Pitchside Europe

Guardiola’s three fatal flaws that could see Arsenal take down Bayern

No, Pep, we said three. One more finger please.

On Wednesday night, Arsenal welcome Bayern Munich to the Emirates Stadium in what will undoubtedly be a tight, nervy affair between a pair of European heavyweights from two of the most distinguished leagues in the world.

Yet almost any bookie, fans or commentator you can find has already decided it's a done deal. Pep Guardiola's side will arrive in London, do what they do so well, and Arsenal will essentially give in. The first leg will belong to the German and European champions, and the tie will be done.

Right?

Not exactly. Our friends at Squawka.com provide three good reasons why Guardiola does not hold all the aces ahead of Wednesday's match.

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Guardiola's insistence on playing Lahm in midfield

Over their past three games in Germany Bayern have amassed a staggering eleven goals while conceding none, and currently hold a number of defensive records in the Bundesliga.

But that does not mean that a tactician like Arsene Wenger will make the mistake of believing that Bayern's back line is watertight.

For if Guardiola were to stick with the general line-up that has seen him do so well this season - which would entail keeping Philipp Lahm in central midfield - it would then mean keeping Rafinha at right-back, and thereby giving Arsenal a fantastic target to aim for as they run towards the Bayern goal.

There are few examples of Rafinha's faults due to the fact that Bayern concede so few goals in Germany, but if we were to take the example of Bayer Leverkusen's mode of attack during a 1-1 draw earlier in the season it's fair and rather evident to deduce where they focused their attack.

As you can see in the graphic below, Leverkusen focused more of their attacking down the left wing than the right wing.

Levekusen action areas v Bayern

Guardiola has nobody to fill Franck Ribery's boots

Franck Ribery is an outstanding player for Bayern and his absence will undoubtedly be felt, with Xherdan Shaqiri - who scored two goals in the Frenchman's absence this weekend - also missing due to injury and unable to step in for the Ballon d'Or contender.

Franck Ribery's action areas against Manchester City

As displayed by the graphic above - taken from the first match against Manchester City in this season's Champions League group stages - Ribery is simply the engine of this Bayern attack when he's fit and well.

Of course, this Bavarian powerhouse of a team are quite clearly one of the best sides in Europe at the moment, with or without the Frenchman. But without him Bayern are undoubtedly a lesser side; certainly a bonus for Wenger's men.

Guardiola has misplaced faith in Martinez

During the past few games we've seen Guardiola make a notable effort to bring back two key players to ensure their fitness for this coming Champions League tie: namely Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez.

Schweinsteiger has come back, slotted back into his usual position, and looked as though he never left, with his expert mix of physicality and genuine technique keeping the Bayern midfield machine ticking over.

Martinez, though, is a slightly different story.

Guardiola has made an effort to slot him in at centre-back at the expense of Jerome Boateng, who has on the whole had a successful and consistent season alongside his Brazilian partner Dante. Martinez has something to prove on that score, however, as we saw his mixed results when appearing briefly against Nurnberg last week and against Freiburg on Saturday.

Javi Martinez's tackle success against Freiburg

Two things will will interest Wenger if Martinez does indeed start at centre-back: first, the manner in which he continually found himself out of position, due to his instinct to march through the centre of the pitch like the box-to-box midfielder he is

And second is his inability to stick in a decent challenge. The graphic above displays that perfectly. Martinez may be a future centre-back in the making, but he isn't perfect yet, which is something that Arsenal could definitely take advantage of.