Pragmatism Allowed Arsenal To Beat Bayern Munich. Can They Do It Again?

Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott gave Arsene Wenger the perfect template to counter Bayern Munich’s pressing game. Can they recreate last time's performance?

The agony and the ecstasy. No it’s not a soap opera, just another champions league campaign for Arsenal football club and Arsene Wenger. Defeating a giant on the back of defeats to Dynamo Zagreb and Olympiacos feels commonplace, but this result demonstrates the gunners are developing into a formidable outfit.

Last month’s 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich offered an insight into Arsene Wenger’s shift of approach. Since the club’s win at Manchester City last season by exactly the same score, the North Londoners have stopped trying to be England’s answer to Barcelona.

Wenger explained in the post match press conference that a change in system enabled speedsters Sanchez and Walcott to capitalise on Bayern Munich’s pressing. The 4-4-2 switch forced Mesut Ozil wide left, offering an outlet to hit long diagonal balls behind the fullbacks.

At 0-0 Arsenal kept themselves in the game on the back of resolute defending and excellent goalkeeping by Petr Cech. A £10 million investment in the 33-year old stopper was a statement of intent by the Frenchman because those purchases are never made for development purposes. It signifies a desire to win now, not later.

What will please observers is the fact a paltry share of 30% possession didn’t faze the hosts. For so long Arsenal have been the victims of failing to punish the other side with the majority of the ball. Instead, Wenger was happy to play the patience game and it paid dividends.

Like it did at Vicarage Road only days prior, the introduction of Olivier Giroud for Theo Walcott gave the Germans a different threat to worry about. Manuel Neuer’s remarkable lapse in concentration proved the decisive moment of the match, something which might not have occurred if Giroud’s aerial threat was not present.

Arsene Wenger's Practical Tactics

A healthy balance between defence and attack is providing a pragmatic formula for success. The yin and yang alteration between Walcott and Giroud up front can be seen in central midfield with the silky skills of Santi Cazorla mixed with the ferocity of Francis Coquelin. Add this to the contrasting duo of Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal in the fullback roles, and all of a sudden the pieces of the puzzle are coming together.

Supporters who doubt Wenger will rightly keep their powder dry over this one result. Yet the optimists can rightly point out the manager has finally met the pessimists halfway. Gone was the attacking abandon, replaced by an outstanding tactical display focused on preventing the opposition’s strengths and exploiting their weaknesses.

Injuries to Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin will throw the responsibility onto Joel Campbell, but his goal and performance away to Swansea on the weekend was a welcomed tonic. 

The club sits third in their group with an imposing trip to the Allianz Arena next on the itinerary. Pep Guardiola could have some high profile inclusions to bring in and he will have wised up to the challenge ahead of the Bavarians. The problem for the Spaniard is that he does indeed have a challenge, attempting to crack an Arsenal team determined to achieve a result by whatever method necessary. 

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