What Bayern will be missing with Ribery out of Arsenal showdown
The most successful dribbler in Europe’s top five leagues, second only to Manchester City’s David Silva for key passes, the most shots per game on average at Bayern Munich this season and the list goes on when it comes to the features of Franck Ribery’s game that Arsenal would have been concerned about ahead of facing the Champions League holders in the round of 16 in this campaign.
However, news that Ribery will miss two weeks of action, which includes the first leg with Arsenal at the Emirates, because of buttock surgery has to be regarded as a positive to the Gunners progressing to the quarter finals of the Champions League.
Arsenal are 3/1 in the Champions League odds to qualify for the quarter finals, although the 13/5 that they take a first-leg lead to the Allianz Arena on March 11th has to be deemed the more lucrative price.
Bayern have coped with the absence of the Ballon d’Or shortlister well under Pep Guardiola, remaining unbeaten in the nine games Ribery has missed, winning eight and scoring 22 goals in the process.
But Arsenal did beat a Ribery-less Bayern in the Champions League last season in Germany and there is no doubting that he has been the biggest focal point of their attacking set-up under Guardiola.
Ribery’s eight assists are a Bundesliga high for Bayern, while he averages more key passes per game than every other player in the Champions League and more in Europe than he does domestically.
Throw in his six successful dribbles per game and the fact that he wins more free-kicks than any other Bayern player and this could be significant, given Arsenal’s troubles defending set pieces in their latest Premier League hammering at Liverpool.
Arsene Wenger’s men have already conceded three headed goals in 2014.
Guardiola is not short of options when it comes to replacing Ribery, with any of Mario Gotze, Arjen Robben, Thomas Muller and Xherdan Shaqiri able to do jobs in the wide areas for Bayern.
However, alongside the Arsenal victory, there also has to be a greater temptation to lump on the 11/10 that Bayern score under 1.5 goals at the Emirates with Ribery watching from the stands, no doubt in the standing section rather than seated.