Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Bayern 1-1 Arsenal: Good enough?

A forgettable first half turned into a spirited second, as Arsenal drew with Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. Plenty to learn from this game.

Steve Bould's back four can save our season... 
In the first half, our defence was simply superb. While our passing was off (Wenger's fault, it was obvious Guardiola would press Arsenal, and Wenger had no tactics to counter that), the defence was absolutely brilliant. I have no doubt in my head that had Wenger coached the defence instead of Bould, we would have conceded at least three.

I've said it a lot of times that Bould's work and Ozil's signing are two primary reasons of seeing a new-look Arsenal. Ramsey's form, the Mertescielny axis and the cohesive team spirit were byproducts of the impacts created by Bould and Ozil. In the end, it was Wenger's appalling tactics that led to us conceding, when he inexplicably decided to partner Arteta with Santi Cazorla.

Oxlade-Chamberlain is a stud...
In the absences of pace-setter Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has become an absolutely vital cog in our attack. In my opinion he offers much more than Walcott - with all respect to Theo, I doubt he would have taken on Dante like Chamberlain did.

If we want a better attack, we need players with qualities of Oxlade-Chamberlain. He has what Arsenal needs - power and pace. Chamberlain is willing to drive at opponents and make marauding runs off the ball - a trait which a lot of Gunners sadly lack.

Oxlade-Chamberlain's contribution to the team is being highlighted because he is the ONLY ONE who has a mixture of speed and strength at Arsenal. The solution to this problem is clear - we need to buy more of him.

Ozil injured is a good thing...

"Ozil, for instance, isn't 'regenerated', as Wenger says. I want him to do well, but aside 1 goal and 1 assist I didn't see much of him in the match (that wasn't sarcastic). I'm sorry to put a dent on this glorious day, but this match wasn't a sign that Mesut Ozil is back to his best."

Sadly, Ozil confirmed by worries yesterday. Yes, Wenger got his tactics wrong by deciding to play him out wide, but I still didn't see Ozil anywhere in the first half. In many occasions he gave the ball away and on one particular situation, forced an acrobatic clearance from his own teammate.

The thing with Ozil is that everyone assumed that he would be fantastic for Arsenal, and people haven't got off that mindset yet. In reality, he was okayish against Everton as well, but his impressive statistics (1 goal, 1 assist) meant that people wrongly heralded him as a game-changer. Mesut Ozil is proof that statistics alone does not say the whole story.

The same applies to Rosicky, although in contrary context. At the moment, even though Rosicky has around 25 goals lesser than Ozil (and a million assists lesser as well), I am not ashamed to assert that he is comfortably ten times of him. Rosicky is much more mentally tougher, trophy-hungry and Arsenal-material than Ozil, even though Ozil is a better player than Rosicky on his day.

For a long time, there has been a monopoly of the central attacking midfield role. Irrespective of form, Ozil always hogs the starting role because Wenger lets him. Now that Ozil is injured and Wenger can't pick him till May, worthier players like Podolski and Rosicky will finally get game time.

Schweinsteiger's goal was a much needed catalyst...
Until Schweinsteiger's goal it was pretty much the same - Bayern dominating and Arsenal defending competently. However, after Bayern made it 3-0 on aggregate, we finally started to play like a team befitting of the Champions League.

I made it clear that Arsenal should look to use this game as a springboard to future form. It's good that Podolski scored almost immediately, because after we made it 1-1 we did exactly that.

I'd let Podolski go only if we get Draxler...
Seriously, I don't get why Wenger doesn't play Lukas more often. Podolski is one of two pure wingers that we have in this team who is available as well as reliable (Chamberlain being the other). His goal was breathtaking, even though it had mitigating circumstances around it. Podolski is easily our best finisher in the side, and after witnessing Giroud's poor performance again, I strongly suggest we try to integrate Podolski as a striker.

There is a real possibility that this is Podolski's last season at Arsenal. Wenger is making a blunder by not playing him regularly; yesterday proved that. While I know that people say Podolski is a player who tends to go invisible in certain matches, I personally feel that he is simply biding his time for the perfect chance.

When the team is in full sync, Podolski is a person who can merge seamlessly. Yes, Podolski isn't the kind of guy who would instigate moves, but don't we have Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil and Tomas Rosicky for that?

We desperately need a better striker than Giroud...
Giroud, on Saturday, proved that he is our undisputed best striker. However, today he showed that he isn't good enough, even as our best striker.

In my opinion, Giroud still has a future at Arsenal. However, at a club of Arsenal's stature, Giroud can only play second fiddle to much more clinical finishers. This season has taken its toll over him; Giroud now looks plain unfocused and slow in thought-process, not to mention cheap and unpredictable with the ball.

See the goal Diego Costa scored against AC Milan? Would Giroud do that?

I like Giroud. However, you can't really expect a target man to pump goals regularly after being grossly overplayed for almost 2 seasons. If we are to see the best of Arsenal's attack and Olivier Giroud himself, another striker is a must.

Robben is pathetic, and UEFA are equally spineless...

In the first leg, I felt that the criticism on Robben was a bit harsh. It was apparent that there was a touch from Szczesny, so Robben duly went down. I agree that he made the most out of the contact, but that's become part and parcel of being a professional footballer (witness Chamberlain winning a penalty against Everton). The situation in the first leg was such that a red card would have been too harsh on Arsenal, yet letting Szczesny go unpunished would have been too harsh on Bayern.

However, there is simply no excuse for his disgraceful behaviour yesterday. If I recollect properly, I think he blatantly dived thrice in the game. If I were the referee I'd have booked him straight after he went down upon minimal contact from Cazorla, yet the dickless weasel just let play go on.

It's shameful that the referee fell to his demands when he went down after Koscielny's 'challenge'. It was plainly another attempt at simulation, which the ref inexplicably lapped up. After the game, Wenger spoke of him:

"Robben is very good at getting the maximum of nothing and he is a great player and as well a very good diver. He gets in front of a player and then he slows down and goes down. He gets the free-kicks."

I'm with Wenger on this. However, what particularly stung was the utter predictability of it. Wenger hinted that the ref might not be up to it, and he wasn't. Robben dived thrice and was not only punished, but rewarded at his third attempt. Wenger lashed out at the player and will possibly get fined, and Robben will slip under the radar and be allowed to keep simulating.

Sometimes I feel that the FA and UEFA miss the real point of their existence. Their goal is to keep football a pure, proper sport, but instead they shift focuses from unfair refereeing decisions and broken legs to media quotes and anti-Semitic gestures. A fair football organization would hand strict punishments to incidents including Ryan Shawcross, Alan Pardew and even Joey Barton.

The FA and the UEFA are ruining football by focusing on the wrong issues. 

I'd do anything to keep Fabianski and Vermaelen...
They're the best backups we've had in a while. While it is understandable that Fabianski's save meant that Vermaelen went under the radar, I'd like to doff my hat to the Belgian. Throughout a season of humiliation, speculation and pressure to perform when needed, Vermaelen has been completely professional and respected the integrity of the club, despite not getting the required appreciation.

The same is to be said of Fabianski. Yes, I understand his decision to leave Arsenal, but I still feel that we should do everything in our power to keep him. We will need a goalkeeper like Fabianski in the future for rotation, FA Cup games and Capital One Cup matches.

I'm certain that he'll depart, though. No player would make such a damning and clear statement and still do the opposite (apart from Nicklas Bendtner). All I can say is that the club who will nab him will be a very lucky one indeed.

Bayern Munich are far from perfect...
I still think that Bayern are currently the best football side in the world. However, that doesn't mean their flawless. There were times in the match where a better Arsenal would have scored goals and put them under the cosh, but it was down to our own reasons that we failed. I have no doubt that the Invincibles would have shred this Bayern Munich side to pieces.

I still fancy Bayern to win the Champions League. However, I say that because I don't find any other team that can match their prowess. Real Madrid, maybe, but I'm not so sure.

We could have, should have won....
I know I'm sounding like a bit of a spoilt brat, but I feel that had a couple of things gone our way, we would have won. We had two really good chances to win, where Giroud either missed the target or failed to cut it back quickly to Podolski. Bayern were distracted towards the end, and I feel regret because we failed to capitalize on that.

Having said that, a draw at the Allianz Arena without Szczesny, Gibbs, Wilshere, Ramsey and Walcott is impressive. However, I don't think that this result would have long-lasting implications on our side; it just wasn't surprising enough. I guess time will tell whether a draw in Munich would revolutionize our form, but I personally wouldn't count on it. Unless... 

A win at White Hart Lane would make this a positive result...
If we win against Tottenham, then this draw against Bayern would be instantly over hyped. The weekend would read as a crucial Everton win, a creditable Munich draw and victory at a North London conquest, which would enable many to think that we've put the setbacks of Stoke and Liverpool behind us.

However, if we lose or draw, the situation would flip towards the other way. The FA Cup win would be described routine, while the draw against Bayern as lucky (because of the missed penalty). For the sake of our confidence, we must defeat Tottenham at all costs on Sunday.

I think we'll batter them.

  -Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )