Making a Mes
The obvious place to start is with our misfiring German. He may have cost the club £42million but on the evidence of this performance alone, you’d struggle to make a decent argument for paying 42p for him. After a bright start and a wonderful piece of skill to win an early penalty, his subsequent failure to convert said spot kick saw his performance descend into the kind of display that was more detrimental than helpful to the team. Having come in for a lot of criticism in recent weeks, here was an opportunity for Ozil to prove his worth as well as show exactly why he is considered one of the best players in the world. Unfortunately, failure to track runners, inability to find space and distinct lack of urgency in his play against the team from his homeland has him rightly in the firing line.
While some of the scapegoating has and will continue to be over the top, it is increasingly difficult for even his staunchest backers (such as myself) to express anything other than disappointment. This was a big occasion where, as an undoubtedly big player, he was expected to perform. One can only hope this serves as a wakeup call and he can start delivering the performances anyone who has watched him regularly down the years know he is capable of.
In the Red
While Ozil’s penalty miss for Arsenal was indeed a significant moment in the game, the outcome was ultimately decided on the penalty decision at the other end despite the fact that too was missed. Whether Alaba scored or not, the damage had already been done. Szczesny’s red card for bringing down Arjen Robben meant that what was already a difficult task was going to be damn near impossible. And so it proved.
There can be no argument with the decision and it’s difficult to lay blame with our Polish keeper. With Robben bearing down on him, he had to make a judgement call. If he stays on his line he makes it easy for the attacker so coming out the way he did would have seemed like the best option. However, there is no margin for error. In such a situation, you need to 100% sure you’re going to get to the ball first. Unfortunately, he didn’t. Compare it to a similar situation moments earlier when the Ox was closing in on Manual Neuer. The Big German keeper just about made it to ball first and the chance went away. The difference, although marginal, produced a monumentally different outcome.
Robben was able to find his way into the box due mainly to the fact Arsenal players were ball watching rather than tracking him. While a midfielder might have done a better job ‘shielding’ him, the main source of blame lies with Nacho Monreal who seemed to have no idea what was going on. In fairness, the Spaniard had only just been brought on following Gibbs’ injury but it’s certainly not the first time he’s been caught short and allowed runners in behind him.
As a full back, it’s obvious he is more inclined to play higher up the pitch and support attacking players but sometimes, he needs to get it into his head that he is first and foremost a defender. He improved as the second half went on but by then it was already too late.
Along with Monreal, Arsenal were pegged back and forced to defend manfully in order to keep the Munich juggernaut at bay. In fact, for a long time it looked as though only the wonder strike from the disgustingly talented Toni Kross was to be the sole difference on the night. Unfortunately, the killer blow came after one lapse by Koscileny, who otherwise excelled himself playing as well as a centre back could in the circumstances. The Frenchman’s 88th minute decision to take it upon himself to charge forward in search of an unlikely equaliser initially looked to pay dividends as he successfully won a free kick on the halfway line. Unfortunately, his decision to stay up for the set piece proved costly as he was out of position once the kick broke down. As he ambled back, it was clear his brief absence led to an imbalance in the defence. That was just the opening Bayern needed and they took full advantage as Muller headed home from a pinpoint cross. Arsenal ruthlessly punished and Bayern showing exactly why they are so lauded.
This is NOT a specific criticism of Koscielny’s endeavour; rather a reminder than when you are up against the best, even a 1% drop in your game can be exploited.
After his somewhat impressive cameo against Liverpool, the boss again opted to start Yaya Sanogo up front. You’ll never get me on board with the idea that at team the size and stature of Arsenal should be going up against the European champions with an inexperienced youngster as a lone forward. I don't think the desire for proven quality in that position is a bad thing and you have to wonder what you truly expect to achieve in such situations by taking such a huge risk.
But that’s a wider point. In isolation, Sanogo once again showed he wasn’t a particularly bad option with some nice early touches and even a shot on target for his troubles. As expected, he faded as the game went on – mainly due to Bayern dominating possession with a man advantage.
Sanogo is still very, very raw. while one would hope his good start won’t distract from the need to strengthen in this area, the signs are somewhat encouraging so far. Still very much one for the future, rather than someone to place all our faith in right now.
Despite a whole second leg to play, this is already looking like another European encounter where Arsenal give a decent account of themselves but ultimately, come up short. For the last few years, as we attempt to go toe-to-toe with the elite, the players always seem to come a cropper; usually in dramatic circumstances and quite often, in the kind of close or heart-breaking fashion where we pat ourselves on the back and declare our ‘pride’ in defeat. Whether it is two late goals in Paris, Bendtner’s miss in Barcelona or the ‘almost’ comebacks against Milan and Bayern, time after time, we come away pointing isolated moments and incidents that could have swung the pendulum in our favour. The hard luck story is one that is oft repeated. However, while we attempt to take solace from the team’s ‘bravery’, it cannot be ignored that so-called ‘Heroic’ failure is still very much failure. Despite our protestations when certain people point this out, at some point this narrative needs to change rather than simply allowing it to define us a club.