Pep Guardiola expects Arsenal to play long balls to Olivier Giroud at the Allianz Arena to start their attack, a strategy which the Spaniard insists they used effectively in the reverse fixture. The former Barcelona manager explained how his team pressed Per Mertesacker at the Emirates, and despite his preference to build play from the back, he dropped deep and forced the defenders and Petr Cech to play it long.
The Gunners are without nine key players against Bayern, with Hector Bellerin ruled out of the game with a groin injury he picked up against Swansea City last weekend. Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey, who started the game at the Emirates are also out due to injury, leaving Arsene Wenger with no choice, but to play Joel Campbell on the right and bring back Jeff Rene-Adelaide into the side to build up the numbers on the bench.
With Walcott, Bellerin, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Danny Welbeck unavailable for the fixture, it seriously impedes the Gunners' ability to counter attack, with the pace taken out of their front-line. Giroud, who is known for his ability to hold the ball up, does not have the pace to run in behind, leaving only Alexis Sanchez to make any pertinent contribution in that department.
Their best possible chance to score a goal would be to keep a tight defensive shape at the back and throw the ball into Giroud, who can then bring the other players around him into play. Giroud's physicality will also be important in attacking set pieces, having scored against Bayern through one at the Emirates and also against Swansea at the Liberty stadium.
"Arsenal want to attack and build up but when you press Mertesacker and Koscielny, they don't want to play," Guardiola said, as quoted by the Guardian. "They play long balls to Giroud. Also, if they lose the ball and we make two or three passes, Mertesacker doesn't want to stay high up, so they go back in their box and defend there.
"Arsenal will try long balls to Giroud. Cech will not play the ball to defenders, he will try long balls to Giroud. We have to defend well and be ready for that," the Spanish manager said.