Situation No Win In Bayern Hammering

Bayern Munich 5 – 1 Arsenal

“Take your mind off the football. Go and listen to a record.” A caring thought from my wife, except I didn’t listen, did I? I sought solace in the 1991 playlist on Dad’s Jukebox. In a moment of levity or bone-idleness, I had lifted the title for this week’s offering, from the B.A.D II song, “Rush”; somehow, “Situation No Win” was a little too close to the bone. It is nonetheless, an astonishingly good compilation.

I have a dream…

Back in 2012, Ivan Gazidis promised a bright future. “In a couple of years,” he told us, “we will be competing at the level of Bayern Munich.” It didn’t quite work out that way. We’re light years away from them on the pitch but at least we are at the same level as Barcelona this week. The trouble is, you know their board will act to solve the problem. Ours? When they don’t have a clue, they leave it to Arsène.

And that just exacerbates the problem. Reliance on the same players, the same way of playing, and the same meaningless excuses when it goes wrong.

And it turned into a nightmare

The nature of professional football inevitably leads to recriminations following a capitulation of this nature. Arsène is the lightning rod for everything at the club but it’s rare that a manager isn’t; Arsenal is anything but unique in that sense. This time, the players need to stand front and centre to take their share of the criticism.

For twenty minutes, we believed a good result was possible. Mesut Özil spurned an opportunity to give us the lead just before half-time and in that moment, we were on the cusp: it was glory or disaster. It was Arsenal so, of course, it was the latter. It was so bad that Ancelotti lamented the second leg being played.

Post-match, Arséne was shell-shocked and broken. Martin Keown compared him to a punch-drunk boxer, someone who needs protection from himself. In no way would any of us be surprised if he called it a day tomorrow. He won’t but anyone who thinks he will go one beyond the end of this season needs to watch that video again and rethink their view. He is out of answers.

Surviving the opening phase of the match was the first target and we didn’t manage that; Arjen Robben’s finish was a moment of footballing beauty, invited by the first incident of slack-jawed defending of the evening. But – and encouragement was drawn from the ‘but’ – we held on, gradually got stronger and for the last twenty minutes of the first half, were serious in our intent to win the game. The counter-attack purred and eventually, due reward came when Lewandowski unleashed a fearsome volley against Koscielny’s boot.

Howard Webb said it was a penalty and the ref obligingly pointed to the spot.

From the ridiculous to the sublime

Alexis missed the spot-kick; it was woeful but having swung at the rebound, he chested the ball down and swivelled to shoot, much to the surprise of the four defenders around him, Manuel Neuer and the defender on the line. Bottom corner with the finish as well. At 1 – 1, I was content with losing 2 – 1.

In ten second half minutes, it went from a good night out to a nightmare. Koscielny’s hamstring twanged and Mustafi’s head went. Positionally, the German was all over the place. I mean he went full-on Vermaelen. Listless and outjumped by Lewandowski, Mustafi berated the right side of the defence as Costa ambled through the middle of the penalty area, as he descended into defensive insanity. Koscielny’s value to the team revealed itself as despair’s tears streamed down the cheek. At 24, Mustafi still needs to be organised himself; last night was a harsh arena to try and learn that on the field of play.

But Koscielny’s absence doesn’t excuse the collapse. It’s not even an acceptable reason for it, as weak a rationale as the baffling decision from the referee to allow Neuer’s goal kick to stand with half-a-dozen players in the Bayern penalty area. But if you believe these incidents were why we lost, then you have serious issues. The cultural failings of Arsenal Football Club were ruthlessly exposed last night in Munich.

Sitting back and defending is a footballing art

There is a reason why German teams sit back and defend in the Allianz; they don’t want this humiliation once, let alone in consecutive seasons. Matches like this expose the folly of considering the top four worth anything in a footballing sense.

Financially, it’s helped keep us in Europe’s top eight but instead of being used wisely, it’s held us back on the pitch. Too much emphasis and pride are placed on ‘good housekeeping’, except it isn’t ‘good housekeeping’ when the is no investment in the time needed to put together a cohesive plan to compete on the pitch.

In 2006, we stood toe-to-toe with the best the continent had to offer and with ten men, came within ten minutes of the biggest prize. A decade on, we have taken a huge backwards step while the elite has taken two equally big ones forwards.

Put this set of players in Paris, in the same situation, and escaping with a thrashing as bad as last night would be a good result. There is no spine to this side, no character, no determination and absolutely zero pride in playing for Arsenal.

The only punishment for the XI which started the game is to make them play on Monday. No cosy fortnight off, no quick nipping back to Germany, Spain or Dubai on a holiday; training tomorrow, all weekend, ready for Monday where they can make amends to the manager for letting him down once again.

David Ospina, by the way, escapes any censure; he put in a magnificent effort to keep the score down to five.

Legacy intact

I could go on about it all. There is so much sadness that Arsene’s era is ending in befuddlement and disarray. But those who think it is clouding his legacy miss the point; that’s set in stone, the changes wrought not just in the last decade in the move to the Emirates but also in the first decade in raising the club’s profile.

But it now needs someone to take us on in the next phase of football, before the elite clubs are too far out of reach to be caught. And that’s not as far off as you think, if it hasn’t happened already.

‘til Tomorrow.

146 thoughts on “Situation No Win In Bayern Hammering

  1. HenryB,

    Indeed, so if any lights do need changing at the Ems we have the ideal man for the job! That he’s quite tall will really help too!

  2. Bill,

    I think we have good defenders, not the greatest, but what we lack is the coaches to turn those good defenders into a good defence.

    Somebody was complaining earlier about our players not putting in a tackle, yet when Xhaka does just that and gets a red card he gets slaughtered by the fans. You just can’t have it both ways.

    I’ve only just watched Wenger’s post match interview, I went to bed at 4 – 1, I was shocked by his appearance, by his total bewilderment, by his total lack of a coherent response to the questions put to him. But most of all his apparent lack of any idea of the reasons behind the collapse of his side.

    He looked to me like a man at the end of his tether.

  3. Definitely the culprits is Wenger. He maintained royalties to his average players for so long. Players like Gibbs against Man utd in Champions league failed us, Ox have done it over and over again remember a game against Monaco. Le Coq is a very average player who even in Aston villa club he won’t be in the sheet. He can’t hold balls for seconds he is not protecting his backs line so why keeping him in a club like Arsenal ? Xhaka is not a player worth 35 m pounds and he won’t reach or be near to Sergio B or Yaya level. Prof. reluctant to splash cash for his own reasons have inflicts a lot of pains to Gooner Fans for so long now. He has to go because there is no way he can keep his job.

  4. Orson

    I agree completely. We have decent individual defensive players but we play poor team defense and that comes down to the problems with commitment, organization and ethos.

  5. Orson Kaert,

    I don’t mind a player throwing in a tackle, or even taking one for the team. Coquelin could have done exactly that against Chelsea instead of letting Hazard shrug him off as if he wasn’t even there. But at the moment it appears that Xhaka has forgotten how to tackle and he takes one for the team in areas of the pitch where he really doesn’t need to. Last night he picked up another yellow card for another reckless tackle in an area of the pitch where the opposition where doing us no harm at all. It seemed more like petulance. I don’t mind a player showing some aggression in tackles, but that isn’t what Xhaka is doing.

    What is amazing is that we have completely forgotten that we need someone in midfield to provide a bit of a shield for the defence. It seems that Wenger tries it for a little while, usually with some success, and then decides its not for him and pushes the midfielders further up the pitch. We often hear him describe us as an attacking team, but suicidal positioning of midfielders doesn’t make you more successful in attack, it just makes you more vulnerable to being caught on the break.

  6. According to his agent, Ozil believes he is being scapegoated for Arsenal’s problems. The first rat to leave the sinking ship?

  7. Wavey

    I would argue that deeper midfielders being out of position and wandering up the pitch was not a problem in last nights game. My impression was that Le Coq and Xhaka were pinned back in front of our CB’s in defensive half almost the entire game

  8. Wavey,

    Wavey
    I am loathe to say this but I think Xhaka is cowardly in his tackling I have yet to see him put in Paddy V or Keane type tackle he generally goes in two footed or trips someone up never puts himself on the line

  9. Bill,

    I was actually talking more generally rather than specifically about last night. Last night the midfield pairing was clueless rather than missing up the pitch. Bayern were attacking down the wings though. Gibbs was found out and the CBs were poor. Really not sure why Mustafi decided he should try to dig Bellerin out rather than concentrate on Thiago for their third goal and he seemed to completely lose Lewandowski for the second.

  10. Of course its Wenger’s fault – he buys, coaches and organises them. Its his team so he has to take the blame. The players change yet the same faults persist so how can it not be his fault?

    I don’t agree that we have great defenders at all. They could be made better by a different manager though. Kos is great but he is the only one. Hector will be world-class one day and go back to Barca, Nacho has been average this season, Gibbs average all his life, and 2 keepers that are best as number 2s. Cech is in terrible decline – he is slow to move and his kicking is terrible. Oscine lacks the physical presence and calmness in decision making to be Arsenal’s number 1.

    Then there is Mustafi. After the initial fanfare I have become uncertain about him. He was horrible v Bayern and even when he was doing well we didn’t keep a clean sheet with him in the team for 11 matches. I get the feeling that he is Kos-lite. Ideally we needed someone more aerially dominant and physical. He gets caught out of position all the time, goes to ground too easily and makes mistakes. He is looking pricey at£35m but can pass well.

  11. Wavey

    Fair enough regarding our midfielders. I am not impressed with Xhaka as a defensive player. Its always better if players can stay on their feet to defend and when he does go to ground, his technique has been questionable at best. I think Arsene bought him with the idea that he was another technically skilled player and he could be a deep playmaker and use his “range of passing” to help make a difference. He has made a few eye catching long diagonal passes but a midfielder has to be involved in the game for the full 90 minutes and you have to do something positive for the 89 minutes that you are not performing your eye catching skill.

    Le Coq is more of a mystery. We over rate our players who come into the side at the start of a great run of form the way Le Coq did when he joined the team right when we were emerging from the World Cup hangover in 2014 and starting our run back into the top 4. We almost all thought he was the best DM in the league which was probably an over call but he no matter how you slice it he was a solid DM In that first season. Playing solid defense does not take extreme technical skill and I don’t understand why he seems to have regressed. Its only one play but watch the way he backs off and actually moves Robben towards the middle for their first goal. Robben has been cutting in and scoring with his left foot for more then a decade and you have to make him go wide. What was Le Coq thinking?

  12. Maybe he has not regressed as much as you think. Its not uncommon for players to have a good run early on for a while and then either stagnate or regress. I think Coq had a good start and perhaps looked better than he was as we literally had nobody else. If a player has a weakness they are soon found out at this level and Coq’s lack of technical skills, passing and tactical awareness were brutally exposed last night. He is the type that covers lots of ground rather than relying on tactical awareness to know where to go and when. Consequently, last night he was rendered irrelevant with 6 passes and 0 tackles. He wasn’t helped by Wenger’s stupid team selection which effectively left us 2 v 3 in midfield though.

    He got found out after an initial purple patch. I agree that the Robben moment was unfathomable though.

  13. Alex

    I think you are right. I have been saying for years that younger players often have a great start and then hit a plateau or even go backwards. I always thought it was an adrenaline fueled early purple patch that faded with time. I guess another part of the explanation is the rest of the world finds their weaknesses over time.

    Getting over run in the midfield is another issue. I must admit that I don’t usually pay much attention to stuff like this but at least yesterday our wide forwards were dropping deeper to defend and Alexis and Ozil were further up the pitch on both attack and defense. Alexis has to stay higher up the pitch but Ozil is also sets up further forward right behind Alexis. I wonder if that leaves our 2 remaining central midfielders at a numerical disadvantage.

  14. Bill

    It was more about Alonso, Thiago and Vidal vs Coq, Xhaka and Ozil. Robben and Costa cancel out Ox and Iwobi. I had the same opinion as Yogi about playing Elneny instead of Ozil then at least it would have been 3 on 3 in the middle.

    I would also have played Ox in the middle instead of Coq and Theo and Alexis either side of Welbeck. Danny has got the experience of playing in big matches yet Iwobi plays? Why? The same reason Ozil gets picked in a game when you are going to have 30% possession or less – favouritism. Its sheer madness and Wenger never learns. In 2005 we went to Bayern with Henry, Kanu Pires and Reyes I think – effectively 4 strikers. Pizarro scored after 1 minute and that, pretty much, was that.

  15. Orson Kaert,

    He said he understands criticism and more importantly he inderstands he not playing well but does bring up a valid point; how is he suppose to create without the ball.

    Nope think Sanchex will be thr first, he is literally already flown back to Chile.

  16. C,

    I think Alex makes the point for you. Why would you play a player who thrives on possession in a game where we aren’t likely to have much possession? If we are looking to play deep and catch them on the break we don’t really need Ozil on the pitch. That’s nothing to do with whether or not he is having a bad time, its down to picking the right players tactically for the game. A set up with Theo, Welbeck and Alexis up front would have provided the pace to catch Bayern on the counter and would have allowed Xhaka to provide some of the longer deliveries that he can do well. That isn’t a solution for all matches and the way we should play from now on, but is about sorting out your tactics for a specific match. Wenger doesn’t care about how the opposition play though. As long as we play our game it will be fine.

  17. C,

    Obviously not playing against Sutton, so allowed to go home. But why wasn’t Wenger getting his squad together today to review the game? Alexis literally flew in last night, got his stuff together and headed back to the airport. The sign of a man how doesn’t want to be here.

  18. Three players are on the verge of leaving the club, Sanchez, Ozil and now Perez. How can they be persuaded to stay by a manager who doesn’t know his own intentions?

    What player in the World will look at the present situation and say “I want to go to Arsenal”?

    The board CANNOT let this situation continue. They have to say to Wenger “sign a new contract now or leave now”.

    The uncertainty surrounding the manager is the root cause of all of the problems afflicting the club both on and off the field.

    The present situation just cannot be ignored. The board must take responsibility and act now!

  19. Orson Kaert,

    We know they wont do it Orson. The team was called ‘Spineless’ by Rio on BT Sport but tbh our BoD are even more spineless.

    People who said we need to fall out of the top four for anything to change were slated, but ultimately they may well be proven correct. Even that may not be enough for Stan to act. Most likely we will be kept waiting on the whim of the very person who is the single biggest problem at our football club.

  20. AFC are coming to Sydney in June for pre-season fitness but let’s face it $$

    Instead of Sydney FC ground they will play at Olympic stadium and I suspect like Liverpool and Spurs it will be sold out.

    They also play WSW (west Syd wanderers) who have a great fan base with 90 minutes of raucous drums flags and chants. Weirdly they do support better than most premier league clubs like a throwback to singing and support being more important than the result.

    I will see both games and wonder whether a new manager will be drilling our players. Sounds fantastical

  21. Ugggh, it absolutely pains me to see us as the national laughing stock once again. And I agree about Sanchez -his heart isn’t here anymore.

  22. ‘That is for me very important that I leave the club in the shape that the guy who comes after me can do better.’

    A quote from Wenger in 2015 when asked about his contract. It doesn’t sound to me like a statement from someone who would just walk away from the club. Unless succession arrangements have already been going on in the background there is no way Wenger leaves in the summer.

  23. Wavey:
    ‘That is for me very important that I leave the club in the shape that the guy who comes after me can do better.’

    If the present state of the team and results is anything to go by “the guy who comes after…” could hardly do worse.
    A quote from Wenger in 2015 when asked about his contract. It doesn’t sound to me like a statement from someone who would just walk away from the club. Unless succession arrangements have already been going on in the background there is no way Wenger leaves in the summer.

  24. Reports coming out of a big bust up in the dressing room after the match with Alexis giving both barrels to a number of team mates. Apparently Bould also threw a water bottle.

    I’ve also heard from a few sources that there was fighting between Arsenal fans again. This was the worst so far. I know from the Arsenal FanTV videos that a few of the AKB were singled out for abuse.

    I cannot see how a manager who claims to care so much about the club can continue when there is fighting between fans on the pitch and bust ups between players in the changing room.

    After 20 years at the club surely the decent thing would be to announce that you are stepping down and go out with some respect?

  25. I wouldn’t have blamed Sanchez if he’d punched every player except Ospina. I’ve never felt so sorry for a professional sportsman since Derek redmond done his hamstring and broke down crying trying to finish the race at that Olympics.

  26. And everyone except Sanchez and Ospina went into hiding. Like scared little rabbits. What a bunch of spinless pussies. I’d put them all up for sale.

  27. Wavey,

    The question is, is any of this getting back to Kroenke? I have a feeling that he doesn’t have a handle on what’s really happening at the club, and if I know American business methods (and I work for a US company and with US managers) then Ivan will be telling him exactly what he wants to hear which is “we’re doing fine, on target for top four with a long waiting list for ST’s, healthy commercial and TV revenues” etc….

  28. Dukey,

    I’d give Bellerin a pass too, the vast majority of our problems came down the left side, we were pretty solid on the right and he made a few decent attacking runs without much support.

  29. andy1886,

    I think it’s his son Josh who takes most interest in Arsenal, Gazidis wouldn’t be able to pull the wool over his eyes.

    They must be aware of the situation, they just don’t know how to cope with it.

    The press conference this morning should be interesting, could there be blood on the floor?

  30. Orson Kaert,

    Yes, you’re right Orson. I’ve always had a feeling that Stan would have most interest in the Rams and the NFL while he might give AFC to his son to cut his teeth on. Maybe the son might be a little more dynamic with the urge to prove himself a winner but I expect in reality he’s cut from the same cloth as his father.

    I’m expecting Wenger to fob us all off again this morning with bland statements and vague promises that we will learn from our defeat but it’ll be meaningless. Maybe the journo’s will get after him, although I expect that they will be weak as usual and let him off the hook.

  31. From the BBC:

    Arsene Wenger admits he did reveal he would make a decision on his future in March or April. Asked which month he says: “I don’t know. If I said March of April it is because I didn’t know.”

    Asked if he has had enough, he adds: “No, no matter what happens I will manage next season, whether it’s here or somewhere else.”

    ffs!!!

  32. Asked if he felt offended by the recent speculation, Wenger replied: “No, I’m used to it – I’ve been here for 20 years. I think it’s important in life to do what you think is right and the rest is judgement. I’m in the public life and I have to deal with it.

    “At the moment, we have other priorities than my future. Arsenal Football Club is what is important, not just me.

    “I don’t feel like I’ve had enough – I will manage next season, whether it’s here or somewhere else.

    “On the night, I hate defeat and it’s hard to take but I have the strength and experience to come back from that.”

  33. This demonstrates the problem and why it will never change under Wenger:

    Reflecting on the Bayern defeat, Wenger said: “The main emotion is that everybody is disappointed and we need to focus on the next game.

    “We need to take care with the consequences a disappointing result can have on everyone’s spirit and we need to bounce back.

    “I know the media likes these kind of press conferences and what is important for us is to focus on the next game while everyone else can analyse what went wrong.

    “We can’t influence last game, can only influence it the next time we play Bayern at home.

    “The defeat did not extend into a row in the dressing room. Everyone was deeply disappointed but there was no issue in the dressing room.”

    1. It was not “disappointing” it was far worse than that and Wenger needs to publicly acknowledge that otherwise it looks like he is just sweeping it under the carpet.

    2. Of course we have to focus on the next game but no it isn’t for everyone else to analyse what went wrong, Wenger and his staff must carry out a full and honest review and take action to ensure that that we never perform like that again.

    3. If there was no issue in the dressing room then there damn well should have been. Or are they all truly spineless and accept results like that without a murmur?

  34. Honestly, the funniest moment of the match had to be when Ox went mental shouting at players only moments after gifting Bayern their 5th goal and spending the whole match losing the ball to Alaba.

  35. andy1886,

    It’s the usual Wenger flannel. He focuses it down to the one game because its easier to shrug it off as ‘one of those games’. He never addresses what has been happening over a period of time because that would mean that he has to admit to more extended issues. He has started to get confused in his own short term responses though. Before the Chelsea game he talked up how the team were mentally prepared and then flagged how they weren’t mentally prepared after the game.

  36. The fans deserve better than a load of old flannel, all we get is the same meaningless platitudes.

    If we can’t have it from the manager, Gazidis must come clean as to the real situation.

  37. Just repeating a quote that Andy put up which I think shows how Wenger tries to focus everyone on one game:

    “We need to take care with the consequences a disappointing result can have on everyone’s spirit and we need to bounce back.”

    He never makes any attempt to address concerns over the team’s continued failure. I can’t believe that no one would ask him why the club has learned nothing since losing 5-1 to Bayern last season. Clearly the journalists have been prepped to stay away from certain subjects.

    He says that Arsenal will not win every game in the future, even if he goes. Well, of course not, but by making it sound like that is what is expected of him he deflects from the real issues. Its very clever manipulation of the situation. He should think about moving into politics because he never addresses the issues. Unfortunately, I think he may actually believe some of the things he says in press conferences.

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