Bayern don't need any more stars, says Beckenbauer

The former FCB star believes that the current Bundesliga leaders already have plenty of quality and do not need to make any big investments

Franz Beckenbauer has insisted that Bayern Munich do not need any more world-class players amid ongoing rumours linking the club with players such as Wayne Rooney and Neymar.

The Bayern icon stated earlier this week that he would love to see Rooney at the club, but he has now stressed that he does not think the Bundesliga giants need any more stars.

“The team is strong enough. If Guardiola manages to improve a few of the players we already have, he doesn’t really need any new signings,” Beckenbauer told Bild.

“What’s the point of making big investments to sign more stars… That will only prompt opponents to play even more defensive.

“We will not sign someone like [Lionel] Messi. Neymar would be quite something, but he will not move until the World Cup.

“And he will be way too expensive after that. They are now already talking about a €70-80 million transfer fee.”

Neymar has also been linked with clubs such as Barcelona and Real Madrid, with the Catalans supposedly sitting in pole position to sign the Santos star.

Vermaelen: Arsenal owe Wenger progression after continual support

The 27-year-old captain hopes to be able to see his side past Bayern Munich and into the Champions League quarter-finals to give something back to his under-fire manager

Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen says the squad are desperate to beat Bayern Munich and pay back Arsene Wenger as pressure on the manager increases.

The 27-year-old has refused to write the Gunners’ chances off, despite facing a 3-1 deficit from the first leg at the Allianz Arena against a rampant German side that have not tasted defeat since October.

However, Vermaelen pointed to last year when Wenger’s charges very nearly overturned a 4-0 loss to AC Milan at the same stage with a 3-0 victory at the Emirates Stadium as evidence Arsenal have the ability to perform when required.

Vermaelen told reporters: “We owe the manager. We want to give him something back because he gives us confidence and belief.

“We go into this game to win and get through. Last year against Milan we almost did it and most people thought it was impossible.

“In football anything can happen. Of course it’s difficult but we believe in it and football is a strange sport.”

Vermaelen and his defensive colleagues have been the subject of disgruntled fans’ criticism this season, and the centre-back acknowledged the problems and insisted efforts were being made to rectify them.

He continued: “We are working on the defence every day of the week. We always take it personally.
“You have to keep going and not care too much about what people say.”

New Wilshere setback shows Arsenal are repeating the same old mistakes

The Gunners go into their against-the-odds Champions League mission in forlorn mood as they struggle to paper over the team’s ever-widening cracks

By Wayne Veysey in Munich

The first-choice goalkeeper is “mentally” exhausted. The team’s most reliable defender of the last few seasons has been joined by their 107-times-capped German forward on the sidelines. And the captain is facing the axe if the reserve left-back feels no pain on the morning of the match following six weeks out.

Most damagingly of all, the star player is putting his injured ankle up in Dubai sweating over whether he could even play again this season.

Throw in a mission impossible to avoid Champions League elimination and a run of results that has seen the team embarrassingly dumped from the FA Cup and facing the mother of all battles to clinch a 17th consecutive top-four finish, and it is little wonder that even Arsene Wenger’s smooth talking is falling on deaf ears.

Everywhere Arsenal turn is another reminder of the team’s frailties and the counter-productive decision-making at managerial and boardroom level.

In Wenger-speak, Wojciech Szczesny, the undisputed No1 for the last two-and-a-half seasons, is ‘rested’ following a string of dicey displays. “He has been affected mentally by what has happened,” explained the manager. “This is his second season and we need to rotate the players. It’s a big game and that’s why we play the players who are completely fit and ready.”

In other words, the 22-year-old has been axed because he is not considered to be up for the task.

Szczesny will be replaced by Lukasz Fabianski, who might not exactly be regarded as the comfort blanket supporters are looking for against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. Szczesny’s deputy has not started a first-team match for 13 months and is set to leave Arsenal on a free in the summer when his contract expires.

Had Wenger acted upon his instincts and recruited a battle-hardened, proven goalkeeper either last summer or in January, when enquiries were made for Pepe Reina, Asmir Begovic, Hugo Lloris and Julio Cesar among others, then the defence would have far greater confidence in the man behind them against the runaway Bundesliga leaders on Wednesday night.

The defence was supposed to be different this season – better organised, more efficient and less prone to conceding from set-pieces or sucker-punch opposition attacks. Steve Bould, a fabled member of the George Graham-moulded defence who had spent a decade cutting his teeth as a youth-team coach at the club, had been promoted to succeed the retired Pat Rice as Wenger’s No2.

Testing times | Wenger is in the midst of another turmultuous period in his managerial reign at Arsenal

Following three consecutive clean sheets at the start of the season, the appointment looked a smart one. Then, the old skittishness at the back returned.

Reports soon emerged of a rift between Wenger and Bould, which the manager condemned as “lies”. Mis-information and unconvincing denials are an increasingly common theme of the Frenchman’s press conferences, but in this instance he was correct.

It is understood there has been, and is, no rift. Nevertheless, Bould is a frustrated figure because he is not being allowed to coach the defence as he would wish.

The former centre-back was given licence to implement new defensive drills in pre-season, and this work seemed to bear fruit in early season. But Wenger performed a sharp U-turn. He felt the team’s creativity and attacking play had been neutered, and decided during the September international break to rein in the defensive work.

It was a clash of philosophies rather than the personalities of the two senior members of the coaching staff. There was only going to be one winner.

Arsenal’s various defensive combinations have taken the blame for not being up to the collective task. Thomas Vermaelen, for one, is a shadow of the dynamic titan of his early Arsenal years and is set for the axe against Bayern if Kieran Gibbs is declared fit on Wednesday morning.

Injuries are par for the course in top-level sport and, in that regard, Arsenal have fared far better this season than in previous years, which suggests that some of the lessons of preparation and rehabilitation have been learned.

It is unfortunate that Wenger is without Bacary Sagna and Lukas Podolski for the second leg, as both would be shoo-ins for the starting X1 if fully fit.

What is more perplexing is the case of Jack Wilshere, the golden boy for club and country.

Wilshere was sent to Dubai at the end of last week after Arsenal decided that the ankle injury he had sustained in the north London derby 10 days ago needed extended rest.

Wenger gave a somewhat confused update on Wilshere’s condition at two separate media briefings on Tuesday.

In the morning he claimed the midfielder would be out for three weeks with an inflamed left ankle, not the one that he underwent surgery on in September 2011 to cure a stress fracture that contributed to him missing 16 months of competitive football.

When he landed in Munich, Wenger said the 21-year-old would be out for four weeks and went into detail about how a scan had showed up bone bruising and inflammation on the same right ankle where he had surgery, as revealed by on Tuesday.

Yet, according to Wenger, Wilshere has been taken out of the firing line to protect his left ankle.

Something does not quite add up. Are Arsenal simply protecting their talisman or trying to cover up their own failings?

Cause for concern | Wilshere’s importance to the team has affected his return from injury

It is understood the warning signs were there long before Wilshere’s latest setback. He is said to have been suffering intermittent pain in his right ankle in recent months, including before the Tottenham match. Naturally, for such a competitive soul who had missed so much football, Wilshere was desperate to keep playing.

Yet there is evidence to suggest Wilshere has been overplayed since making his comeback against QPR on October 27. He has played 28 times for club and country, starting 18 of Arsenal’s 20 league matches. Of the two he missed, he was suspended for one. Wenger rested him from the starting X1 for two FA Cup matches but such was the team’s predicament he ended up being summoned from the bench on both occasions.

Questions should certainly be asked if, as is feared, Wilshere does not kick a ball again this season.

Mikel Arteta is another case in point. He started all of Arsenal’s Premier League and five of their six Champions League group games until suffering a calf strain in January.  It was only a minor injury and he was back training again within a fortnight but the Spaniard was not reinstated to the team for another two weeks because Arsenal recognised he had been overplayed and needed a rest.

At the club’s luxury London Colney headquarters, the players are cossetted and protected from the outside world.

In public, Wenger protects his charges to the hilt, even soft-soaping it when they are dropped to soothe their mental wounds.

Yet they are nervous and anxious when paraded on the big stage. Something, it seems, is clearly not working.

Wenger spoke with more hope than expectation on Tuesday of observers seeing a “completely different animal” if the players can be triumphant in a “big game”.

The circumstances of the tie, just as they were against AC Milan 12 months ago, mean that the pressure is off for Arsenal. In a way they have nothing to lose.

Yet if they fail to produce a Munich miracle, that should not stop a thorough inquest into why the same mistakes keep being made on and off the field.

Heynckes: Wenger one of the best managers in Europe

The outgoing Bayern Munich boss thinks the Arsenal man is one of the continent’s top coaches and anticipates a tough game in Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 second leg

Bayern Munich boss Jupp Heynckes believes his Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger has been “one of the best managers in Europe” for the last decade.

The Premier League and Bundesliga giants face off again on Wednesday, with the Bavarians holding a commanding 3-1 first-leg lead in their Champions League last-16 tie.

The 67-year-old is set to leave the Allianz Arena in the summer to make way for Pep Guardiola, and Heynckes said it would be “very sad” if Wenger was to leave Arsenal on the back of a sustained period without silverware.

“Arsene Wenger has not just brought success to Arsenal,” Heynckes told reporters. “He is a very creative manager, producing almost fantasy football. The football they have played is fantastic year after year.

“Always his teams played the most attractive football but maybe not the most successful football. For me in the last 10 to 15 years he has been one of the best managers in Europe.”

Heynckes has acknowledged Arsenal’s decline from Premier League and Champions League title challengers to aiming for a top-four finish in recent years, and believes the sale of key personnel and inadequate replacements have largely contributed.

He said: “Arsene Wenger always had really good players, world-class players, but if you look at the last two years [and more], you have to say that the absolute top players have been transferred to other clubs.

“Talented players have come in but for every manager it is essential that if you want to play at the absolute top level, whether you are Bayern Munich, Barcelona or Real Madrid, you have to have the players to do that.

“I think that at Arsenal maybe it has been a bit more difficult for Arsene Wenger.”

Despite their superior first-leg lead, the absence of Jack Wilshere and Lukas Podolski and the fact that no side has ever overturned a two-goal home leg deficit, Heynckes is still expecting Arsenal to pose a threat in the second leg.

The German continued: “I know with certainty they will come to the Allianz Arena and give everything to get a result.

“Last year Arsenal lost to AC Milan 4-0 and in the second leg they won it 3-0 and could have scored a fourth due to the chances they had. You can see from that how much I respect Arsene.”

Bayern are not unbeatable – here is how you overcome them

Jupp Heynckes’ side have looked invulnerable at times this season but as Bayer Leverkusen and BATE have proved, there are ways around them

By Enis Koylu

Another weekend, another Bayern Munich win. The 3-2 victory over Fortuna Dusseldorf on Saturday was their 10th in as many games in 2013, and they are looking good value for an historic treble.

Indeed, over four months have passed since die Roten last suffered a defeat – a 2-1 home reverse to Bayer Leverkusen, who had goalkeeper Bernd Leno to thank for making an astonishing number of saves.

Despite the heavy pressure the Werkself were made to endure, they thoroughly deserved their win, one which bore remarkable similarities to their other defeat this season, a 3-1 loss to BATE in Minsk that will go down as one of the all-time Champions League shocks.

Both teams came out against Jupp Heynckes’ side with an obvious plan to drop back and soak up the initial bout of pressure to which Bayern routinely subject opponents at the start of matches. Midfielders and wingers joined their defensive colleagues, creating a wall the Bavarians found difficult to surpass.

Once the opening wave ends, if Bayern are not ahead, they become visibly frustrated. They continue to dominate possession and encamp themselves outside the opposition penalty area, but their build-up play becomes more frantic and less measured.

It is then about picking your moment. In their pursuit of an opening goal, Bayern continue to commit all of their midfielders and both wing-backs forward, leaving central defenders exposed. Both BATE and Leverkusen were able to exploit this brilliantly, and take their rare chances on the break.

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Score the first goal, and Bayern are on the ropes. Only twice have they come from behind to win this season, and they have not overturned a half-time deficit so far this term.

Indeed, had Thomas Muller not scored on the stroke of the break against Dusseldorf on Saturday, the Ruhr outfit might have had more to show for their Allianz Arena exertions than a gutsy, but ultimately futile, performance.

It is a strategy that has worked to great effect since Heynckes took over. Monchengladbach coach Lucien Favre used it to great effect last season, producing a masterclass of counterattacking football to lead his side to a 3-1 triumph at Borussia Park and a 1-0 win in Munich, with the Foals finding space and exploiting it time and time again.

The gaps left by the waves of Bayern attacks leave the centre-backs stretched and many teams have found joy against the Bavarians, crossing to forwards who have space to run into and dominate.

Of course, to beat the best, you need fortune on your side. Leverkusen had a Jerome Boateng own-goal to thank for their Allianz Arena conquest as Bayern struck the woodwork twice, while the frame of the goal saved BATE once.

Another recurring theme of the few games in which Bayern have struggled this season is the absence of key players. An injury to Bastian Schweinsteiger left them with an uneasy-looking central midfield pairing of Luiz Gustavo and Javi Martinez, and it showed. They lacked a leading presence in midfield who drives them forward with his vast array of European experience.

Meanwhile, with Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery missing against B04, David Alaba, a midfielder-turned-defender played on the left wing, and the Austrian, nursing his way back to fitness, visibly struggled to recreate the penetration which makes his team-mates stand out.

While Gladbach’s method of avoiding defeat versus die Roten has continued into this season, with the Foals recording a 1-1 draw in Munich back in December, another team to have had a phenomenal record against them in recent years, Borussia Dortmund, have been found out.

Jurgen Klopp’s side famously recorded five straight victories against the Bavarians as they became Germany’s top team, consistently overrunning their rivals in midfield to great effect, even putting five past them in last year’s DFB-Pokal final.

But Bayern learned from the defeats and even beat Dortmund at their own game, most notably in the DFL-Supercup in August, which saw them kill off the game within the opening 11 minutes, and the recent Pokal quarter-final, when they smothered their opponents, limiting them to just a handful of chances and winning 1-0.

For his part, though, Klopp was less than impressed by their tactical evolution. “They’re a bit like the Chinese in the economy and industry. They look at what everyone else does, then copy it. They take the same path, just with more money and different players. And they’ve become better for it.”

Their acquisitions in the summer have been key in this. Dante’s no-nonsense approach in defence has seen them snuff out potential threats early, Claudio Pizarro, Mario Mandzukic and Xherdan Shaqiri added depth where it was obviously needed, while Martinez provides greater stability and passing than Gustavo did before him.

Quite simply, if you want to beat Bayern, a slow-paced game where you look to turn the screw on them and camp outside their penalty area will not work for anyone, save perhaps an in-form Barcelona. The only way may well be to sneak past them.

Bayern have the quality, balance and adaptability to overcome anyone in the world. To overcome them, you need tactical nous and a huge dose of luck.

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