Monday, February 25, 2013

Well Beaten by a Better Side...

... and then they Scrape a Win against a Rubbish One.

Arsenal 1-3 Bayern Munich
Arsenal 2-1 Aston Villa

Arsenal came perilously close to repeating their familiar and unwelcome trick of allowing a whole season to crumble in the space of a week.

Defeat to Bayern was expected, but the performance didn't get half the criticism it deserved. It was another exhibition of naive defending, the self-destruct button pressed yet again on the big occasion.They play like a team that knows it's not good enough. The lack of belief in whatever it was they were supposed to do was painfully clear.

Anything less than a win against Villa and Arsenal's top four hopes would have been hanging by a thread. Cazorla scored early; they failed to build on it. Yet another soft concession to add to the collection, and it was 1-1 without much time to change things. It was some relief when Wilshere scooped a super pass through to Monreal down the left, and the new boy conjured a clever cut back for Cazorla to slide in his second of the game.

Back to Bayern. The manager, and many pundits, were happy to shower the impressive German side with praise, rather than spotlighting Arsenal's failings. Maybe it's because those failings have been evident for so long. Maybe people are tired of talking about them. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't acknowledge that Bayern didn't have to be particularly impressive to kill the tie at the Emirates. And that, for a club of Arsenal's stature, is embarrassing.

After a promising, high tempo start by the home side, the inevitable sucker punch wasn't long in coming. Muller's cross from the right seemed harmless enough, but bounced beyond a flat footed Ramsey, and Kroos drove an emphatic, demoralising shot past Szczesny. A brilliant finish, but the chance came so easily.

The second was even more disappointing from an Arsenal viewpoint. A corner, a painfully free header, Szczesny scrambling the ball out only for Muller to knock the ball in from point blank range.

Arsenal toiled to almost zero effect for the rest of the opening period, could have been three down by half time. A glimmer of hope was gifted to the Gunners when a wrongly awarded corner was inexplicably allowed to bounce in the goalmouth and Podolski simply nodded the ball in.

There was something of a revival, and sub Giroud might even have equalised. He was unlucky that his instinctive right footed strike from Walcott's cutback was straight at the keeper. Soon after, it was game over, tie over: Arsenal undermanned at the back, Lahm overlapping Robben, Mandzukic scooping the low cross into the net.

Some people are saying that Arsenal simply lack for quality. I don't think there are many poor individuals in the team though. They are poorly organised and tactically inept. And even if they lack for stars compared to Arsenal teams of the past, they should be able to recognise a superior team, and play with a suitable plan. AC Milan have less quality than Arsenal but were able to beat Barcelona. Arsenal should at least be able to give Bayern a game.

The fact that they didn't is down to the manager.

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