Arsenal football club is always full of surprises, except that we aren’t. It is the paradox of who we are especially in Europe in recent years that our inconsistency isn’t a surprise anymore. Despite losing the two early fixtures against Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiacos we all had that funny feeling that the Jekyll and Hyde persona that Arsenal exhibits would come out and we would not only beat Bayern, we would dominate.Lo and behold this is exactly what happened. A great result and gives us a sniff and actually reaching the knockout stage again.
Arsene Wenger, the naive tactician, right? I’d like to think of it as better late than never. We were up against Bayern, who on paper, let’s face it were superior than us. We could try and dominate possession like we usually do, but that would be a tad risky given the firepower they have. Instead the boss asked our boys to sit back and try to hit them on the counter. It worked. Sure, they had about 70% of possession, but how many of their chances were clear cut? They had 21 shots to our 13, yet crucially, we had 8 shots on target to their 6, and more clear cut chances in the box. We were disciplined and we frustrated them. In a funny way we beat Bayern kind of like the way West Ham beat us earlier this season. The statistics from both games are similar, with us being the winners this time of course.
This game is no fluke though. This calendar year we have seen dominant performances against both Manchester teams and Chelsea in the Community Shield. These are big teams and big performances. No more aimless frustrating passing, just quick counter attacking play, pouncing on the mistakes, catching the opposition on the break when they’re fatigued. The manager deserves credit for this ultimately.
We have all been frustrated at the performances against big teams and lack of ‘Plan B’. I think it is a case of better late than never, and I hope Wenger continues this for the rest of the season, it could be the difference in winning trophies.
We can talk about the wonderful saves and his man of the match performance all day, but there’s a reason why he’s world class and worth every pence of that £11m price tag. He made Lewandowski look ordinary today, he made important decisions in his saves but also in organising his defence. He oozes confidence. He brings a sense of calmness and order to the back line. In his distribution he took his time and didn’t panic, he marshalled his troops, this despite his team mates screaming for the ball. It is subtle, but these things make a difference. If the tactics are to sit back there is very little to gain by rushing the ball out. Cech is experienced enough to know these things.
On top of his world class saves which allowed us to stay in the game and snatch it later on, Cech’s influence on the defence cannot be understated. Our goalkeepers of yesteryear would bring about lingering doubts and panic amongst the defence and hence rash decisions would be made, which would lead to goals being conceded. Not last night. The entire back four had a spring in their step and this was partially influenced by Cech.
Who needs Robert Lewandowski when you have Olivier Giroud? No but seriously, he might not like his new role as a “super-sub” but he’s doing a damn good job. He cannot stop scoring and that can only be a good thing.
Last season many were frustrated at the easy chances Giroud missed. This could be partially explained by the sheer fatigue he must have had. There was no back up striker. There were plenty of instances at the end of last season where that extra 5-10% of physical stamina and concentration would have helped him score and get that crucial point or three points. Again it is these little things that make the difference.
The Giroud of late last season who was fatigued and lacking sharpness would have missed the header he scored today. I know people will say I’m crazy, but I genuinely believe he’s coming off the bench with a point to prove and he’s making things happen. It isn’t that easy to anticipate just in case Neuer misses. Giroud threw himself at the ball and got something on it. That is all that counts. In recent games he’s been getting into good positions and doing what a good super sub should do, which is to score goals. This arrangement of Walcott starting and Giroud coming on is the answer to our striker woes. The goals are coming and that’s all that matters.
Many don’t realise the miles and miles he runs every game and how hard he works. He is an asset to this football club no doubt. I don’t agree with him starting on the right though. His strength is in the middle, and as long as Ozil and Cazorla are fit I don’t see him playing there any time soon. Perhaps the manager plays Ramsey on the right for his work rate and defensive duties. It does make much more sense to play Oxlade-Chamberlain in that position, he is so much more dangerous with his pace and dribbling, the natural qualities a winger should have.
It was very unfortunate to see Ramsey coming off with the hamstring injury, he is expected to be out for a month or so. This is now the Ox’s chance to shine. He’s capable of being a game changer and being at the club since 2011 he deserves to play a key role in the first team. Going forward I think we can be even more dangerous now (if that’s even possible), but the young man must work hard defensively too.
Another who has blistering pace to burn. Even after a full 90+ minutes of intense football he revved up his reserves, pick pocketed Bayern, flew down the right wing and set up Ozil to seal the victory. Bayern tried to target him by attacking him with long balls, but he was calm and assured. The fear with him and his ‘Roberto Carlos’ style is that he will neglect his defensive duties in order to be more potent up front. Bellerin has showed maturity way beyond his years and I hope he stays with us for many years to come (instead of going back to Barcelona like some!).
A wonderful victory and a clear indicator from the players and manager that they are ready to take on (and beat) the best of the best. A renewed sense of optimism for the rest of the season.