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article imagePep Guardiola's Bayern overload wide areas to trounce Arsenal

By Tyrrell Meertins     Nov 5, 2015 in Sports
The contrast between Pep Guardiola's European results — home and away — has been glaring in recent years. Often criticized for being too cautious away from home, Guardiola’s Bayern Munich made amends for a poor result at Arsenal a few weeks ago.
At the Emirates, Arsenal defended superbly as a unit, and posed several first half issues down the flank via Mesut Ozil, Nacho Monreal, Alexis Sanchez, and Theo Walcott. Apart from Thomas Muller staying on the touchline, and subsequently darting behind Monreal in attempts to exploit his aerial advantage, majority of Bayern’s play in central areas was thwarted by a narrow Arsenal outfit.
Yet, similar to Bayern’s win over second leg quarterfinal win over Porto last year, width was the catalyst to the German champions’ success. Kingsley Coman and Douglas Costa started on the flanks and were eager to cut onto their shooting foot, thus enabling the full-backs to surge forward. With Xabi Alonso and Thiago sitting deep in midfield immediately facilitating the ball into wide areas — the latter broke up play superbly and created the most chances (4) throughout — Muller led the pressing with Lewandowski upfront.
Arsenal, however, maintained their two blocks of four out of possession, and occasionally broke forward due to Ozil’s sleek passing from deep. A stunning move involving Ozil, Alexis and Monreal witnessed the German direct the ball in the net, but he was rightly penalized for guiding the cross past Manuel Neuer.
Yet, Bayern’s lengthy spells of possession combined with both full-backs instructed to bomb forward, forced the away side to sit deeper in their half. Here, Guardiola didn’t alter his system, and the simplicity in his overall approach was evident, as Bayern constantly seeked overloads in wide areas to deliver crosses into the box.
With that being said, Bayern’s opener stemmed from a Thiago cross, and though Gabriel was culpable for failing to maintain Arsenal’s defensive line, the move initially highlighted the Spaniard’s altered approach. Nevertheless, Bayern’s second goal epitomized Guardiola’s intent to overload Arsenal’s full-back’s as neither Alexis Sanchez nor Joel Campbell protected their full-back.
Costa picked up the ball near the halfway line and surged towards the box — and a disinterested Alexis — before slipping the ball wide to an advanced Phillip Lahm who located Coman, ultimately leading to a Muller goal. Likewise, David Alaba and Costa combined in a similar move, with the former storming into half space to create Arjen Robben’s goal shortly after the Dutchman was introduced.
“You have to give credit to Bayern for their quality,” Wenger said. “On top of that, we made things quite easy for them with our defensive performance. We were extremely poor defensively. We were not at the races. When we went forward, we had chances but with a defensive performance like that, you go nowhere.
Though the second half was particularly drab, Arsenal received more chances on the counter as Bayern pushed men forward.
Alexis’ goal followed the route of attack Arsenal attempted to exploit in both matches — the Chilean received space in the left channel to deliver a stellar ball to Olivier Giroud — whereas Wenger introduced Kieran Gibbs to contain Bayern’s dominance in wide areas. But Arsenal’s aim to cut their deficit involved Gabriel and Per Mertesacker holding a higher-line that eventually succumbed to intelligent runs from Muller and Robben.
"Our aim was to control the game in the second half, but we let them get at us too often on the break. That has to improve," Guardiola said.
Both the result and performance illustrate why Bayern is currently the most revered team in Europe, as the pace, power, and guile available in wide areas remains the foundation of their fluid attack. However, though Guardiola fine-tuned a fairly positive display at the Emirates, the Spaniard must find a balance between tame away displays and the breathtaking football witnessed on a weekly basis at the Allianz Arena.
That can make the difference between Guardiola and Bayern returning to the top of European football.
More about Arsenal, Bayern munich, Pep Guardiola, wenger, Champions League
 
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