Arsenal’s Champions League tie against Bayern Munich has intriguing battles all over the pitch. The performances of Walcott, Vermaelen and Szczesny will be vital for the Gunners; they will be contrasted with the likes of Mandzukic, Dante and Neuer for Bayern. The performances of two more experienced stars will be a fascinating battle to keep an eye on: Lukas Podolski and Franck Ribery.
While they are players who offer different dimensions to both teams, they occupy a similar wide position. Ribery thrives with the ball at his feet, looking for the key pass to unlock opposition defences. The Frenchman also revels in running with the ball, and his ability to go either side can cause full-backs endless problems. As well as providing telling balls for his team-mates, Ribery is also adept at cutting in and going for goal himself – although he only has 4 to his name this season.
In contrast, Lukas Podolski is unlikely to try to beat the Bayern full-backs every time he receives the ball. His Champions League average of 0.5 dribbles per game sums this up perfectly. However, he will provide a marking problem by drifting from his position, looking for space in the channels and behind the back line. The German is also a ruthless finisher, with 3 Champions League goals already this season. Although Bayern should be more than aware of Podolski’s threat: he has scored for and against the Bundesliga leaders in his career.
Ribery and Podolski will be looking to lead by example. They will be two of the most experienced players on the pitch, and have been involved in huge games at club and international level. The two also have the ability to be match-winners. Much of the pre-match media focus will fall on Cazorla, Wilshere, Schweinsteiger, and Gomez. Yet both are likely to be involved in important attacking moments.
A killer through-ball from Ribery, or a piledriver from Podolski, could be decisive in this tie.