Heynckes expects 'different' Arsenal

Posted by Susie Schaaf

Arsene Wenger went a bit off the rails at his press conference ahead of Arsena's Tuesday's Champions League tie with Bayern Munich when asked about a contract extension.

Later, Bayern held their presser in the team hotel, and Jupp Heynckes stuck up for the under-fire Gunners manager, stating: "You have to take in to consideration that Arsenal competes with Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City... And where Arsenal sells off their best players, the other clubs buy the best players in the world. To me it seems the criticisms aren't fair."

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I only mention Jupp's quote because I somehow managed to find myself seated at his press conference. Yeah. That happened. After the team entered the hotel, we followed behind, saw the cameras being set up in a conference room, went in the room and sat down. Of course, I took out my trusty Moleskine and started taking notes so I kind of looked like I might belong - resolving to only speak German if asked why I was there.

Half the questions directed at Bastian Schweinsteiger were asking about how he felt about Jack Wilshere. "Do you like how he plays? . . .Do you really like him? I mean, really? . . . .I'll ask again in a different way. . . What do you think of Wilshere?" Apparently, he had said something nice about the young Arsenal midfielder before leaving Munich. The other half were about the Champions League finals losses. Yawn. Can we be finished with this now?

Before Bayern can start to really answer the critics, they'll first have to go through Arsenal. Wenger has been roundly panned for his team selection against Blackburn Saturday, which the Rovers took 1-0 on a Colin Kazim-Richards strike.

The Gunners manager left Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla on the bench until the 70th minute in the FA Cup match. And even though Arsenal played better after the substitutions, they did not have enough time to break down a great Blackburn defense.

Post-match, the French manager said: "I think we have a great team but this shows we still have to show more maturity on the mental front. We have to understand what it means to win big games. [This] was a big game for me."

Heynckes was asked Monday if the Blackburn loss was to Bayern's advantage. "Of course. But this is the risk you take when you change a team around. But, I think [Tuesday] you'll see a different Arsenal team on the pitch."

So, who will that team be? The Gunners' back four will likely be Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna. Kieran Gibbs' injury at left-back meant that Arsenal had to go shopping in the winter -- and they did, scooping Nacho Monreal from Malaga. Only one problem with Nacho - he's cup-tied. Vermaelen will be handed the unenviable task of trying to contain either Thomas Mueller or the angry Arjen Robben. As you would expect, Bayern will threaten most down the right.

Koscielny and Mertesacker will have to deal with crosses in from both wings (although that is a Per strength) while worrying about the positioning of Mario Mandzukic, Toni Kroos and the rest of the fluid, interchangeable Bayern offense.

The probable Arsenal midfield trio of Mikel Arteta, Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey might play a bit more back than usual considering the quality of the Bayern Munich attack. It will be up to the three to attempt to break up the build-up in play across the middle. Arteta does have the chops to face Franck Ribery, and could be one of the more interesting battles on the pitch.

Up front, Bayern will likely face Walcott, Cazorla and Oliver Giroud or Lukas Podolski. Theo and Lukas (when/if he plays) are known for their fast-break abilities on either side of the pitch. But to mark them, FCB puts forward two of Europe's most talented wing-backs. For as fast as Walcott is, David Alaba has the pace to match. And Philipp Lahm isn't going to be fooled by any move that German teammate Podolski will make. That said, Lahm and Alaba will have to be careful not to press too high up the pitch, exposing long stretches of green for Arsenal's attacking wings.

I've been often asked, generally by cabbies here in London, what's my personal opinion of this match, to which I reply: "Well, I didn't fly nearly 5,000 miles because I think Bayern is going to lose." I also don't think it will be a stroll- unless die Roten strike early - then all hell could break loose.

On a personal note, I'm having a fabulous time here in London, once again. Monday was spent acting like a 12-year-old girl, getting my strip signed by as many players as possible, and yes! - sneaking in to the press conference. You really can't knock the smile off my face, and I sincerely hope this carries on at the Emirates Tuesday.

Auf gehts, Bayern!

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