Tonight we faced Bayern Munich, the reigning European Champions, in their own back yard and gave them a game. This season we’ve been guilty of under-performing and putting in displays that have been subpar, but tonight was not one of those nights. I was proud of the effort the boys put in today.
Our game-plan was excellent, and in that regard Arsene couldn’t have done better with the resources he had. About 5 minutes into the game, I tweeted that Theo would have been perfect for a match like this. Bayern who already held a comfortable lead, would predictably try and dominate possession, especially at home, and stifle any threat from Arsenal. That happened but with that there was a lot of space in behind as they pushed high up the pitch. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain apart, we had no real pace to scare the Bayern back line.
Without Ramsey or Theo, it would always be an uphill challenge and it was hard not to think back to the first leg when Mesut Özil stepped up to take that penalty. I have no doubt whatsoever that if he smashed the ball into the net and scored in that moment, the tie would have been completely different.
But back to tonight, and most of the players put in a real shift. Fabianksi was excellent, saving a penalty from Thomas Müller and making a smart save from a Götze half volley. He didn’t have a chance for the Schweinsteiger goal. Mertesacker, Koscielny, Sagna and Vermaelen were excellent, and I was particularly impressed with the captains performance considering he’s been out for a long time both injured and on the bench. With Gibbs being injured during parts of the season, I would seriously consider using Vermaelen in that position on a more regular basis. He is part more secure than Monreal and always gives 110%. Maybe that’s how Vermaelen can get himself back into more regular first team action.
Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla were deployed to anchor the midfield which was a slightly surprising selection choice as most people thought Mathieu Flamini would start. But it signalled Arsene Wenger’s intent having more attacking midfielders on the pitch. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mesut Özil and Lukas Podolski made up the midfield while Olivier Giroud spearheaded the attack. Podolski was also a surprise selection choice, but I guess Arsene felt he had nothing to lose.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was excellent and full of running, while Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta were the same. Mesut Özil was poor in the first 45 minutes and was duly taken off for Rosicky at half time. Reports suggested that Özil had a hamstring tweak, while more cynical Gooners felt Arsene was being brave. I prefer to think it was the latter.
Lukas Podolski had a quiet game as well but popped up with a goal which gave us all some hope with half an hour left, and a goal we deserved on the night. Unfortunately, it was clear we had ran out of legs and we couldn’t muster the energy to force that last push to try and score the two more goals we needed.
We had a few half chances in the closing minutes of the game but in the end, it was one hell of a gutsy performance from an Arsenal side that had a virtually impossible task. The damage was done in the first leg, but Arsenal gave a performance every Arsenal fan can be proud of.
Arsene pointed out before the game that referees had conspired against Arsenal, pointing to the sending off of Jens Lehmann in the final and Van Persie at the Nou Camp. It’s hard not to agree with the sentiment as the Szczesny red card was also harsh in my eyes.
Another season where we’ve been knocked out of the Champions League at the first knockout stage and it’s not hard to think with a bit more luck, we would have progressed further in the last few seasons.