Defensive resilience and discipline vital to Arsenal's success this season

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On a night when Arsenal's hopes of progressing into the last 16 of the Champions League hung by a thread, the Gunners achieved what few ultimately thought they could.

Facing a rampant Bayern Munich side unbeaten in 12 games was a daunting enough task in itself, let alone the fact anything less than victory would almost certainly condemn the Emirates side to an early European exit.

And yet, in the most extraordinary of circumstances, Arsene Wenger's men emerged 2-0 victors against the mighty Bavarians, reigniting hope that their torrid Champions League campaign could still be salvaged.


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Substitute Olivier Giroud bundled the ball home from Santi Cazorla's free kick in the 77th minute after a questionable piece of goalkeeping from Manuel Neuer, before the relatively quiet Mesut Ozil wrapped up the three points in the dying embers of the clash with a tap-in from Hector Bellerin's cross.

An incredible result for the north Londoners, but it was not because of their attacking flair or beautiful, possession football that secured them a famous victory on Tuesday night.

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No - it was the solidarity, grit and organisation of Arsenal's back line, right through to the lone striker of Theo Walcott, that won them the game.

For all of Arsenal's undeniable strengths, their biggest weakness in recent years has been an inclining to go gung-ho in attack and dismiss their defensive morals.

You need look no further than their disastrous loss at home in the Champions League to Olympiacos last month as evidence of this.

Naively thinking that the result was a foregone conclusion even before the game had started, Arsenal abandoned their defensive philosophies for a barrage of attacks, which left them vulnerable at the back.

The Gunners lost 3-2 that night - it was a shambolic display and one that highlighted all that was wrong with their game.

The catastrophic loss is a distant memory now, though. Similar to their masterclass against Manchester City in January, Arsenal were fully aware that they would see less of the ball against Bayern and prepared accordingly.

Arsene Wenger's men were resolute in their tracking and marking, responsible in their positioning and, above all, worked hard as a team, waiting patiently for their chance to catch Bayern on the break.

And when they broke, they broke with scintillating pace, causing the Bundesliga champions all sorts of bother.

The speed of Walcott and Alexis Sanchez was a real threat throughout the game - it's just a shame the final product was lacking.

The aforementioned England striker had the perfect opportunity to break the deadlock just after the half-hour mark when he latched onto Nacho Monreal's teasing cross, but his header was somehow scrambled away by Neuer.

Chances for Ozil and Sanchez also went begging. The German failed to get the required power behind his right-footed strike to beat countryman Neuer, whilst his Chilean team-mate was unable to keep his strike down following a corner.

However, such missed chances came at little price. When Bayern attacked they looked dangerous, as they always do. The way in which they retain possession is a sight to behold, but for all the time they had on the ball, they were simply unable to penetrate Arsenal's unwavering defensive line.

Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin, Ozil, Cazorla and Sanchez formed a five-man shield in front of the back four, whilst Per Mertesacker and co. held their line, quickly shutting down their opposition upon breaching the final third.

Credit, though, must go to Petr Cech, who when called upon was magnificent - his display epitomised the importance of having a world-class 'keeper.

His save to deny Thiago Alcantara from 12-yards out in the first half was outstanding, whilst multiple saves from the clinical Robert Lewandowski after the break underpinned his reputation as one of the world's best.

Wenger deserves the utmost praise too. He played it to perfection against Pep Guardiola's side by setting up his team to frustrate Bayern and hit them on the counter-attack - it worked an absolute charm.

All in all, a perfect night for Arsenal, with the performance proof of their flexibility to change their playing style according to the quality of opponent.

Walcott highlighted consistency as the key to Arsenal's success this season recently and, to a degree, he's bang on the money.

However, goals will never be hard to come by for Wenger's men - it's more a case of the Gunners' ability to showcase such resilience on a regular basis that will prove most important to their credentials this campaign, both domestically and in Europe.

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