Thursday, February 21, 2013

Arsenal 1-3 Bayern Munich. Any Hope?

By Adegboyega.

It’s time to reminisce the good days again; when certain players wore our jersey and made filing against the Arsenal alone bring fear amongst the opposition in most cases, and a sense of ‘we’ll have to play with our socks off today’ in the top level clubs in Europe.

But all that reminiscing will do us no good, facing and dealing with the reality will. A reality that has, like the Poldi body clock, seen us switch off and watch our season end three months before the season actually ends for a large part of the last eight years.

While indeed we have a second leg tie to deal with, and possibly a chance at turning this around, the majority of Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to Bayern Munich fails to inspire any form of belief in the club actually being able to turn the deficit around. According to the boss after the match - “We have examples of when we were two [goals] down and came back. Let’s not hide the truth, it will be extremely difficult [to qualify] against a team of that quality. We’ll give our best.”

We once again put up a lethargic first half display, one which kept me from recalling when we ever overturned a two-goal deficit at this stage of the Champions League. Not that I’m even in the mood to want to look that up.

This first half absence syndrome is the same that Manchester City, Chelsea and even Liverpool have taken advantage of in the last month; how more so an efficient Bayern side, that was about dealing killer blows at the sniff of an opportunity, a habit that’s been the core of their imperious form from the Bundesliga, a form that was brought to the front at the Emirates.

Toni Kroos, who impressed throughout and thus made Arteta, and indeed our entire midfield, seem very much out of place, opened scores with a first time half volley to hand the Bavarians the advantage of an away goal very early.

Then, again, Wojciech Szczesny poorly dealt with an attempt to make a save and yet again in such a situation, it unfortunately wasn’t any one defending that reacted quickest to our goal tender’s flappy hands and thus, Thomas Müller made it two to the visitors.

Being down by two goals only midway through the first half is enough to vaporise whatever form of confidence we had, more so as we failed to conjure a shot at the goal in the entire half. True to form lately, we raged out in the second half and started making some headway in the final third. In a fitting fashion, Lukas Podolski headed us into the game after Bayern failed to deal with a Cazorla cornerkick. Game on!

Wenger brought on Tomas Rosicky and Olivier Giroud for Aaron Ramsey and Podolski; the latter’s exit unpleasantly expected. The inclusion of both did, however, spark more life in our attack and a move involving Rosicky and Walcott ended with Giroud’s first time effort being palmed away by Manuel Neuer. 

Our mini-resurgence was put to bed moments after when Mario Mandzukic, almost inevitably, continued his rich vein of goal-scoring form and ‘bundled’ Bayern’s third in. Game over, and I dare say, European season over as well.

Theo Walcott disappointed me the most, failing to come alive on a night when we needed his recent good streak to continue the most. No one should blame Wenger for dropping Giroud, it was expected. More so, as what we needed against Bayern was to play our in-form players and honestly, Giroud has been off lately.

Maybe he should have started with Cazorla down the middle rather than out right, in place of Ramsey. But what’s done is done and our focus now should be the Saturday evening kick-off at home to Aston Villa in the Premier League.

Wilshere also laid the blame for our woes on the players saying that they were all letting the manager down. Admirable, really, but in a team sport, every person in the team is responsible when the chips are up or down, some more than others, therefore, the Professor is included amongst those letting the Arsenal down.

The way forward? This question has been flooded with answers for years but I’ll just do a recap.

(1) Spend good amount money on the quality players that can make the Arsenal formidable again. 

(2) Try the 4-4-2 formation, or any other reasonable formation that operates a two-striker system. 

(3) Challenge the board to agree with your terms. 

We can only wish the team the best. On one hand, being (practically) out of Europe and all other domestic competitions lets us focus on giving it our all in the league; on the other hand, finishing the league in a flourish is likely to keep us deluded that this team does not need reinforcements from point 1 above.

One thing that is definite, is how extremely dismal it is to be reduced to a club that celebrates merely finishing in the league’s top four, far off first and second place, and qualifying for ‘next season’s Champions League’; when at least being the league’s title contenders and making it to the latter stages of the Cup competitions should be the norm.

To all who settle for finishing fourth and qualifying for the Champions League, thanks for reducing the standards of what was once a great club. You can’t keep making excuses for a club that lost a League Cup final to an out-of-form Birmingham City in 2011, and got humiliated out of both domestic Cups this season by Bradford City and Blackburn Rovers of League One and the Championship respectively. It’s just not done!

To those who refuse to accept our long running mediocrity and keep pushing for the return of the true Arsenal, “The night is darkest just before the dawn.”, and I believe,  Arsenal will once more have a sustained period of greatness in my lifetime.

Whether it is during Wenger’s reign or after, I don’t know, but Arsenal will be great again.

(Follow me on twitter: @jidegunner12)

1 comment:

  1. The match was decided before kick off in my opinion. But we should not get angered by the loss against Bayern. We just have to except that they are too good for us at the moment or rather we are too poor for Bayern. There is no shame in losing to a better side.
    What we should be doing is give it all in the league to finish in the top 4. That is the best we can do.In fact, I believe we should rest our players in the next match against Bayern!