Let’s all be honest with ourselves. We were never goin to get through last night, were we? Were we? But by Gove, if you’re going to go down, make sure it’s with all guns blazing, swinging and lashing out at everything.
Those Arsenal players did that yesterday with a 2-0 victory over a Bayern Munich side that hasn’t been defeated at home all season. When you look at their record and the fact that they’ll probably be the first of all of the proper leagues to lift their domestic trophy, the fact that Arsenal went out only on away goals is enough to restore some pride.
It was most certainly a glorious failure. A two legged defeat that will hopefully leave the team with much confidence going into what is the most crucial time in the season and what will in all probability define our transfer policy for the summer as well as our marketability next season. It was the best we could make out of a bad situation, tinged with an element of DeJa Vu following our effort last season against Milan.
Champions League football next season is the only prize left to play for now for this Arsenal team. The opportunity has gone for silverware this season, but there is still much work to be done and if you’re going to go out, go out of a competition that doesn’t dent the already fragile confidence of a team on the metaphorical ropes.
I said in my blog yesterday that realism must give way to hope and pragmatism must be super-ceded by belief. But although the Arsenal players didn’t go through in the tie, you can’t argue that they didn’t at least offer us a glimmer of hope. Giroud’s goal in the third minute was the perfect tonic, then after a following 80 odd minutes of Arsenal with their backs to the wall, Koscienly’s header with five minutes to go gave us that final flicker before the final whistle. The very fact that Bayern were reduced to holding the ball in the corner flag just shows how much we made this great team nervous.
So overall on the night, you have to say that pride was restored and it was a satisfactory result. Performance-wise I actually think we weren’t that great. I said to The Management during the game that watching this Bayern team have all of the possession, all of the shots, yet come up against a resolute defence and an attack that scores with its first and second shots on target, was a bit like watching the Arsenal of old of previous seasons. Now I know what it is like to have a smash and grab result. Defensively we must praise the team and if their performance last night can be mirrored in every Premier League game for the rest of the season, then our chances of Champions League qualification will be dealt no harm at all. However, in midfield I think we were guilty of some very sloppy passing from all three of Ramsey, Rosicky and Arteta, and Cazorla flitted in and out of the game on the left hand side. Giroud I thought was quite poor – goal aside – and some of his decision making has all the hallmarks of an average Premier League squad player. There was one moment in the second half when he inexplicably took a punt at goal from 40 yards out when a number of Arsenal players had found space for a good build up. I’m yet to be convinced he’s the long term answer and surely Arsene must be looking at another option for our strike force next season.
But let us not dwell too much dwell too much on the negative. We all know the damage was done in the first leg and we have all chastised the team one-way or another a month ago for that performance. What we must focus on today is that quite simply, pride has been restored. Now it is essential that the team take the positives from the game yesterday and accentuate them when we line up against Swansea on Saturday.