The midweek trip to Munich brought some redemption for Arsene Wenger and his men.
3-1 down from the first leg, the pre-match talk was of a team of reserves and fringe players, sent out to avoid a hammering. In the end a strong Arsenal team beat Bayern and Lukas Fabianski was the first visiting keeper to keep a clean sheet in the Allianz Arena.
So what has Wenger learned from Arsenal’s Champions League exit? Probably not a lot, since the positives and the negatives he can take from the Gunners’ European campaign are the same strengths and faults that have plagued this team for the last couple of years.
Wenger said: "It's very difficult to go out of the Champions League for anybody, especially when you lose at home, you make it difficult for yourself.
"We played against one of the best teams in Europe.
"The spirit and the performance was there we had a great go.
"My regret from first game is that we conceded a cheap goal in the last five minutes when we could lose 2-1 at home.
"You can see how important that goal was tonight."
Small margins often separate the big teams, and Arsenal’s problem this season especially has been that it is Wenger’s side that have been caught short. Even in victory, the same worries popped up.
Starting from the back, Fabianski performed admirably in place of Wojciech Szczesny. Arsenal’s number one keeper has been off form in general and, kicking aside, Fabianski performed admirably. In front of him the Arsenal back-line resembled something like the Gunners defence we used to know, with Laurent Koscielny having one of his better games for the alarmingly off colour Thomas Vermaelen. But ahead of them there were problems.
When Arsenal are good, they’re great. Olivier Giroud’s early goal on Wednesday was a classic sweeping Arsenal move, as they exposed gaps in the Bayern defence and finished ruthlessly. However, players like Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla do not track back, and this can leave the full backs woefully exposed. Keiran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson had good games, especially the right back, but they were offered no protection by their midfield and if Arjen Robben wasn’t, well, Arjen Robben, Bayern could have killed off Arsenal just like they did at the Emirates.
A central midfield of Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky will play some pleasing stuff but they can often be left chasing shadows when not in possession. There is no ball winner, and the team ethos seems to be contain rather than control when not on the ball. Their defensive mentality is to respond to what the opposition do, rather than stop them. Links to Victor Wanyama indicate Wenger may be about to address this problem.
There are positives to take from the victory in Germany but Wenger should not let this overshadow some serious deficiencies in his side. Arsenal used to be a side that grabbed a game by the scruff of the neck, now they only turn it on when the pressure is off. To play on an old phrase, when the going gets tough, the Arsenal go missing.
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