The battle to contain a rampant Bayern

Posted by Miguel Delaney

Joy for Bastian Schweinsteiger after he scored the opener in Bayern Munich's thrashing of LilleGettyImagesBayern Munich's free-flowing attack has given them one of the best ever Bundesliga scoring records this season

At the very least, Arsenal and Bayern Munich will have one thing in common when they meet at the Emirates on Tuesday night: both have significant points to prove.

- Limbert: Are you sitting comfortably?
- Schaaf: Heynckes expects 'different' Arsenal

Because, while the Blackburn Rovers defeat brought Arsenal back to square one ahead of their last chance of a trophy in this ongoing psychodrama of a season, the Germans return to the business end of a competition which only last season provided the most traumatic moment in their history.

It is there, though, where the similarities end.

One very important difference between the sides is that it is only Bayern who are actually playing like they have a point to prove. And how.

Quite simply, Arsene Wenger's side couldn't really have a worse fixture coming up at such a fragile time. Of course, there was widespread relief when the club avoided Barcelona for what would have been the third meeting in four seasons. Instead, though, they're playing what is probably the next best team. And the numbers all but prove it.

In terms of domestic performance, Bayern are only behind Barca across Europe. The stats to their season are simply startling. With 57 points, 57 goals and just seven conceded in 22 games, they are on course to absolutely obliterate the Bundesliga records for points per game and defensive performance.

Such searing consistency is in stark contrast to Arsenal's atrociously erratic form. The moods at the pre-match press conferences only sharpened that reality.

Just an hour after Wenger was all overspilling anger and probably directing his growing fury and frustration at the wrong issues, Bayern were the absolute model of relaxed -- but clearly concentrated -- confidence. Bastian Schweinsteiger said as much: "We have this inner calmness and patience."

It might even reflect the serenity that comes from confronting the truth and trying to do something about it. While Wenger has illustrated now notorious levels of denial about all of Arsenal's issues, Bayern have clearly faced up to their most pressing problem. In fact, they have been attempting to use that question about their character in clutch games -- as illustrated in 2010 and 2012 -- in order to only fortify their mentality and provide the most fitting response to May and that match against Chelsea.

"If you've lost two finals, the motivation is there," Schweinsteiger said. "A defeat like that, you can't just forget it. It was a great advantage that we had a big tournament [Euro 2012] with the national team straight afterwards, but you have to think about it and deal with it."

Heynckes feels his team have done so.

"We've shown this already in the league and cup and Champions League, that we have this hunger and desire and motivation. Players really have motivation and that hunger for success and that's really important for us going forward."

Heynckes himself set the appropriate tone in one of the first public appearances back after that Chelsea defeat.

"We will have a better team than last year," he said in the preseason. "We will attack and attack the top again."

No question about that. Only seven teams in Bundesliga history have a better scoring ratio than this Bayern, and none of them have come in the last three decades.

In truth, though, the most important change to the team has come further back, or rather, with how the team deals with sides threatening to attack them. Fittingly, and especially given the eventual arrival of Pep Guardiola, they do so proactively by pressing as a unit.

The signing of Javi Martinez wasn't just a statement in terms of price and player.

"We are better defensively and at switching play," Heynckes explained. "The thing that pleases me is that every player has to realise that they have to defend and attack."

Manuel Neuer concurs, laughing at a question about the lack of work he has had to do this season. One of Bayern's strengths is that they have barely even allowed opposition sides shots on goal, while the goalkeeper felt sufficiently assured to recently spend an entire training session doing outfield work.

"The secret with Bayern is that the whole team defends well," Neuer said. "When we lose the ball we work hard to win it back. You can see that for yourself."

You can certainly see it in their defensive record, not that the players are getting ahead of themselves.
As goes without saying, there was only "respect" for Arsenal at the Landmark Hotel on Marylebone Road on Monday.

"Both teams have a lot of quality," Schweinsteiger said.

More surprisingly, Heynckes maintained that "if you take away the game against Blackburn, it is a positive" season for Arsenal. To be fair, it certainly would be a positive season if they eliminated Bayern. That is the scale of the task that Wenger's side faces. That is how much of a gulf in class there is between the two sides.

How many Arsenal players would even get into the Bayern team? Exceptional as Jack Wilshere is, would he add anything extra to a sleekly cohesive midfield? Inventive as Santi Cazorla is, would he not interrupt an attack that can reach some devastating speeds?

Occasionally, it's been as if Bayern have been playing with the blood relentlessness of the Real Madrid team they themselves eliminated last season. In short, anything other than a German victory would be a big upset. And once you got past all the platitudes that thinking was clear even among Bayern's squad.

"I do have faith that, if we play to our level, we can win," Heynckes said.

That, ultimately, is what really separates the teams. Even if Arsenal play to theirs, they need a significant drop from Bayern. This season, that hasn't been too common.

How Bayern are breaking Bundesliga records

Greatest points ratios

Bayern Munich 2012-13 2.59
Borussia Dortmund 2011-12 2.38
Bayern Munich 1972-73 2.32*
Bayern Munich 1971-72 2.32*
Bayern Munich 1998-99 2.29
* adjusted to three points for a win

Greatest goals-per-game ratios

Bayern Munich 1971-72 2.97
Hamburg 1981-82 2.79
Bayern Munich 1973-74 2.79
Borussia M'gladbach 1973-74 2.74
Bayern Munich 1972-73 2.74
Bayern Munich 1980-81 2.62
Eintracht Frankfurt 1974-75 2.62
Bayern Munich 2012-13 2.59

Greatest defensive ratios

Bayern Munich 2012-13 0.32
Bayern Munich 2007-08 0.62
Werder Bremen 1987-88 0.65
Bayern Munich 2011-12 0.65
Borussia Dortmund 2011-12 0.65
Bayern Munich 2002-03 0.65

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