Although Arsenal narrowly missed out on progressing to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, it was a valiant effort on their part.
Bayern Munich won the tie on aggregate but Arsenal certainly gave the Germans something to think about in the Allianz Arena clash, and the north Londoners can take heart from a few positive aspects of their performance.
Arsenal went 1-0 up after only three minutes with a goal from Olivier Giroud that was well orchestrated in the typical Arsenal style. Aaron Ramsey gave the telling pass from the left to Thomas Rosicky in the middle, who sent speedster Theo Walcott on his way. The England international proceeded to give the perfect low cross right to Giroud’s feet to smash it into the net from close range. A dream start for the Gunners.
Ahead of the game, Giroud told German magazine Kicker: "We need to score an early goal.
"In football you never know. We need to believe and stay focused.
"But we need to correct our bad defensive behaviour as well," the Frenchman added.
Giroud achieved his first objective as he scored very early on. His second task was also completed as Arsenal went out on to the pitch motivated and self-assured; one could sense that they believed they could overturn the seemingly impossible deficit. The crowd sensed it too, as they were quiet for long spells – something very atypical for the Allianz Arena crowd.
But most importantly for the team, going forward into the Premier League battle for the top four, Giroud’s third objective was also realised as Arsenal’s defence was almost unrecognisable. For once they were organised and stood firm against the German attacks. The back four looked resolved not to concede a goal and they defended bravely, forcing the Bayern attackers to shoot from outside of the box for the most part.
Laurent Koscielny made some mistakes but always rectified them straight after. He was also the scorer of the second goal with a well placed header off a corner that stunned the crowd into silence and put the Germans under enormous pressure in the last five minutes.
Mikel Arteta had a stellar game and defended like a fiend. Apart from conceding many free-kicks and especially committing a silly foul in the dying mmoments that wasted precious time in the Gunners’ pursuit of a tie-winning goal, he lent the aggressively defensive support in the midfield that had been lacking for most of the season and which had always put enormous pressure on the back four.
Carl Jenkinson stepped up to the plate and delivered a terrific performance. He defended like his life depended on it and deterred many threatening attacks. He was also contributive in Arsenal going forward and provided more than one of those low, hard crosses that have become a bit of a signature of the young Englishman.
Wenger’s substitutes in Gervinho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain seemed as if they would be the difference in the few minutes that they played. Oxlade-Chamberlain made a few piercing runs and passes while Gervinho, surprisingly, also looked dangerous in front of goal and almost scored with a terrific run into the box and a turn that had the defenders baffled before pushing the shot wide of the right post.
Santi Cazorla had a terrific game as always and the little Spaniard made telling passes and runs that motivated and encouraged the rest of the team in the absence of Jack Wilshere.
The team played well and there were a lot of positives that they can take heart from and carry with them into the fight for a top four spot and a chance to compete for that elusive Champions League trophy next year.
The fact that the Gunners’ 2-0 victory was only Bayern Munich’s third loss this season should keep the Arsenal players’ heads held high and give them a substantial boost in the domestic league.
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