What Arsenal need to do to overcome the Bayern Munich hurdle?

Mikel Arteta needs to put his thinking hat on ahead of a pivotal visit to face Bayern Munich, as Arsenal yearn for a victory.

It has been a tough week for Arsenal. There were some baffling questions at the end of the two games in which the Gunners did not come away with wins. In midweek, Arsenal faced Bayern Munich at the Emirates, with the Bavarians not in a particularly good vein of form.

Many had tipped the Gunners to go clean through and secure a stellar victory at the Emirates, considering how bad Bayern Munich had been ahead of their visit here. Instead, Thomas Tuchel’s smash-and-grab strategy worked, leaving Arsenal to chase and eventually find an equaliser.

The same goes for Aston Villa, who were not on their best run coming to the Emirates on Sunday. However, after watching them last week against Brentford, where they conceded three quickfire goals, any Arsenal fan would have been optimistic about securing a comfortable victory.

Then again, Unai Emery masterminded another smash-and-grab, although the second goal from Ollie Watkins did seem inevitable after how open Arsenal were, looking for that elusive equaliser. Those two games showed flaws in Arteta’s thinking and ways for teams to exploit the Gunners.

The big issues in both those games were the critical personnel changes in different areas. For instance, the plan with Jakub Kiwior was working wonders until Arteta chose to drop him for the Brighton & Hove Albion game. Not only did he lose momentum, but he also made the team adapt differently to Oleksandr Zinchenko, who brought back his inverted style.

This, in turn, forced Ben White to change his style, and those tweaks inadvertently affected Bukayo Saka’s game. In any case, there are plenty of things to unfold from those two Arsenal performances against Bayern Munich and Aston Villa.

Still, Arteta must get his thinking hat on ahead of their trip to the Allianz Arena, and these ideas could help the Gunners boss restore their winning formula and possibly help them progress into the semifinals.

Continue with the Zinchenko experiment

Many Arsenal fans have come to criticise the involvement of Zinchenko in the last two games, although the Ukrainian has been one of the brightest performers in those contests. He came on at half-time for Arsenal against Bayern Munich in the first leg, and then against Aston Villa, he was instrumental in creating chances.

Zinchenko created three big chances for his teammates, who failed to convert. At times, he does look shaky at the back. But some of the stats do not support the narrative that his errors lead to goals. Ben White has made more errors that have led to opposition strikes than Zinchenko, which should bring some perspective.

With Zinchenko, Arsenal have a different level of control over proceedings. His ability to invert and be that extra man in the middle gave the team its rewards last season; this time, it is all about adapting to the Ukrainian more than anything.

In pressure situations when Arsenal often pins down opposition defences into their own box, Zinchenko will be the key. Bayern are not the type to sit deep into their area. But Zinchenko’s presence caused them many problems over at the Emirates, and Arteta should continue with this particular experiment heading to Munich.

Trossard fit for the bench

Leandro Trossard has been sensational for Arsenal this season, but mostly as someone who can impact the game off the bench. The Belgian international is a high-quality substitute that has often shown from the bench, especially in crucial games.

He has the mentality to take the pressure of being a big influencer from the bench and does not shy away from making himself the man of the moment. His goal late on against Liverpool killed any hopes the Merseysiders had against Arsenal, and he yet again proved his worth against Bayern Munich last Tuesday.

Starting him in games does have its merits, but he has not lately been a better performer in this scenario than he has been off the bench. The game against Aston Villa begged for a high-quality substitute who could change the course of the game, and Arteta could not find Trossard there.

Instead, Gabriel Martinelli was the man to replace him, and the Brazilian’s recent dip in form became very much evident. Hence, Arteta must end the idea of starting Trossard in crucial games and use him as a bench option, as the Belgian is far superior to Emile Smith-Rowe or Reiss Nelson.

Kai Havertz at No.9; Gabriel Jesus on the wings

Arteta made a key decision to play Gabriel Jesus in the No.9 role against Aston Villa and brought Kai Havertz back into the midfield. The idea was bright enough, as the German was used as a runner from deep who could push behind the defensive line to latch on to long balls, especially with Aston Villa forcing a mid-block.

The idea worked, as at least on two or three occasions, Havertz found himself in a promising position but could not finish his chances. In any case, Jesus also had a decent enough game in the centre-forward role. But it is time for Arteta to reverse both those calls.

Havertz has been sensational for Arsenal in the No.9 role, stretching defences with his clever moves and physicality. Additionally, he holds the ball better and brings the others into play, as the likes of Bukayo Saka have flourished better with the German in the front three.

Jesus, for his versatility, can crack in any position, and against Brighton & Hove Albion, he showed how efficient he can be on the wings. Even on the defensive side, he has the energy to track back and become the ball-pincher in the wide areas.

Hence, Arteta must use someone like Thomas Partey or Jorginho alongside Declan Rice in that midfield and put Kai Havertz back in that No.9 role. As for Jesus, he can easily play on the left side of the attack, particularly with Martinelli out of form and spending a lot of time on the bench after his injury.

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