I’m not sure how much of a match report I can offer up this morning. The excitement combined with the beer screwed up any hope I had of taking notes. Needless to say, it was an eventful match.
We took the game 2-0, away from home, against a team that had scored 30 odd goals in their last 11 straight wins. Whichever way you decide to spin that, it’s an amazing result. However, it doesn’t take much digging around the stats bank to see that really, we were hardly scintillating. We managed 5 attempts on goal all evening, 3 of those found the target and two were goals.
We won the leg, not the game. What was important to the travelling faithful and those watching on the box was that the club didn’t capitulate. We wanted to see the boys had some pride, we wanted to see that they cared about the shirt enough to put in a shift in an intimidating arena against superb opposition.
Well, we certainly saw a fight out there. We also saw some standout performances from some unlikely players. The first on that list has to be the keeper. He hadn’t played a competitive game since 1992, so the worry was that he was going to be rusty. Well, he wasn’t, he had a blinding game and kept the Germans at bay single handedly at times. His performance was solid, his concentration levels were high and he shouldn’t be dropped for the Swansea game.
The second performance that impressed was that of Laurent Koscielny. A player who did so well last season he was linked with a move to Barcelona. He’s had a nasty year, he found himself unfairly relegated to third choice defender by proxy of Vermaelen’s captaincy, then when he has managed to land a game, he’s been atrocious. Not last night. He was in the main, calm, composed and aggressive when he needed to be. He looked solid and he brought far more assurance to the back than Thomas has been all season.
As for the rest of the team? Well, it was a battling performance. We were generally dominated for possession We don’t play the Arsenal way these days. We do a bad impression of teams of old. Watching us chug the ball around is painful at times because I know how good the system used to look. The midfield didn’t really click during the game, the teams pass completion rate was a painfully poor 65%. It’s never going to when you’re playing someone like Ramsey in there. He doesn’t have the speed of pass or skill to make things happen.
Up top, bar a few half decent runs from Theo Walcott, we really didn’t set the world on fire. At the highest level, whatever your support levels are of the club, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud really don’t cut the mustard.
The game opened well, Rosicky slipped Theo down the right, he bombed into the box and picked out Giroud with a ball that travelled through the legs of Dante. The goal was a tap in. Giroud’s first in 497 minutes. Staggering eh?
Bayern took the calm and easy approach. They tried to slow the pace of the game and get things back on their terms. As a Bayern fan, the lack of urgency would have killed me. At times, it bordered on complacency how easy they were taking things. However, they were dominant. They created chances, but nothing cut throat. We made it through to half time with a goal to our name. Really what we needed was an early goal to put Bayern into a panic. We couldn’t make anything happen. The Bayern keeper must have been freezing because he had hardly anything to do until we eventually scored our second late on when Koscielny connected with a corner to make sure things were spicier than a spicy piece of chicken.
Well, nothing too spicy happened. Arteta did his best to ensure he slowed down play with three fouls in injury time. Nothing says you’re off the pace like conceding 10 fouls during a game. The game played out, the battle was won, but the Champions League war had been lost once again.
I’ll enjoy the win. I’m proud of the boys for not capitulating, but at the end of the day… the result is what matters.
Out of the Champions League.
What does this mean for the rest of the season? Well, I’m hoping it acts as a launch pad. Wenger dropped under performers for the Bayern game and guess what? The people he put in their place did a great job. Thomas Rosicky… what a solid performance from him. His energy and know how worked wonders yesterday. Why has it taken until March for him to see any sort of action? Wenger needs to adopt a form based policy going into the weekend’s game. The players need to be under no illusions that careers are on the line if last nights level of battle isn’t shown in every game.
Moving forward, Wenger needs to look at how impressive Bayern have been over the course of a season and ask himself whether attaining those levels is something Arsenal should be aiming for. Is Arsene doing the best for the club every summer? Is the way he operates best practice… if it’s not, someone needs to ask why he isn’t doing all he can to make the club the greatest it can be. If Wenger thinks his antiquated ways are the way forward, he needs to go. This isn’t an Arsene Wenger issue anymore. It’s a club issue. What is best for the club should always be the first question people ask. Wenger has been a massive part of our past, is he the future? It’s a big question. Not one that tarnishes his legend. If he approaches this summer with anything other than a jack hammer, he’s not doing the best for the club any more. We’re a million miles away in the league, we’re a million miles away in the Champions League and we’re on the decline.
It’s not acceptable that I’m proud about a defeat in the last 16 of the Champions League. We’re better than that. People say no other English club made it to the quarter finals. So what? Does that justify our poor performance in the the first leg? No. You know what… the other three clubs will rebuild. They’ll invest. They’ll try and come back better. If we don’t take that attitude what is the point in calling ourselves a football club? Where was the worth in all the upheaval of the stadium move? We need to achieve. We need to want to be the best and we need to stop making excuses. You don’t have to be the richest to compete.