By Jack (@swgoonerafc)
I’ve deliberately taken stock from the Bayern defeat before writing this, due to the fact that reflection, thought and consideration are far better than knee jerk anger filled words, fuelled by the bitterness of another defeat served by those at the top of Europe’s football table.
There’s good reason however to take heart from Bayern, the first 30 minutes, we rattled them, I tweeted before the game I thought we could get at them, the German league as a whole isn’t that strong. Leverkusen sitting in 3rd have been beaten 5 by United and now 4 by PSG in this year’s Champion’s League which goes to show that it is a given that a side like Bayern will be domestically dominant and retain that same impression in European competition. But we rattled them.
Ozil’s penalty was a huge turning point, Wenger was right it affected him badly, he seems to be self aware of his talent but holds a vulnerability which was exposed on Tuesday evening. He is aware of his critics and knew what the reaction would have been following his miss, compounded by the media spotlight from his homeland which was shining on The Emirates.
It would have been a huge story if Germany’s star player had scored against their star team, it’s all conjecture to surmise how the game would have gone if he’s put that away. But at that point we’d have been well worth our lead, buoyed by a fantastic crowd I think we’d have gone on to beat them. But the meek penalty and Szczesny’s sending off saw the end of that.
The sending off was warranted, Robben would have put it away, it’s a frustrating law when a team is effectively punished twice for one infraction, but that’s the rule, it was in Paris in 2006 and it is now. Robben’s reaction of going down like he’s been shot was equally frustrating, but much like the straight red card, it’s a given. Accept it and move on, we got lucky that Alaba hit the post but the balance of play had already shifted in their favour. Exacerbated by the bullying the aforementioned Robben and Lahm bestowed upon Monreal for the hour he had on the pitch, they turned the screw and got the result they desired.
I’m not going to give a blow by blow account of the game – there’s tons of those I want to give my take on an issue that will always hold us back in the Champion’s league, our constant compromise.
Ever since the F.A Cup win of 2005 our team has steadily been picked away, replacing premium players with a lower class of player which will always hold us back. We’ve always had the odd star, 2006 – Henry, 2007 – 2011 Fabregas, RVP, Nasri , 2012 onwards Wilshere, Koscielny, Cazorla and now Ozil. But these stars have always come with a compromise which undoubtedly have been our undoing in the Champion’s league. I fully stand behind the fact Wenger’s hands were tied in this period, he worked miracles with these sides getting them into the Champion’s league year in, year out as other spent millions to get the same goal.
I also do not see 4th as trophy, but it is some achievement none the less, it’s an easy stick to beat us with, other fans, our rivals, the media continue with it because it is a valid point. However with a £140m in the bank I hope this compromise will soon end, to reinforce my point I want to talk about our last few Champion’s League exits to at the time, Europe’s best.
In 2010 Barcelona saw us dumped out at the Nou Camp, Silvestre, Mikel Silvestre started for us in the Nou Camp against Lionel Messi, in the first leg when Gallas went off injured Denilson replaced him and Song dropped back into the centre of defence. Any defence will struggle against Zlatan, Messi et al but this compromise of a quartet of Nasri, Fabregas, Walcott and Diaby across those 2 legs it was the defence, or lack of it, that was our undoing. At the front end Bendtner started both legs, despite his now cult status in some quarters, you’re not going to win much with Bendtner as the spearhead, RVP injured yes, but both defence and attack were compromised leading to a 6-3 aggregate defeat.
Now to 2011 – Barcelona, Djourou started and finished both legs, there’s a good reason he’s been farmed out on loan again, simply not good enough. Alongside Koscielny in both legs he was an awful weak point. Although this tie, much like Tuesday’s Bayern game was heavily influenced by a sending off, RVP’s unjust kicking of the ball after the whistle, it was the compromise against the Wilshere, Fabregas, Nasri, RVP axis which was again our undoing.
Despite that, the first leg did provide a moment which I’ll forever treasure, Arshavin’s 83rd minute goal, is only eclipsed by Tony Adams’ “Would you believe it” from 1998 and the return of The King, Henry against Leeds in terms of my all time favourite Arsenal goals.
Milan in 2012 and last season against Bayern weren’t defeat’s on the same scale, the 4-0 away in Milan was shocking, we were totally outplayed, but that was our first team, as against Bayern, truth be told those were justified defeats, against our strongest sides, by better teams.
Now to Tuesday’s compromise, Yaya Sanogo. I’m not going to slate him he did really well considering, but that’s the point, is doing really well considering really good enough? Bayern Munich is not the game to be throwing in Sanogo to try to make an impression. The reasons behind it are obviously influenced by Giroud’s stupid indiscretions but it again showed we’re having to compromise at the highest level we can play at. 2010 and 2011 it was always our frail defence in question, so it was the defence that a creative free flowing attack down. Now those roles have been reversed, we’ve a great defence but it is the sharp end of the pitch which now being blunted.
To emphasise this, look at the forwards the other 7 teams in action this week started with in their games, Man City – Negredo, Barcelona – Messi, Leverkusen – Kießling, PSG – Ibrahimovic, Milan – Balotelli, Atletico Madrid – Diego Costa and of course Bayern – Mandzukic. All of these would be in our starting 11 even with Giroud there to pick, I’m not using this to highlight Sanogo saying he won’t be good enough, but at the moment he isn’t. He’s showed great promise so far and long may it continue, as Giroud’s behaviour, which may appeal to the lad in all of us, is beyond idiotic and he deserves to be punished.
But the point I am making is that we’re again compromising against Europe’s elite which will always hold us back. We’ve finally got a defence sorted, our midfield particularly when Ramsey returns is as good as I’ve known it, but our strike force is now our weak point. I won’t dwell on Ozil, yes he could do more defensively, but that isn’t what he’s there for, who has he to pass to, who has he got making darting runs in behind? Defending isn’t his game, he’s there to make and score goals, at the moment he’s unable to do that due to a lack of top class striker. This season’s compromise, the compromise which will ultimately be our downfall in this season’s CL.
I may be wrong, but that is my opinion, in 2006 we reached the final with a side full of compromises! So maybe it will work again, but I personally don’t think it will, even when Giroud penetrates the side once again.
You can follow him on twitter : Jack (@swgoonerafc)