Thursday, 14 March 2013

Arsenal's Win 2-0 Away To Bayern Munich Isn't Quite Enough

Arsenal went to Bayern Munich last night with a seemingly impossible task ahead of them. They had lost the home leg 3-1 three weeks ago and needed to score three goals or they were going out of the Champions League. It looked like an impossible task for an Arsenal that had rarely played at their best this season.

The team was pretty much as expected with Kieran Gibbs coming back from injury to play at left back. Tomas Rosicky came in to midfield for the injured Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey got to play with Lukas Podolski also injured. Lukasz Fabianski started in goal for Wojciech Szczesny who was rested for the game.

Bayern had played so well in the first game that Arsenal's task looked to be beyond them. Surely it was only a matter of how much they could limit any further damage. I had hoped for Arsenal to regain some pride on the night with a performance to show what it means to wear the shirt to the players.

Arsenal got off to the perfect start when Olivier Giroud smashed the ball into the roof of the net from close range after Theo Walcott had squared the ball to him. Suddenly they had hope and Bayern seemed more than a little lost. They still had a one goal cushion, but they didn't know how to approach the rest of the game.

Arsenal didn't create an awful lot more in the first half, but they defended very well when it was needed. At half time it was still 1-0 to Arsenal and the home fans were notable by their silence. The Arsenal fans could be heard singing from the first minute to the last and they did the club proud as always.

There was more of the same in the second half with Arsenal struggling to create chances, but managing to hold tight at the back. Bayern came into the game even more at the start of the second half, but they failed to get anything past Fabianski in the Arsenal goal.

I was very impressed with Laurent Koscielny and Carl Jenkinson in defence and Kieran Gibbs wasn't bad for his first game in nearly two months. They were ably assisted by Fabianski and Per Mertesacker with a defensive performance to bring back memories of Arsenal teams from previous years.

There were a couple of defensive scares for Bayern with Gervinho going close after he had come on for Ramsey. Giroud also failed to set up Oxlade-Chamberlain in front of the Bayern goal when he slipped as he tried to poke the ball to him. Bayern looked comfortable though until Arsenal got their first corner with four minutes remaining.

Santi Cazorla whipped in a very good corner from the right and Koscielny was on hand to head it into the night. There was an almighty scramble as Arsenal tried to retrieve the ball in an effort to get the game going as quickly as possible. In those last four minutes and three minutes of added time they never really created another chance, but they certainly had Bayern worried.

I'm not sure how the referee only added three minutes with all of the substitutions and time wasting by Bayern. I was highly unimpressed by Bayern's ability to fall over whenever they were approached by an Arsenal player and by how often the officials bought it. Bayern looked far from the team tipped by many to win this season's Champions League.

At the final whistle the Arsenal players looked very disappointed to be out of the competition. They should be proud of their efforts on the night and their exit was glorious in it's own way. After the severe disappointment of the first leg the team went some way towards restoring some of the pride which had being missing far too often this season.

Their exit was due to the performance in the first 45 minutes of the home game in particular. When the team pulled a goal back in the home leg they probably pushed forward too much and the third goal Bayern scored was ultimately the difference between the teams. Without that goal to fall back on last night's game could well have been a very different one.

The team now have 10 league games left to save their season. All that's left to play for is fourth place and a place in next season's Champions League. They have to win as many of those 10 games as possible and hope the teams above them will drop points.

Hopefully last night's performance can give the players the lift they need to play at their best in those 10 remaining games. The first of those games is at Swansea on Saturday and it will be a very tough test for the team. Three points would be a great return from that game and the spirit shown last night will certainly help to achieve that goal.

There are some big decisions for the manager to make ahead of that game. He must decide who to play on goal and at left back as well as deciding whether Koscielny keeps his place ahead of Vermaelen. None of them are easy choices but it won't be easy for him to make changes to a defence which performed so well last night. Whoever plays had to defend with the same intensity that was shown last night if Arsenal are going to win the game.

I'll look into that a lot more in my preview on Saturday, but for now it's time to bask in the joy of Arsenal's victory last night. It may not have been enough to get them through to the quarter finals, but it went a long way to restoring some pride. Hopefully that pride can remain with the team for the rest of the season and help them to achieve the one goal they have left.

Here's the highlights from last night's game.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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