Bayern vs Arsenal: Risk management or Kamikaze? A tactical preview 

miasanrot Separator April 9, 2024

This article written by Pepe Salazar


Porto showed the world that this Arsenal team struggles immensely against a well positioned, compact mid block, and for 210 minutes that approach worked. Arsenal was not able to beat them within regulation or even extra time. Porto didn’t press much, and they didn’t drop deep because they didn’t want to invite Arsenal to create many chances. Instead, they focused on being very compact when Arsenal approached the center of the pitch, as there were always at least 5 Porto players ready to stop their advances. Porto was also playing a 40+ year old defender so their defensive strategy was based more on positioning than sheer physical intensity.

Man City and Liverpool

This Arsenal team managed to nullify the highest scoring teams in the Premier League. Just a few days ago they only conceded one shot on target at the Emirates, and were able to win one and draw one against Klöpp’s side, also severely limiting Liverpool’s chance creation and shots on target. They will do the same tomorrow, so I don’t think Bayern should concentrate on relentless attacking tactics and instead should focus on emulating what Porto did; defending through intelligent positioning and try to win it on penalties or extra time.

Time for a back 3?

Unlike Porto, Bayern hasn’t played a 4-3-3 since Kovac, so the 4-3-3 mid block is not an option. The 4-2-3-1 is not good either because four attacking players is overkill. To play a defensive mid block, one attacking midfielder should be sacrificed in order to strengthen either the defensive midfield or the back line. Since the only good defensive midfielder Bayern has at the moment is Pavlović, a back three with wingbacks would be viable.

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Bayern’s nominal formation should be 5-3-2 (or 3-5-2) using the most balanced and stable players available. Having wingbacks is compatible with a 3-5-2 or 4-4-2 midblock depending upon how Arsenal tries to attack, and also allows Bayern to drop into a 5-4-1 or 5-3-2 when Arsenal manages to break the mid block.

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Bayern may have to drop deep. It’s hard to trust Upamecano or Davies defensively, so the back 3 would provide an extra defender to cover for others. Kim can be the most aggressive defender, while Dier and De Ligt provide balance and a more static positioning. Goretzka can play next to Pavlović, and as long as he doesn’t make useless runs forward, he could be useful both in a mid and low block, closing the gap between Dier and Kim. Bayern will not create many chances, but Musiala and Sané have become better at defending as the outer midfielders in a 4-4-2 (or a 5-4-1). They’re good at carrying and progressing the ball, and could work as an outlet to try something on the break, like an early cross to Kane.

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Depending upon what Arsenal does (they may use a double pivot or just Rice), Bayern can sit in a 4-4-2 or 5-4-1 mid block. The idea is to create a numerical advantage in the midfield, to make it difficult for Arsenal to feed passes to Odegaard and Havertz. For Bayern, it would be more manageable to allow the likes of Ben White or Kiwior to progress the ball, instead of Rice, Odegaard or Havertz.

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Bayern shouldn’t commit too many players in the attacking phase. They could attack Lazio or Darmstadt with 7 players, but doing that to Arsenal could easily back fire. Instead, the best players on the ball should attack while the rest stay back. Bayern should use a rest defense where Goretzka drops into a makeshift LB/LCB role, because Guerreiro is better at carrying and passing, but also to prevent leaving the back 3 isolated in case of a counter attack. Bayern could atack in a 4-1-4-1 formation where wingbacks and wingers can invert and overlap to make marking more difficult. Kane should stay central as him dropping deep or trying to occupy the halfspaces will only make defending easier for Arsenal.


Davies, Upamecano, Laimer, Mazraoui and Müller. Davies plays like he’s doing everyone a favor, Upamecano keeps making costly mistakes, Mazraoui is irrelevant in attack, not good defensively, and Laimer is simply not good enough, neither as a CDM nor as a RB.

I left out Müller because Bayern will have to defend for long spells and using him as a RM to defend is a waste of his energy and talent. Even if Sané is not in his best moment, he can be useful defending on that position, especially to help Kimmich, and then in the last 30 minutes Müller can be subbed in to play at the highest intensity in his preferred role.

I included Goretzka in the starting XI because there aren’t other options for the defensive midfield, and he has become familiar with the LCB role in attack and possession, which would allow Guerreiro to go forward and Pavlović to be the main six without being left alone in the build up and possession phases.


Müller and Tel should definitely be subbed in, as it’s going to be a physically demanding match. Gnabry has shown good things to be a decent “wildcard” sub. Coman shouldn’t play because he is out of rhythm, and Choupo Moting definitely shouldn’t play because he has been irrelevant this season and him and Kane together don’t work.


The most important match in Tuchel’s career has been the 2021 UCL final when he beat Pep’s City 1-0. Before that, he reached the 2020 final with PSG (lost 0-1 vs Flick). In both teams he used his infamous “terrorist tactics”, which are just simple counter-attacking tactics based on automations, pressing traps and long passes using back three formations (3-4-3, 3-4-2-1, 3-4-1-2) on attack and a back 5 on defense. Tuesday’s match presents a scenario where these “terrorist” tactics would actually make a lot of sense, since Kamikaze attacking tactics or 70%-possession-horse-shoeing won’t work against Arsenal.


This season has been disappointing in every single big game and besides historical hierarchies, there aren’t many elements to predict a good outcome, but if Porto was able to defend well and make things hard for Arsenal, Bayern should also be able to do it. This is the Champions League, the dream of every footballer, and Bayern has players that have proved they can win everything if they want. Even if the team is at its lowest, at the very least, they should play their best football out of individual pride, honor, and respect for fans and club.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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  1. […] Bayern vs Arsenal: Risk management or Kamikaze? A tactical preview […]

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