Arsenal 0 Bayern 2 (Arse2mouse)

(Getty)

(Getty)

When you come up against a bully, they best thing you can do is give him a swift punch in the nose.* Tonight, Arsenal faced the biggest bully in Europe and gave him a proper jab to the proboscis. But this German bully recovered, with a little help from the referee, and proceeded to give us a bit of a beating in the end.

Before the match kicked off, I would’ve gladly taken a draw. Munich came to the emirates as reigning Champions of Europe and with a sparkling CV this season.

As it happened, Arsenal did more than show improvement. We were better than I could’ve hoped for in the opening 40 minutes. We stood toe to toe with the champion and bloodied their nose. Unfortunately, missed opportunities gave Bayern a chance to regain their composure, and one lapse in concentration, like a haymaker from a heavyweight, was enough to essentially knock us out of the match, and potentially out of the tie.

Ultimately, I am happy to say that Arsene got it right. Sanogo was mostly excellent. He was tireless. He was a hand-full. And were it not for a brilliant stop from Neuer, he may well have been the hero.

Regardless of the situation with Giroud, and regardless of the correct assertion that we should never be going into such a big game with such an inexperienced centre forward unless compelled by injury, Sanogo acquitted himself magnificently and was unlucky not to be on the scoresheet.

Once the game kicked off it was clear that we could match the German giants. What I liked most is how quickly we unsettled them. There were chances there to be had. The big chances fell to Ox and Sanogo, but there were other moves that showed promised. For example, Flamini shot into row Z when he could’ve left the ball for Cazorla. In many ways this match was about the left side of both defenses. For the opening 30 minutes, it appeared that the left side of Bayern’s defense would be their undoing.

There’s no getting around the two incidents that changed the game. The first involved Mesut Ozil. He did brilliantly to win his penalty, but the effort that followed was nothing short of shambolic. I never thought he should’ve been taking the spot kick to begin with, but the other natural candidates weren’t in the game. Ultimately, Ozil had the courage to take the kick but I think it was always going to be difficult to ask him to score against a childhood friend. There’s probably not a keeper in the world that would know his tendencies better.

Soon after, another major talking point of the match ruined Arsenal’s night. But it was something that happened before that, that really changed the game. Kieran Gibbs started the night brilliantly. He was full of energy and effort and tactical awareness. Robben wasn’t able to get the best of him, and he wasn’t being exposed despite lacking real cover from Santi Cazorla. But then Gibbs went down in a manner that suggested he was in real trouble. And considering his injury history, it was easy to tell that he wasn’t going to be finishing the game.

Monreal replaced Gibbs after 31 minutes, and seven minutes later, after Nacho failed to track Robben’s run, Arsenal were reduced to 10 men. It’s not worth debating Szczesny’s red card. There are some who will say it was harsh, and some who will claim it was deserved. I think by the letter of the law, he probably deserved to see red.

At 0-1, I thought we might be okay. Heading to Bayern where we had won with a lesser side just one year ago, we would’ve had cause for optimism. But conceding a late second was a hammer blow. The team fought valiantly but after going down a man, and without the benefit of an extra substitute, the tired legs and minds could not keep the German champions from putting the tie nearly out of reach.

Thankfully, it appears we have a real player in Sanogo, and while he is clearly lacking polish, I’m sure the manager won’t hesitate to use him again. Arsenal are not specialists in failure. That is beyond absurd and offensive. But in the Champions League, we have specialized in dramatic failure. From losing with 10 men in Paris, to the penalty debacle against Liverpool, to RVP’s phantom red in Barca, to the near comebacks against Milan and Bayern, it seems that we have managed to crash out of this competition in increasingly creative fashion.

But against Bayern on Wednesday night, what will hurt the most is that we will all be left with a sense of what could’ve been. As Iain Macintosh said on twitter, I wish that I could watch the last 50 minutes of the match I had been watching before Szczesny was sent off. But that’s not how it works. Pep Guardiola rightly pointed out that football is a “game of mistakes,” and on Wednesday night, once again, it was Arsenal that made the killer mistakes.

I can also spend some time complaining about the way the media fawned over oil-rich Manchester City losing to a Barca side that Bayern beat 7-0 on aggregate last season, while ridiculing us about this valiant effort. But that’s not worth another sentence either. When it’s all said and done I’m proud of what we did early in the match. I think we showed real improvement.

I hope that the team will take heart from the performance and use it to carry us forward. My fear is that they will be deeply hurt by the manner of the defeat and suffer a hangover. But we will see on Saturday. One final word about the support. Kudos to Red Action for an excellent display in the stadium and to the supporters at the Emirates who created an incredible atmosphere. The more we can do that, the more the Emirates will become our fortress. This tie, like our season, isn’t done yet. Onward and upward.

Source: Arse 2 Mouse

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