Those of us who saw the game know that we were outplayed by Bayern, especially in the first half. We started brightly with a desire to play football and attack, but it also gave Bayern space to operate in, and when we had to defend we lacked compactness and discipline. A well-timed run by the Dortmund traitor Lewandowski was enough to surprise our defence and score the much dreaded German early goal against us. Arsenal were not perturbed by this initially, and a fine attack led straightaway to the equaliser, only for the referee to harshly rule Ozil’s shoulderball as a handball. It was a shame that Nacho aimed the ball too high, or not high enough if you want, and Ozil had no other choice than to ‘shoulder it in’; but it was a perfectly fine goal nevertheless, that, if it had stood, would have given our boys the confidence to keep attacking Die Lederhosen for 90 minutes. And who knows what could have happened…
However, the Germans soon scored their second goal, due to an unconvincing block by the BFG on Muller’s shot from inside the box that led to the slightest of deflections, making it really hard, if not impossible, for Cech to get a hand to it. Two non-major defensive mistakes – Gabriel not quick enough to play Lewandowski offsite and a deflection rather than a firm block – and just that bit of luck missing, and the game is almost certainly lost: that is footie at top level for you!
After conceding the second goal we looked disorientated: should we defend more solidly from now or go full out on attack? The Germans were now pinning us in in our own half and they created chance after chance, as we were giving them tons of space in and around our box to operate in. It was only a matter of time before the third goal would fall and it was a peach of a long distance shot by Alaba to seal our faith.
The second half we started slightly better but the fourth goal by the Germans in 55th minute, from Robben who only just had come onto the pitch, made us fear the worst. It was then that the boys really started to play football and take the game to the Germans. To be fair, they had lowered their intensity and tempo when attacking us after their fourth goal, but our senior players did very well to change the game round. We had a number of very good chances to score goals but had to wait to the 69th minute to finally get one. Giroud loves to score against the Germans, and, also this time, it was our big fabulous Frenchman who hit the net. A clever ball by Sanchez into the box left Ollie plenty to do: he took it on his chest and rammed it in with his left foot at shoulder height, before the surrounding CBs could get near to him. Lovely goal.
We were not going to get anything out of this game anymore of course, but at least we gave the loyal travelling fans something to celebrate with Ollie’s goal. We kept attacking and should have scored at least one more, but it was Bayern that scored again next with a fine, low strike by Muller, out of the reach of Cech’s enormous arms.
Losing 5-1 hurts, even though we had a good excuse given the large number of injured players that were unavailable. With hindsight, we should not have ventured forward so much initially but have started more compact and disciplined. Our chosen style of play exposed our makeshift defence, and especially the CB pairing struggled to connect with each other and the goalkeeper, or give enough support to our vulnerable right back, Debuchy. We did not look like a well-drilled team and it was far too easy for Bayern to beat us, mainly due to defensive mistakes and lack of belief and organisation. Once we were 2-0 behind, after just 30 minutes, we all knew our tactics had failed.
Wenger’s biggest challenge seems to be dealing better with an unexpected number of forced changes to his first team. Our performance levels drop significantly if and when we need to replace two, or more, first team defenders, midfielders or attackers. Yesterday, it was the defence and the right flank where key players – Bellerin, Koz, Ramsey, (Theo, Ox) – were missing; and although the individual players did not do too bad given the circumstances, as a team we were definitely playing well below par – lacking cohesion, confidence and intensity to get anything out of this game. Is Arsene too dependent on the form, quality and availability of his first eleven players? You tell me.
Eight Positives from the game – and as you can image, I am struggling here a bit…:
- Giroud’s goal;
- Ozil’s desire, movement with and without the ball, and hunger to score the first goal (from which he was robbed);
- Campbell showed a few nice attacking glimpses and tried hard to help out his full back – he did not look out of place;
- Coquelin looked confident and strong, very much at ease at playing at the highest level – top player;
- Our attacking football was a joy to watch: we created a number of chances and at times played some lovely football;
- Debuchy had a tough match and struggled to keep up with the tempo when we were being attacked on our right side, but that tackle to deny Robben late on was very well timed and executed (and well done Cech for disturbing rather than fouling/touching Robben the diver);
- Nacho Monreal, like Coquelin, looked at home at this level and owned the left side of our defence for the entire game – top player;
- No further injuries (as far as I can tell).
Even though we got a pasting yesterday, we should take courage from the fact that we beat them at home two weeks ago. We are not at a level to win the CL, and teams like Bayern, Barcelona and Real, are still a level above us, but it is important that we know we can beat them if we play at our best and our very best players are fit. It will take a few more years of keeping our best players and adding quality when we can, to really have a stab at winning the CL; and, last night, we had another bitter taste of what it takes to get there.