Giroud’s quality, Ozil’s hunger, Coquelin and Nacho’s confidence: 8 Positives from a disappointing game.


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…:

  1. Giroud’s goal;
  2. Ozil’s desire, movement with and without the ball, and hunger to score the first goal (from which he was robbed);
  3. Campbell showed a few nice attacking glimpses and tried hard to help out his full back – he did not look out of place;
  4. Coquelin looked confident and strong, very much at ease at playing at the highest level – top player;
  5. Our attacking football was a joy to watch: we created a number of chances and at times played some lovely football;
  6. 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);
  7. Nacho Monreal, like Coquelin, looked at home at this level and owned the left side of our defence for the entire game – top player;
  8. 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.

By TotalArsenal.

27 thoughts on “Giroud’s quality, Ozil’s hunger, Coquelin and Nacho’s confidence: 8 Positives from a disappointing game.

  • Your observations are absolutely correct. I will even boldly make this prediction; if we are fortunate to make it to the next round, we will end up in the finals. I make this bold prediction with the thought that all of our injured are back to full health.

  • Hey TA, Very well written (headache and all) and you were able to balance the positives with the reality of the situation. We’re down to bare bones and thus needed to play our absolute best and have the bounces to fall our way. We didn’t do the former and the latter (cumulatively) really went against us. Those strikes by Alaba and Mueller (at the end) were inch-perfect as was the deflection off the BFG for their 2nd…

    Guys like Alexis, Ozil and Cech know what it takes to play at this level. Guys like Gabriel, Coquelin, Campbell and even some of the older players who’ve only been around the fringe of their national teams (Santi, Nacho, Giroud, Debuchy) don’t have quite the same experience. If the group (supporters can help here…) stay together and work to raise their level last night’s match can be a learning/growing experience. We need to build on it in order to increase our belief in our quality and keep getting good results in the league. Big test on Sunday, when form goes out the window, blah, blah, blah, even if it’s the same 3 pts as any match…

    The (much) larger process of building Arsenal into one of the truly elite teams in European football seems a ways off. For that, ownership and management are going to have to spend at a higher level. Knowing Kroenke (and Wenger…) my take is that we’re not going to do so until the money-losing clubs are reigned in. The FFP seems dead so something new will have to happen and that could be a long time coming. That we’ve got 3 clubs in England willing to spend more than us and profit-sharing (through the TV contract) with the lower clubs means trouble for us (and those others–the two Mancs and Chavs–even with the big losses they’re willing to carry) at the highest level of European competition. Obviously, on the day, anything can happen, but yesterday for us, was not that day…

    To get closer we will need more real quality in depth (the point you highlighted re: rotation) and probably full groups of players. 8 or 10 or 12 in their prime playing years and a similar bunch of youngsters good enough to challenge them. Right now we’ve got too many injuries plus too many of the next gen off on loan (and perhaps not actually good enough…) and it’s a situation we need to rectify. We can’t do that until January, of course, and it won’t all happen (at the required level) all at once. Patience, never in high supply with football fans, is probably what we need the most…

    So, IMO, it’s time to dig in for the long haul, but also time to get really pumped to give it to that bunch from up the Seven Sisters…

  • Thanks 17HT 🙂

    Spot on re the quality of the strikes by Alaba and Muller for the third and fifth goal. I guess when it all goes your way it is easier to try these and succeed with them, but they were well taken and left a very good keeper with no chance…

    I really think Wenger and the BoD will spend more but will not rush into things. Building a quality team is a gradual process and we have started to make progress now, with winning the FA cup twice, winning the Charity Shield AND starting to beat our direct competitors on a regular basis. These are big steps forward. Next step, a really hard one but not impossible, is to win the League. Once we start doing that, we can make a move towards winning the CL. As a club, we have a lot going for us and there is plenty of money to make it happen. But we will need to remain patient and cherish the progress we have made and hopefully make further. 🙂

  • Hello, people. 🙂

    I told my friend – a Scouser- after I had found out Ramsey would be out for Munich that we would get destroyed in the same way like we had been destroyed at Anfield. Remember, we had beaten Liverpool 2:0 before we were thrashed 5:1. The difference? Rambo played the first one and missed the other one.

    I agree with TA’s well-put points aside from a goal that was chalked off – I think it was a correct call unlike the offside one when Ollie was going through on goal. We could have done better result-wise but Santi fluffed his lines twice in the attack. Maybe this was type of matches where lack of Schneiderlin-esque addition in our midfield was noticed too much as well as Koscielny’s and Bellerin’s importance.

    I would just add PSG to the list of best European teams as I see them in the same bracket with Real, Barca and Bayern, with Germans being the best of them.

    I hope our BoD see Pep as Arsene’s heir. He is intelligent man with manners and the one that searches for beauty in football which means we would basically get our Doctor Wenger from Gallifrey regenerated. 🙂

  • Hi Admir,
    How could it be a correct call? It came of his shoulder…

    I reckon you are right re the importance of Ramsey and we have written posts and comments about this in recent weeks. The combo of Bellerin and Rambo meant that Bayern had very little chance to hurt us, and with both gone they really dominated in that area (as was shown in a heatmap the BBC produced earlier today).

    I disagree re PSG. They might have the money and the players but they do not have the experience and history to win the CL anytime soon. It was put together with lots of money and that goes some way, but I still reckon that BM, Ba and Real are well above anybody else right now.

    Guardiola would be a good replacement for Wenger eventually for all the reasons you have given. And the fact that this does not sound unrealistic tells us a hell of a lot of how far Arsenal have come under Wenger.

  • Guys

    I am not sure if Pep is the heir for Wenger.

    Look, they play different types of footy, and when Pep comes in he would want us to play his type of footy, not our total football.

    Anyway good summary of the positives, and if we keep the positives we will be the hulk smashing through the gates of Spuds.


  • Good pair of comments there… You never know in the CL and I think all those teams in leagues they should win can really give the tournament a go, whereas in England it’s just much tougher (at the moment) as you can’t rest your best players (in the league) ever. On the other hand, I think playing tough opponents–slightly–more regularly as in Spain, can help a club going for a double…

    Guardiola at Arsenal does seem extremely appealing… I’m not so sure our Board of Directors thinks about much beyond their net-worths, however… 😦

    This ties into my, er, misunderstanding with F11ngers yesterday. I hunted down his deleted comment(s) and, yes, he wanted to kick my ass, but I provoked him, telling him to support another club. I thought I had indicated that I knew better, i.e., I was not serious, much as he probably knows better too… (Using a bit more respect with bloggers and players is totally different than avoiding all criticism, btw, IMO…)

    People can suggest that we should buy the very best players (in their positions, with their best years ahead of them…) in world football but I think it’s important to recognize that our ownership and management–i.e., our board of directors, don’t shop in that market. They might when it comes to a new manager (Guardiola) as they seem to recognize just how important a position it is, given that AW is (still, I believe) our highest paid employee. Remember it’s not just transfer fees but also salary and length of contract. Tax rates (higher in England) also play a role. Players also have to think of their longevity and where it’s easiest to be a part of trophy winning clubs. Yes, we’ve won a couple domestic cups, but it’s got to be seen as easier to play in a league where the refs protect you and you don’t have tough matches against bigger, less technical types in the league plus all those extra matches with the two league cups…

    I think Arsenal are steadily improving and doing very well in buying cast-offs from the biggest clubs (Ozil and Alexis) and getting in early on other talent, esp. some of the best English (French and Spanish, too…) kids. It’s a process, however, and we need to keep things real not beat the manager (nor the players) with sticks that ignore these realities.

    In my opinion… 😀

  • @TA – PSG have given a serious test to (weakened though) Real Madrid at Bernabeu. Real were extremely lucky to win while the French team hit the frame three times. The best central defender in the world, top midfield, Di Maria, Cavani and Ibrahimovic – I reckon they should be in the semis if none of the three favourites play against them before.

    I saw the ball hitting part of Ozil’s arm, I could be wrong though. 😀

    @17 – you’re right. English clubs had been dominant before when you could name Top 4 before the Gameweek 1. 2007-08 springs to mind – three clubs with over eighty points, three clubs in CL semifinals, all four kn QF.

  • Morning chaps just catching up.
    I don’t know if this came across or not when watching on TV.
    But I thought Costa gave Bellerin and Ramsey quite a tough time in the first leg.
    It was only a combination of good luck, poor finishing and some good defending that stop Costa taking advantage in that game. Imo

  • Morning Total.
    Your shoulder is still considered hand-ball, my only contention was, was it deliberate or not.
    But to be honest we was never going to get a decision like that in Bayerns own stadium, we are never that lucky, well not in Europe…

  • 17, that is so so true regarding the EPL and other major leagues.
    In England its relentless.
    Entertaining for the fans, but gruelling for our players.
    No wonder the players based in England look so knackered when playing in World Cups and European Championships.
    The only way in my opinion that Arsenal are ever going to compete for both the champions league and the Premier League is by having a deeper squad, in terms in terms of quality.
    But I’m not sure that that is ever going to become a reality unless there is a change of policy regarding transfers and the amounts that the club are prepared to invest in chasing the champions league its self…

  • Hi allezkev, good comments there…In the preview I tried to note that Bellerin had a LOT of trouble with Costa in the home match… Of course, the kid they’ve got on loan from Juventus, Coman, seemed able to get the ball onto his right foot and more or less torture Debuchy on that same side in the return…

    It will be Debuchy (likely with Campbell ahead of him) again in the derby and we should expect that to be a critical area. Totts looked pretty good with their own kid, Dele Alli, attacking down their left (our right) when I took glances at their Europa League match last night. They left it late to win vs Anderlecht and seemed to play all of their strongest players. Pochettini, post match was laying out all the “no excuses” lines about having to play Monday and then Thursday ahead of our match… I should probably hold off on this stuff until the match preview…

    My final take on Ozil’s handball was that it was at least as good a goal as the one off Giroud’s face (and hand) in the home match. Refs are weak–and weaker still in the CL–so they tend to give the close ones to the home team. We still would’ve been up against it even if the goal had stood but it didn’t help.

    Finally, and this one probably deserves MUCH deeper analysis but I cannot see an English team run for money (as Arsenal under Kroenke most certainly is) competing on multiple fronts successfully. Admir is right, back in 2007-08it was possible (to compete for the league and CL) but that was before the Mansour City money upset our traditional top 4. Once that project took hold (knocking Liverpool and then ManU out of CL football) it all was changed. Pool and United have speculated to get back up there (as, of course, Chavs have also). Only Arsenal have held the line, for better or for worse.

    I’m still confident that we can get a couple of players back after the break, win at home vs Zagreb while Bayern beat the Greeks, then travel to Olympiakos and get as many goals as we need to come 2nd in the group. Then we see who we draw, get more healthy bodies into the team in the new year (back from injury and loan and, maybe, in the market…) and see what’s what for trying our best in all (remaining) comps…

    But, maybe I’m not the only optimist. There’s seems to be a new article out in the French media (allez, care to translate the whole thing for us?…) where our manager appears to say, “I define myself as an optimist. My constant battle in this business is to draw out the beauty in man. At this level that can portray me as naive. At the same time, it allows me to believe it and it often gives me reason.”

    Works for me… 😀

  • Allezkev 🙂

    If ball on shoulder means handball, there would be a hell of a lot of penalties given… I can see why the referee did not give it as he has to make a decision on something that lasts just a fraction of a second, but that was a goal to me. Maybe I should check the rules again… 🙂

  • Lovely quote Seventeenho. The quest for beauty was one of the big reasons to set up this site and nice to see that Arsene is still after it too.

  • Hey, TA… Yeah, I need to hunt down the whole article and it would be nice to read enough French to see it in the original language. A lot of subtlety gets lost in translation when you start talking philosophy…

    The timing of the release of the article is interesting too. Pep & AW have some strong ideas about the best way to play the game and both, I think, value quite a bit more than bottom-line results. We split points in our CL games with Bayern but I think it could be argued that Guardiola (mostly as a consequence of the deeper squad and easier schedule…) got the upper hand when it came to being truest to his ideals… He didn’t hit his goal of 100% possession but 5 goals is pretty strong…

    We’ll likely want to switch back to greater pragmatism for the derby too. Part of that is that it’s such an emotional match for the supporters (both teams) with the result meaning so much more than the 3 points. Another element is that our squad is stretched so thin and our right side, in particular, may not bring 100% confidence into the cauldron. We’ll need to manage the (very high) emotions of the situation, i.e., start carefully and wear them down with superior quality… Totts are getting better at the back (not relying quite so much on Lloris to bail them out…) and they’re already trotting out their excuses, so they can afford to go for it a bit more. Hopefully we can build on our very good (recent) home form… Beating the old enemy (in the superior part of North London…) would be a real tonic heading into the Int’l break…

    But there I go, getting ahead of myself again… and I’ve definitely gotta make hay while the sun is shining. Proper preview tomorrow…

  • I think you were right, TA, the ball struck Mesut on the shoulder, but even if it hit lower down, the rules require that a handball is only given if there was clear intent to handle, and being struck is quite different from moving toward the ball.

    The trouble is that we were well beaten on the night really, and altho a goal awarded then might have changed the game, it appeared to me that Bayern were cruising and would have won anyway – to that that justifies a wrong call from the ref.

  • They were the better team, RA, no doubt about it, but if the Ozil goal had stood the confidence of the team would have had a triple shot in the arm, and we would probably have had a far better game. But it was not to be and our defending was poo poo in the pants! 😳

  • TA,

    Much thanks for the post. You very nearly turned a loss into a victory. For the positives I will include that the match confirmed that we are a terrific counter attacking team. Each time we broke against them, we threatened inspite of their intense pressing. I hope pragmatism forces Wenger to accept that it is and aught to be used as one of our most lethal weapons, particularly as our counters can also be so pleasing to the eye.

  • I do not agree however that we are a level lower than real madrid barcelona and bayern.
    Look at our squad.
    Peter Chech 5star
    Mertesacker 3,5 star
    Koscielny 4 star
    Bellerin 3,5 star
    Monreal 3,5 star
    Coquelin 4 star
    Ramsey 3,5 star
    Cazorla 5 star
    Ozil 5 star
    Sanchez 5 star
    Giroud 3,5 star.

    We have a very very strong squad.

    Barcelona maybe a little bit stronger with messi suarez neymar play like crazy good.

    But real madrid and bayern? Come on.. They got good players, so do we.

    Have a little faith that we actually can beat those teams and be champions if we olayed with cinfidence and the mentality.

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