba is fantastic going forward, usually most of his best interplay is when Ribéry is on the pitch, not having to take sole responsibility for the left flank.

His defensive contributions should not be shoved aside either. Of the FC Bayern players that have made double digit appearances on the wings – Müller, Ribéry, Robben, Shaqiri – his 52 percent successful challenge rate is only second to Shaqiri, and his rate of successful challenges per minute, 0.17, is highest out of the four (via

Fortunately for FC Bayern, Arsenal do not have a strong right-wing presence since the absence of Theo Walcott, who injured his knee in early January. Neither Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain nor Santi Cazorla have taken command of the converse right flank, and Tomas Rosicky, while very skillful, is not exactly the burner that Walcott is.

Bacary Sagna is no longer among the elite right backs, and Carl Jenkinson is not exactly a world-class fullback either. Both do commit forward enough to have consistent offensive contributions, but neither are stellar defensively.

The early choice to replace Ribéry would be Shaqiri, who has twice been manager Pep Guardiola's choice to replace Ribéry in the XI and has more appearances on the left than the right this campaign. His speed, dribbling and shooting should provide electricity as a spark plug, but his service, while serviceable, is not at the level that Ribéry would provide.

That makes Götze and Thiago Alcantara much more crucial to FC Bayern's attack, for the inventiveness needs to reincarnate into them. Thiago has provided a spectacle of attacking prowess through the middle in the new year, while Götze has consistently found ways to create the space necessary for himself and others. The two must be creative enough to stifle the two Arsenal giants – Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny – enough to manufacture an extra chance or two.

FC Bayern have dropped points in only one match without Ribéry in the XI, the 1-1 stunner in Freiburg. The Gunners are a different kettle of fish though, and the business trip to North London will not be the same without the star executive managing the left.

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