In 2009 when Arsenal played in the semifinals of the Champions’ League we were beaten by FAnchester United. We lost the first match 1:0 at Old Trafford but our injury-depleted side couldn’t cope with a much stronger and more powerful Ferguson’s team so United won 3:1. Patrice Evra mocked us after that game saying that it was a match between men and boys.
Evra might be one of the worst characters in the world of football but his words were the ones that would perfectly describe tonight’s loss to Bayern.
Except for the fact that we weren’t exactly fielding the boys – Sagna is 30, Mertesacker will be 29 this year, as well as Santi Cazorla. Per’s defensive partners Vermaelen and Koscielny are going to be 28 as well as Podolski, while Mikel Arteta will celebrate his 31st birthday next month. Substitute Rosicky, a player that made our game a little bit more watchable in the last 20 minutes, is going to be 33 in October. Still, it was 21-year-old Jack Wilshere that was the only one that deserved to be called a man tonight. Experienced players that lack quality to play on the highest level are not the ones we need and poor management, transfer policy and team selection over the years are the reasons why Arsene Wenger – with or without the board – should be held responsible for Arsenal failures in this (and previous) seasons.
As expected, Wenger decided to field a different starting 11 than the one against Blackburn. Sagna returned to the right full-back, Vermaelen took his place on the left side after Koscielny’s fitness test gave the Frenchman the green light to play tonight, Ramsey replaced Diaby as Arteta’s partner in the midfield, Podolski took Gervinho’s place on the left wing while Wilshere, Walcott and Cazorla – who appeared against Blackburn as substitutes – replaced the likes of Rosicky, Giroud and Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Although we had a promising couple of minutes at the start of the game, Bayern scored first goal and it only took them seven minutes to do that. Thomas Mueller sent in a cross from the right wing that was met by Kroos as Ramsey failed to stretch enough to reach the ball. Kroos hammered a half-volley into the left side of the net with Mertesacker failing to make a proper block.
We were in shambles from that moment and arguably the strongest side in Europe pushed forward to exploit it. We couldn’t reach the Bayern penalty box with the ball nor to create a situation to make any kind of shot on goal while Bayern were using their flanks to press our defense. The second goal showed how shaky our defensive game is, especially at set-pieces. Goal-scorer Kroos now took a corner to the near post where Van Buyten escaped to Mertesacker and Ramsey to send a header to the goal. Sczszesny made a save but only for a second as the ball fell to Muller who put the ball into the net to give his side two-goal-lead. The Golden Boot winner from the latest World Cup was inexplicably alone just five meters away from our goal after the corner.
Bayern scored twice while we were still without a shot on and off the target. Mertesacker made a first attempt that looked like it might bring something positive to us in 34th minute after Wilshere’s free-kick, but his shot was blocked by Van Buyten and Kroos. Although we were looking a little bit better as half-time was approaching, it was Bayern forward Mandžukić who was the closest to change the score-line. The brilliant Phillip Lahm made a cross from the right side and Croatian forward Mandžukić met it with a nice header, but it only shaved the outside of Sczszsesny’s post. The Commentator on Bosnian Television already screamed: “Three-nil!”.. At that moment, I remembered what happened to Portuguese side Sporting a few years ago.
Wenger didn’t change anything at the interval despite the fact Neuer could read newspapers during the first half.
Still, we managed to deliver a first punch 10 minutes after the break. After we were given a corner that should had been a goal-kick, Wilshere made a cross. Neuer was static, his defenders weren’t anywhere near the ball and Lukas Podolski exploited that to score a header. That was a lifeline. We nearly created another chance but Walcott’s free-kick was punched away by Manuel Neuer.
After they recovered from a shocking goal, Bayern put their foot back on the gas as Kroos and Javi Martinez came close to a 3rd Bayern goal. Podolski – encouraged with a goal by his name – made a low shot with his weaker foot on the other side of the pitch. Wenger decided to make some changes in 70th minute – Podolski and Ramsey left the field while Giroud and Rosicky entered it. It was latter two players who nearly reached an equalizer after just a few minutes on the field. Rosicky sent a brilliant pass to the right wing for Walcott who made a cross into Bayern box to Giroud. The Frenchman attempted with powerful right-foot-volley but it had hit Neuer’s foot. It was the moment when a miracle was possible. Only a few minutes later, substitute Robben started a counter-attack for Bayern on the right wing. The Dutchman nudged the ball to overlapping Lahm who was totally alone on the right edge of our penalty box to make a cross. Mandžukić and Sagna went for the ball with the former apparently coming first to it. The ball went looping into the net in bizarre fashion. The third Bayern goal killed off the game.
Substitutes Luiz Gustavo (linked with Arsenal in January) and Mario Gomez came close to score a fourth Bayern goal but Sczsszesny saved Gustavo’s shot while Gomez missed the target. We came close to our second when Vermaelen was fouled by Lahm just outside the box on the left side. Cazorla took a free-kick but Neuer was safe. It was the last chance of the game. Bayern deservedly won and are practically in the Quarterfinals.
If we want to be European giants again, Arsenal must spend some bloody money in the next transfer window. Tonight we saw a difference between patchy defensive midfielder (Ramsey) and a defensive midfielder that was signed for 40 million euros (Javi Martinez). Arsenal must spend and must spend big. All that crap about how splashing money won’t solve any problems should be forgotten. It is true that splashing money doesn’t guarantee neither trophies nor competitiveness but we all see where Wenger’s so-called socialistic policy (that surprisingly disappears near Wenger’s wage and Gazidis’ bonus) brought Arsenal.
The thing is, I believe Jose Mourinho would be much better option for the person that will spend alleged 70 million pounds transfer budget.
on the first leg…
We played against a good team who took advantage of every opportunity they created in the first half. We had quite a good start for five minutes. You could see we were a a bit nervous, but Bayern was fully confident and we paid for it. At 2-0 down of course it became very difficult, but we put in a good battle in the second half and came back to 2-1. It looked like we could come back to 2-2, but unfortunately we conceded another goal. The 3-1 was a big blow for the team. From that moment on, you could see that we might even concede one more because we didn’t keep our structure anymore. The last 10 minutes were difficult, once it was 3-1. As much as 2-1 looked like possibly becoming 2-2, at 3-1 it looked more like we might concede another one.
on Arsenal’s chances of qualifying…
Let’s not hide the truth: it will be extremely difficult against a team of that quality. They didn’t play two finals in the last three years without that quality that we have seen tonight. We have to give our best there and hope that everything will go for us and hope that by the second leg we have built our confidence up a bit more to go into the game with the belief that will be needed.
on responding to the Blackburn defeat…
I think we had a good response today, the players gave absolutely everything. We played against a side who have no doubt at all. They have a history in the last six months where everything is positive and you could see as well that every player is confident to play with full power. That’s not completely our case at the moment. But things change sometimes quickly in three weeks, so let’s hope we can do it.
on whether confidence was the difference…
No, you have to give them credit for their class as well. They are a team of class. In patches in the first half, it was a difference of quality in their display compared to ours. In the second half I believe we were close and you could feel we were becoming dangerous, but after that they changed, became more defensive and played on the counter-attack. It was difficult for us create chances.
on poor defending and marking…
We were a bit nervous. We wanted to do well. They’re good going forward on both flanks with their full backs. I feel that Lahm and Alaba were outstanding tonight going forward. When they won the ball, every time they created a lot of danger on the flanks. It was very difficult for the defenders. We were outnumbered at times because we had to push forward a lot. They’re a quality side. We have to give them credit for that.
on overcoming nerves…
That’s a very difficult question to answer at the moment. The results bring that. It’s a bit of a vicious circle.
on his anger in Monday’s press conference…
My anger yesterday was not based on opinions. It was based on information. For me you [the media] have two missions: to give your opinion and to inform people. When you give wrong information without checking with us, I me angry because I feel that is disrespectful. When you give your opinion, I will always accept it. I have never disputed any opinion in 16 years. When you give wrong information, you cheat the guy who buys your newspaper. That’s why I was angry. I work here for 16 years and you could check with the Club, you could check with me, before you give the information out. If I read some information in your newspaper, I expect it to be true. That’s why I was angry. I think I am entitled to do that. You can say any opinion about a football game, and I accept it. You can say I’m a bad manager and I’ll accept it, but when you give the wrong information I don’t accept it.
on buying new defenders…
Is that an information or an opinion?! I just think that our defenders are quality, and the transfer market is closed. That’s an information. Bayern is a quality side who can beat anybody in Europe. On top of that, we lack a bit of confidence, like at the moment. That makes them even better.
on getting back into the Champions League…
Look, we’ll have two battles, but maybe the easier battle will be to be back in the Champions League. But we have to give everything to try and change things in the second leg. It’s happened to us before, to be 2-0 down. That’s one of the positive things that happened before. We changed and reversed things [in the past], so we have examples of moments when we’ve come back to 2-2.
on the quality of his squad…
The quality of my players is there, but they’re not getting their rewards. We’re not being rewarded for our efforts. I still have confidence in my players and in my team. But, on tonight’s evidence, there’s clearly work to be done.
Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Vermaelen (c)
Wojciech Szczesny | 5.0: Poor performance although he made a couple of saves as well. He wasn’t good enough when Bayern scored the second and third goal.
Bacary Sagna | 5.0: He was too nervous and on the edge of getting second yellow card. Tried to push forward but couldn’t do anything.
Per Mertesacker | 5.0: Poor passes and weak reactions while Bayern was scoring in the first half. Had a decent attempt blocked.
Laurent Koscielny | 5.0: Wasn’t near Mandžukić when he nearly scored in the first half nor he managed to stop Lahm from crossing for the third goal.
Thomas Vermaelen | 5.0: He made a few blocks when he went into the center of defense but his overall display was awful. He was targeted by Bayern flanks like he was Andre Santos.
Mikel Arteta | 5.0: Didn’t impose himself and failed to mark Muller before he scored.
Aaron Ramsey | 4.5: Poor reaction on both occasions when Bayern scored in the first half.
Jack Wilshere | 7.0: He is probably the only player from our team that could enter the Bayern starting 11.
Santi Cazorla | 5.5: Had his moments today but he was rarely dangerous or effective.
Lukas Podolski | 5.5: Scored a goal and had an attempt with weaker foot. His link-up with Vermaelen was non-existing at expense of both of them.
Theo Walcott | 5.5: Made a few runs and a decent cross that Giroud nearly turned into equalizer. Can’t be a center-forward against teams like Bayern.
Tomas Rosicky | 6.5: He has to be the one that will save our season. He showed more in 20 minutes than all our other players (except Wilshere) in whole match.
Olivier Giroud | 5.0: Had the best chance to equalize but hit Neuer’s leg.