Bayern Munich 0 Arsenal 2: Three lessons as the Gunners come close
Bayern Munich 0 Arsenal 2: What lessons did we learn as the Gunners won but were knocked out on away goals?
Giroud gives Gunners perfect start
“We need to score an early goal. In football you never know,” proclaimed Olivier Giroud ahead of the game. And it took just two minutes and 48 seconds for the striker to give the Gunners the lead and silence the Allianz Arena. Theo Walcott picked up Tomas Rosicky’s pass on the right, darted into the box and fizzed a low cross into the far post for the Frenchman to fire home his 15th goal of the season. The visitors could not have hoped for a better start but Arsene Wenger’s men failed to use the momentum from the opener and push on. Sloppiness began to set in, epitomised by Rosicky’s constant failure to find his team-mates in the final third. When the half-time whistle blew, Giroud’s goal was Arsenal’s only shot.
Sloppiness leads to glorious failure again
Arsenal’s inability to string together more than a handful of passes proved costly on Wednesday as they failed to settle into any kind of midfield rhythm in the Bavarian capital. Rosicky was guilty of giving the ball away cheaply but he was by no means the only culprit. The visitors’ ineffective passing display was summed up midway through the first half when Aaron Ramsey, under no pressure at all, inexplicably slid the ball straight out of play. On this disjointed, stop-start performance, it is easy to forget that possession-based football was what Arsenal used to be famous for under Wenger, who is about to oversee an eighth-straight season without a trophy. Bayern, who were far from at their purring best and were perhaps guilty of complacency, do deserve credit for tirelessly harrying the man in possession. But in truth, Laurent Koscielny’s late header, which gave the Gunners a 2-0 win on the night, was always going to be more pride-restoring than tie-changing after the visitors failed to click into gear. Nevertheless, Arsenal do deserve praise for securing an impressive win in Germany and showing some of the steel that they lacked in the first leg. It was a scenario which bared a startling resemblance to their clash with AC Milan exactly a year ago, when the Gunners won 3-0 at home after being thrashed 4-0 in the first leg at San Siro. Sadly, it seems, Wenger’s men failed to learn from their first-leg mistakes of 2012.
Wenger must accept that Gunners are not good enough
As Arsenal fans are left to reflect on another trophyless campaign, it is hard to cast an eye back over the last few seasons and see anything but a gradual and tortuous demise into ordinariness. What was once a side starting every season with title aspirations has been gradually chiseled down into a team aiming for a Champions League spot at best. A place in next season’s competition is far from assured, with the Gunners five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea with 10 games left to play. Wenger needs to be honest with himself and accept that the squad at his disposal is not good enough to be challenging for the top honours. If the Frenchman does, he can at last set about gradually rebuilding his side into title-challengers. But his apparently unwavering belief in his current crop is worrying and there is little to suggest he is about to change his ways. It seems Wenger is in dire need of a wake-up call and perhaps failure to qualify for the Champions League would serve as just that. So far, at least, Arsenal’s demise has been slow and painful.