- We are seemingly incapable of learning from our mistakes, and keep giving away games before they even have started properly;
- Arsene cannot settle on a formation and style of play at the moment, resulting in a continuous lack of cohesion, and systemic and focused approach to our football;
- Theo, alone up-front, did not work;
- We lack extrovert leadership;
- We lack quality in certain areas;
- We lack a beast of a DM;
- Our painful period of transition is to continue for quite a while.
After a promising start, Arsenal gave once again the game away with a couple of defensive mistakes. Against MU away, and Liverpool, Chelsea and ManCity at home we did exactly the same, and in top football this is utterly self-defeating.
I really thought our defence would be fully prepared for this happening again last night, and therefore would focus from the start. When I say defence, I do not just mean the back-five of Szczesny and his four defenders in front of him. Of course defending is a team responsibility and for both goals the rest of the team deserve at least some of the blame.
Our two ‘DM’s were wrongly positioned to block of the midfield runner on goal, Kroos; and for the second goal we simply missed height at the near post. Especially Van Buyten/Muller’s goal was bad to concede: really amateurish and it effectively meant the game was over without it ever having started properly. This has now become a very worrying pattern and I struggle to see how we can get out of it any time soon. With big games coming up against Everton, Spuds and MU, this is the biggest worry we currently have.
It is so disappointing that nobody seems able to organise our defence properly. All our defenders are good but nobody seems to have the overview and leadership skills to make us a strong unit and organise our defending. Our defence is a combination of individuals and is crying out for an organisational leader like Adams or Campbell used to be for Arsenal. Vermaelen, as our captain, comes short, and Mertesacker is also disappearing into his own shell far too often.
At least there was fight left in us. After conceding the second goal the team tried hard to get back into the game, and some healthy aggression was on display. We were not producing anywhere near enough decent chances, but at least were able to get back into the game after a big mistake in the German defence from one of our corners, early on in the second half. Well done Podolski for being in the right place and accepting the double gift – it should never have been a corner in the first place – with both hands.
After that we had a good spell, and it was really important to keep the pressure on Bayern. We managed to do that for about 10 minutes, and I was hoping for Wenger to make earlier-than-normal substitutions to sustain our momentum. He did not do that and the game was finally lost by conceding another goal. This was the best worked goal of the game, but it still needed a big slice of luck by the Germans to go in.
Who knows what could have happened if Giroud had finished a half decent chance inside the box, after Rosicky’s fine diagonal pass and Theo excellent first touch and cross, had put him in a scoring position. Unfortunately, it fell to his ‘wrong’ foot and his effort was directed straight at the keeper.
Our defensive play failed us and cost us the game, we did not dominate midfield enough, we did not create enough chances, and our ploy to play Walcott up-front did work for us either. Bayern were too strong and indeed out-classed us for large parts of the game.
However, we showed fighting spirit in short spells and Wilshere grew into the best player on the pitch in the second half. We will never know whether we could have made this a proper contest if our defence had stood stronger and got proper hold of the game.
There is no doubt, though, our midfield needs further strengthening with a beast of a DM: having two deeper laying midfielders with defensive responsibilities will sometimes work, but in games like these it is so important to have a strong physical, athletic presence who can protect our defence and move on play quickly and effectively.
Giroud on his own up-front has clear limitations, and so does playing Theo there. We were not able to launch the Englishman into a promising position anywhere near enough, and we also missed proper wing-play last night. I still believe that playing Theo and Giroud together up-front is our strongest option currently, as their combined strength could become a force to reckon with. I thought it was a mistake to play Theo alone up-front: the team has not settled at all on this formation and many automatisms were missing last night.
How many times last night did we see a player being ‘dumped’ with the ball in an isolated area, surrounded not by fellow players but by ant-like Germans, trying to nick it of him as soon as he receives it? What has happened to us playing as a close unit, our triangles, our cohesive play based around possession and passing, and us taking collective responsibility?
Jack, once again, tried to take the game by the scruff of the neck but too many of our players were not able to follow suit. We lack that sort of extrovert leadership at the moment, and relying on Jack alone to drive us on is not going to work.
In order to start winning our encounters with top-teams, significant improvements will have to be made:
- Leadership, discipline and organisation in our defensive play;
- More physical presence in midfield, allowing Jack to be freed up to run the show;
- More extrovert leadership throughout the team;
- More quality throughout the team, especially on the wings and up-front, so we can produce better chances and take them more regularly when they occur;
- Settle on a formation and train the entire squad to understand it, including every player knowing how they should play in their position(s)/what their roles and responsibilities are. Also, Arsenal need to improve significantly on both playing the pressing game and keeping hold of the ball ourselves by passing it round.
I thought, naively in retrospect, that this team was able to raise itself for the game last night, and would show step improvements in most, if not all, of the above mentioned five areas. They did not, and a lot more work will have to be done in the next six to twelve months.
It all remains to be seen whether Wenger and Bould are able to complete the transition in that sort of time span, and it is a certainty that the patience of the fans will be tested to the absolute limit for quite a bit longer.
Written by: Total Arsenal.