Wednesday 18 October 2017

Bayern Munich dominate combined XI with Arsenal

Jack de Menezes

Arsenal face the daunting task of the trip to Bavaria to take on Bayern Munich for the fourth time in five seasons, deep in the knowledge that they have not got the better of the Bundesliga over any of their two-leg encounters.

Bayern have twice knocked Arsenal out of Europe at the last-16 round, while last season they thumped Arsene Wenger’s side 5-1 at the Allianz Arena when they were paired together in the group stage.

Wenger has claimed that he currently possess one of his strongest squads since the ‘Invincibles’ season of 2003/04, but they suffered demoralising defeats to Watford and Chelsea that looked to end their realistic Premier League hopes.

The two losses raised questions over how good Wenger’s squad really is, and has led to further questions about the futures of star players Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil, both of whom are out of contract at the end of next season and currently refusing to commit their future to the club.

Özil’s form alone has come under intense scrutiny though, and many feel that he should be dropped from the first-team to take on Bayern given that he has not scored in more than two months and has seen his assist rate drop off compared to last season’s haul.

But would he, or any of his teammates, get into a combined XI between Arsenal and Bayern players – in a 4-2-3-1 formation of course?

1/11 Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich)

An easy choice. Neuer has conceded the fewest goals across the top-tier leagues in Germany, England, France, Italy and Spain of any regular goalkeeper, and he has proven over the last three years why he continues to set the bar. Even without Petr Cech’s poor form and David Ospina’s lack of games, Neuer takes the shirt with ease.

2/11 Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich)

A difficult option when looking at current ability, but Lahm just sneaks it. For all the praise surrounding Hector Bellerin, he appears to have relied too heavily on his attacking traits and at times forgotten he remains a defender, leaving his teammates in trouble at the back. Lahm knows the clock is ticking though, and last week announced he will retire at the end of the season. Enjoy him while you can.

3/11 Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich)

The summer signing from Borussia Dortmund has settled in at Bayern after a rocky start and helped them embark on an 11-match unbeaten streak across all competitions that dates back to late November. He’s pushed hard for his place by compatriot Shkodran Mustafi, but currently has the edge on the Arsenal man as he does for the international side.

4/11 Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)

Had Jerome Boateng been available, Koscielny probably wouldn’t make the cut. As it is though, the Arsenal captain gets the nod to partner Hummels, with his pace an underlying factor in his inclusion. The Frenchman remains Arsenal’s best defender, though can be prone every now and then to being outmuscled in the air.

5/11 David Alaba (Bayern Munich)

Among the very best in world football when it comes to left back, although he is equally as impressive in the middle of the park. He adds a punishing free-kick and composure from the penalty spot – should the tie got to a shootout – and has hurt Arsenal in the past with his goal just before half-time in the 5-1 thrashing last season ending any hopes of an Arsenal comeback.

6/11 Xabi Alonso (Bayern Munich)

His participation in the match was in doubt when he was carted off the training pitch on Monday, but the former Liverpool and Real Madrid midfielder looked ready to go on Tuesday and continues to prove himself as the integral cog in midfield that is capable of unlocking opposition defences. Another who will call time on his career at the end of the season.

7/11 Arturo Vidal (Bayern Munich)

One of the class acts of European football when it comes to impact midfielders. Vidal can help shield the back four, deliver devastating passes forward and get among the goals himself, with the former Juventus star holding a powerful long-range shot in the locker too.

8/11 Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich)

He may be heading towards retirement in the next few years, but Robben is showing signs of his old self this season and has already scored seven goals in the Bundesliga, one of his best returns since arriving in Germany. Robben has the pace and ability to take on any defender, and will need to be marked out of the game if Arsenal are to have any success.

9/11 Mesut Özil (Arsenal)

He may not be in the best form right now, but on his day Özil can play balls that no one else on the pitch can see. The alternative, Thiago Alcantara, simply hasn’t got himself enough goals or assists this season to warrant a place in the side, and sooner or later Özil will come out of this slump, given he’s too good a player not to.

10/11 Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)

Arsenal’s star player beats Douglas Costa to the left flank, though he is equally adept at joining the striker in a two-man attack. Sanchez scored twice at the weekend, albeit in very handy circumstances, and his 19 goals this season rival the best in the business.

11/11 Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Speaking of the best in the business, Lewandowski already has 23 goals to his name for Bayern and a further seven for his country this season, and it’s only mid-February. The Pole is a lethal finisher when given the ball anywhere near the opposition’s area, and can put games out of reach before they get going if defences don’t wise up to his roaming style and ability to get in behind the line.

Independent News Service

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