Thursday, 20 February 2014

10 Man Arsenal Lose To Bayern Munich

Last night was a good night for Arsenal in some ways despite losing 2-0 at home to Bayern Munich. The scoreline will probably mean they have little chance of qualifying for the quarter finals, but the circumstances of the night gave much hope for Arsenal for the rest of the season.

Arsene Wenger went with the team he was expected to pick with one exception when he included Yaya Sanogo as the central striker and kept Olivier Giroud on the bench. Sanogo had done well against Liverpool at the weekend but it had been supposed he played in that game to give Giroud a rest ahead of the Bayern game. It was a big risk from the boss and one which could have backfired quite easily.

Arsenal came out fighting from the first kick and looked to get behind Bayern as Bayern tried to push forward and close them down. They were on top early on and had the crowd behind them as they took the game to Bayern. The atmosphere died off a little when Wojciech Szczesny had to make an excellent save to deny Toni Kroos, but it picked up again as Arsenal pushed forward in search of the lead.

The first chance came to Sanogo whose snap shot was very well saved by Manuel Neuer and very shortly afterwards Arsenal got an even better chance. Jack Wilshere played Mesut Ozil in on the left and he feigned to shoot before cutting inside Jerome Boateng who took him down for a penalty. Ozil knew exactly what he was doing as he ran into the outstretched leg of Boateng who got a yellow card for his troubles.

With Mikel Arteta suspended and Giroud on the bench Ozil stepped up to take the penalty himself despite missing his previous attempt for Arsenal. On that occasion he never looked like scoring once the keeper didn't buy his dummy in his run up and it was no surprise when it was saved. He took exactly the same approach last night and when Neuer didn't buy it he didn't know where to put the ball. In the end he put it just left of centre and Neuer was able to reach back and get a hand to it to keep the ball out.

It was a bitter blow for Arsenal and a miss I thought they might come to regret before the game was over. Bayern gradually grew into the game and began to get more possession, but Arsenal looked dangerous on the break as Bayern held a high back line. Sanogo played a great ball for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to run on to and Neuer had to be very quick off his line to get to the ball before Chamberlain. 

As the half progressed the possession was more and more in Bayern's favour, but Arsenal were holding strong at the back and looking dangerous every time they went forward. The next blow for Arsenal came on the half hour mark when Kieran Gibbs went down with what looked like a hamstring injury and had to be replaced by Nacho Monreal. Bayern had being loading the right side of their attack and Monreal found it hard to get into the pace of the game as he struggled to cope on that side.

On 38 minutes the game swung hugely in Bayern's favour as Monreal didn't track an Arjen Robben run onto a ball over the top and Szczesny caught Robben on the shin after Robben beat him to the ball. It was a definite penalty but I thought the red card he got was harsh as Robben had knocked the ball away from the goal and Boateng had only got a yellow card when he took Ozil down and Ozil was through on the keeper. Lukasz Fabianski came on to play in goal and Santi Cazorla was the player sacrificed as a result.

David Alaba stepped up and hit the post with his penalty despite Fabianski going the wrong way and Arsenal were still in the game. They had to play for over 50 minutes with only 10 men though and against the best club side in the world too. It wax going to be a very tough backs to the wall remainder of the game for Arsenal and I would have happily taken a 0-0 draw at that stage.

Arsenal made it to half time without conceding but the second half was going to be very hard for them with only one substitution left to make in the game. The longer they could hold out the better but Bayern started to turn the screw immediately and got their reward after 54 minutes when that man Kroos fired a wonderful shot into the top corner of the net. There was nothing Fabianski could do about it and the signs were ominous for Arsenal with 35 minutes still remaining.

The players dug in though and gave their all for the cause as they did everything they could to keep the score at 1-0. There were a few close calls but it looked like they might just make it through to full time with only a solitary goal conceded until substitute Thomas Muller headed home with only two minutes remaining. He found space in the box after a great run by Claudio Pizarrio to take Per Mertesacker out of the way and he managed to lose Mathieu Flamini to score the goal.

The team managed to see out the last few minutes and the added time too, but there was some disappointment at the final whistle because of the late second goal. It was always going to be a huge task to go to Bayern for the second leg and to go there and overturn a two goal deficit is almost impossible. Arsenal did go to Bayern and win 2-0 last season though and ended up going out on away goals and they will need to at least match that score this time around.

The Arsenal players can be proud of their performance on the night and things might have been very different if Szczesny hadn't been sent off or if Ozil had scored his penalty. The attacking display from the team up until Szczesny's red card was very encouraging and it gives me a lot of hope for the rest of the season. If they can approach their remaining domestic games with the same attitude there is a trophy there for the taking.

Sanogo did very well in attack and looked like a genuine threat which is something it's been hard to say about Giroud in recent weeks. The boss said he picked him on form and it's up to Giroud now to up his game if he wants to get back in the team. Chamberlain used his pace again and was a real threat on the break and he has to be utilised as often as possible for the rest of the season.

Flamini was very strong in his defensive midfield role and it's a pity he lost Muller for the second Bayern goal. If Arsenal had defended like that against Liverpool last week they would not have conceded five goals and they need that level of defensive concentration for the rest of the season. 

Ozil came in for a lot of criticism during the game as he struggled to do the defensive part of the game which was needed after the red card. I thought he did as much as could be expected for a player who isn't defensively minded and he never stopped running for the whole game. The penalty miss might have affected his confidence for a while, but hopefully he will feel the need to make up for it over the rest of the season. 

Despite the defeat the Arsenal players can be proud of their performance on the night. If Szczesny had stayed on the game might have ended very differently but he didn't and Bayern took advantage of the situation. The players need to try to recharge their batteries for the game against Sunderland on Saturday and it won't be too easy after all the work they put in last night. A win against Sunderland is an absolute must but they have been in good form recently and are fighting for every single point at the wrong end of the table.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.


  1. Ozil is a luxury Arsenal can ill afford. This is his third penalty miss and he shd be relieved
    of this duty.His work rate and tracking back is poor. He shd be dropped .Maybe he missed Ramsey. I hope the Welshman comes back soon.He could be the catalyst Arsenal have missed.
    Nowadays the stakes in the big games are staggering and claims of ref bias have begun to rear its ugly head.You never know.These refs are very ingenius at exploiting the grey areas in their decision making.
    Remember the Norwegian ref in the Chelsea/Barca sf in the cl. The blues were denied three blatant penalty calls.To add insult to injury,Drogba was banned for five games.
    For the return match ,don't be surprised a gunner is sent off . Very easy.In a 50/50 tangle,the gunner is adjudged to have kicked the German when it was the former who placed his foot for the ball. The gunner will say he kicked the ball. The German said he was kicked.

    1. Only Flanini and Wilshere covered more mileage than Ozil last night but his defending isn't great. He wasn't bought for his defensive abilities and he is a luxury the team has to have if they are to win anything. I have no doubt he misses Ramsey and Walcott but the club also need to invest in players who can play at his level when Arsenal are attacking.