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Bayern Munich vs Arsenal, Champions League: tactical preview and what to watch for

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That which matters for Bayern Munich

Arsenal FC v FC Bayern Munchen - UEFA Champions League Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Thomas Müller or Thiago Alcantara?

Bayern Munich’s attacking midfield is going to be the key to this entire match. Granit Xhaka has a long and storied history of eating Bayern Munich for breakfast and how Bayern look to break his defensive influence in this game will be key.

If Thomas Müller starts in midfield, expect Bayern to try to play between the Arsenal lines. They will try to draw Xhaka out to cut down passing lanes to the wingers and then Müller and Lewandowski can find those pockets of space between holding midfield and the centerbacks to pick up the ball in the middle.

If Thiago is the attacking foci of Bayern’s midfield, expect Bayern to overload Xhaka’s sphere of control with secondary runs from Arturo Vidal. The presence of multiple midfielders thundering down the middle will open space on the wings allowing Costa and Robben precious seconds and space cutting inside to pick out the cross needed or fire on goal.

Arsenal thrive on control

As The Short Fuse outlined earlier, Arsenal play possession soccer. It is Plan A and there is not plan B. Disrupting their control is important. Luckily for Bayern they have the indomitable skill of Arturo Vidal in midfield. Look to see whether Vidal targets Sanchez or Oezil and how the combination of Thiago and/or Xabi Alonso respond to the threats of the other. If Bayern can eliminate the threat one of those poses, especially Sanchez, while keeping the other occupied, they should be able to disrupt any sort of possession from the Gunners.

Arsenal are weak on the counterattack

Hull City proved over the weekend that Arsenal have serious problems when the ball is quickly played behind their fullbacks. Hector Bellerin and company are enormous for assets for Arsene Wenger, but they can be exploited. Given Bayern emphasized playing long out of the back against Ingolstadt with Xabi Alonso, expect the Spaniard to target Robert Lewandowski, Douglas Costa and Arjen Robben running into those spaces behind Bellerin and Nacho Monreal.

Don’t take Arsenal for granted at any moment

In the last four seasons, Bayern has played landed Arsenal three times. The thing they’ve learned — Never take them for granted. Bayern has a habit of dominating the first appearance but Arsene Wenger has shown the ability to adapt for the second and they’ve gone about administering retribution without remorse. So far, luck has been on Bayern’s side in the Round of 16 fixtures but they can’t let up for a minute in this tie.