Arsene Wenger pointed to David Ospina’s inclusion on the Ballon d’Or ‘longlist’ as justification of his decision to play the Colombian ahead of Petr Cech in Arsenal’s first two Champions League games. But as Cech showed again on Tuesday, form is temporary whereas class is permanent. Wenger’s solitary summer signing made a multitude of saves and catches as he repelled wave after wave of Bayern Munich attacks. As it turned out, the home actually had more shots on target than the visitors – eight compared to six – but crucially Cech let none past. His composure clearly rubbed off on the centre-back pairing in front of him, as for a change, Arsenal managed to not shoot themselves in the foot. Ospina feels privately that he has let his manager down with his blunder-strewn displays against Olympiakos and Dinamo Zagreb. If Arsenal don’t make it out of the group stages, the real questions should be asked of the manager’s decision not to play Cech until now.
Bayern Munich had won their previous 12 matches and arrived at Emirates stadium with an aura of invincibility surrounding them. For the first 15 minutes, Arsenal seemed in awe of their opponents and stood back and watched the German champions pass round them in triangles and run rings around them. Suddenly, however, the Gunners seemed to snap out of their malaise and remembered that they’re actually not a bad football side themselves when they want to be. Two weeks ago they blitzed Manchester United with an awesome display of incisive football and were 3-0 up within 20 minutes. Last night was a totally different performance but an equally effective one. Playing virtually as an away team in their home stadium, Arsenal’s display was reminiscent of their 2-0 away win over Manchester City back in January, during which Santi Cazorla was outstanding in the holding role. Tuesday night’s star performer was Mesut Ozil, the German inspirational against his countrymen. If Arsenal can repeat the performance in the return fixture, Europe’s top sides will have no choice but to take notice.
Wenger’s decision to send out the same line-up that demolished Watford 3-0 on Saturday proved fruitful. Making changes for the sake of them, or for the contrived reason of resting players so early in the season – especially goalkeepers – often causes more problems than it solves. Since the Olympiacos debacle Arsenal have scored eight goals without reply and finally seem to have got their act together. Hector Bellin and Nacho Monreal are now firmly first choice selections at full-back and both put in sterling performances against the German champions in what truly was a ‘must-win’ game. Mesut Ozil was outstanding and stepped up to the plate on a night where Alexis Sanchez couldn’t replicate his recent excellent goal-scoring form. Although Theo Walcott will be aggrieved to not have buried his headed chance, Wenger will be distinctly pleased that Olivier Giroud came off the bench to score once more. In the French striker, Arsenal are in danger of having their very own ‘super-sub’.
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