Arsene Wenger faces delicate situation with off-form Mesut Ozil at Arsenal
The idea of Arsenal going to face Bayern Munich without Mesut Ozil in the starting lineup would, objectively, sound absurd.
The Gunners are not the kind of team who can go and defend away from home, keep a clean sheet and nick an all-important away goal. They will have to defend well, but their best hope is to use the strongest part of their squad; the attack.
On paper, having Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck, Lucas Perez, Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi to choose from provides Arsene Wenger with a wealth of options and variety. There's power, pace, craft, energy, a traditional target man and, in Ozil, a gifted playmaker who has the vision and ability to carve any defence open.
Unfortunately, he seems to be undergoing a crisis of confidence, something that Wenger -- normally a manager who is ultra-protective of his players -- couldn't but acknowledge. Speaking after the 2-0 win over Hull last Saturday, he admitted Ozil's issues are a problem right now.
"I felt he was not completely confident technically today," he said. "That's a problem because you think he can deliver something special.
"Maybe it's time for him to score a goal. He needs to find confidence again. He misses chances that don't look infeasible for him."
Ozil hasn't scored a goal since notching a looping header against Stoke on Dec. 10, and having scored eight times previously it's something of a drought for him. But even if Wenger constantly spoke about him scoring more often, it's his creativity that he is renowned for.
That too is an area of his game that hasn't been quite at its best either, with his assist tally down on where it was this time last year.
Seeing him struggle against Hull was a worry, and if it were any other player the simple solution would be to take him out of action for a bit and give somebody else a go.
The problem for the Arsenal manager is that Ozil is, in some ways, talismanic. He's the record £42.5 million signing from Real Madrid, and a man whose absence -- even if it was made for the right reasons -- would spark headlines, especially if he was left out of such a high profile game against the best team in his home country.
Wenger would have to consider if dropping him in these circumstances might further damage the confidence he'd so badly want to rebuild. There's also the issue of how delicate the current situation between Ozil and the club is. Like Sanchez, he's currently in discussions over a new contract, and as yet there appears to be no imminent resolution to that.
Whether it should be the case or not, or whether it's done for the right reasons or not, dropping him for a Champions League round of 16 game could well have an impact on that. Players speak often about how the trust and faith a manager shows in them is so important, and if Wenger left him out of Wednesday night's game, that would hardly be a ringing endorsement of the 28-year-old.
Of course, the impact of that may well be moot come the summer if Wenger departs, but right now it seems like it would certainly be a part of his thinking when he selects his team this week.
He has to weigh up the risk of Ozil starting and not playing well; the damage it might cause if he didn't play him from the start at the Allianz Arena; and what Ozil might bring if he does find some form. What a place it would be for him to do that, perhaps kick-starting a season that has stalled a little in recent weeks.
It seems more likely than not that Wenger will pick him, showing him he still has faith in his ability and talent to work his way through this poor spell. But the onus is Ozil to repay that with a performance that would go some way to helping his team past the round of 16 for the first time in seven years.
Andrew Mangan is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @arseblog.