Arsenal beware: Bayern Munich’s attack is so good they leave Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben on the bench
It was in the nineties that the term FC Hollywood emerged to neatly encapsulate the untraceable and logic defying rollercoaster that is FC Bayern Muenchen. Saebener Strasse, the Munich street on which the Bayern headquarters are to be found, has begun to take its place alongside Coronation Street and Albert Square as the location for one of the world’s most famous soap operas.
The Bayern ship may be a little steadier now with the comfortable success they are enjoying both on and off the field, but even in these halcyon days, where the treble still seems a reasonable aspiration, the club is surrounded by the usual deluge of rumours, tantrums and plot twists, with only the odd, invariably vague, official statement emerging now and then to defuse – or often inadvertently diffuse – the situation.
Among the latest rumours to come out of Munich are the prospective arrival of Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski, the flight of a disgruntled Mario Gómez to the land of his forebears and Atlético Madrid, and the possibility that Jupp Heynckes may take over the reins at Schalke in the summer, prompting speculation that his gallant departure to make way for Pep Guardiola may not have been such a smooth transition after all.
It may, as of yet, be the least well founded, but perhaps the most interesting rumour from the perspective of Bayern’s opponents this evening is the one surrounding Gómez. The idea that Gómez might be so unhappy at Bayern as to consider a summer move is one which the Gunners might bear in mind when they assess the might of the task which faces their defence tonight. Such is Bayern’s attacking flair that Mario Gómez, one of Europe’s most gifted goalscorers, can only occasionally muscle his way into the Bayern side. Most of the time, he is confined to sitting on the bench – more often than not next to another of Europe’s most famous stars: Arjen Robben.
The plight of Robben of and Gómez is one which has gobbled up headlines throughout this season. With Bayern so dominant in the Bundesliga, neither Gómez nor Robben have yet been able to break their way back into the attack of which they were the backbone last season. So vigorous were the attempts of some media outlets to kick up some disruption in the apparently untouchable Bayern ranks by highlighting Robben and Gómez’ disappointment, that they prompted a comment from Director of Sport Matthias Sammer: “The momentum of the team is such that it is difficult for [Robben] to break in. I don’t want egos to become a factor here, and for us to start having unnecessary discussions.”
It was a far cry from his usual philosophy that egos make the team, but then Robben’s was never the sort of ego that Sammer finds so alluring. His is the brand of Dutch individualism which used to make the German football elite sneer in contempt. Far closer to Sammer’s ideal of self-confidence is that of the man who replaces Robben on the right hand side of midfield – Thomas Mueller. Asked of his thoughts on the Champions League campaign, Mueller told the German press this week that: “I just want to win this thing as soon as possible. Our aim is to be in London again this year.”
Very few words minced, all told. Mueller’s attitude is representative of exactly what has served Bayern’s attack so well this season. They have forgotten the old doubts, and started enjoying playing football again, with a clear view to winning every single thing they possibly can. It is a confidence which shines through in the mesmerising combinations of their build up play which, even before the arrival of Guardiola, are already being heralded as a brand of tiki-taka. Albeit most loudly by their own player, Toni Kroos.
Kroos has is own role to play in Robben’s demotion. His development into an attacking force has pushed Mueller back to the right, while Javi Martínez assumes the role of defensive midfielder. It is a system which leaves no space for the Dutchman.
As for Gómez, well he seems to be one of the only players in the Bayern squad for whome confidence is a completely alien concept. Injured for the beginning of the season, he could only watch as new signing Mario Mandžukic blossomed into Bayern’s first choice striker. Even a short goal drought for the Croatian around Christmas was not a big enough chance for Gómez to fully exploit, and the Germany international looks dangerously close to resuming the sideline, doubt-stricken role which characterised his early Bayern career.
One thing is certain. Whether it is Mandžukic, Gómez or even Robben who poses the most potent threat to the Arsenal goal tonight and in three weeks time, the Gunners have one of Europe’s most impressive and in form attacks to contend with. If Bayern’s form this season is anything to go by, Arsene Wenger’s side will do very well to keep out the onslaught which has seen so many teams capitulate in the last six months.Tagged in: Arsenal, bayern munich, Champions League
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