Arsenal 1 – 5 Bayern Munich
Where you begin with last night? The officiating “revolted” Arsène; if that was the case, how did his side’s capitulation make him feel?
For an hour, Arsenal played well; a lot better than I thought they would. I waited for the slow down, the cracks to appear but they kept the energy levels up, maintained their efforts. Context must be given; Bayern were in second gear, and with a 5 – 1 lead to defend, there was no sense of urgency on their part.
They still caused problems but Arsenal gave as good as they got. Makes you wonder where that performance was against Liverpool, and in fixtures against ‘lesser’ sides where we’ve dropped points?
It didn’t restore pride but certainly offered promise for the remainder of the season. Theo Walcott scored a cracker while the officials denied him a clear penalty. The assistant on that goal-line had a more pivotal role to play later in the match.
The midfield pairing of Xhaka and Ramsey did well, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was probably our Man of the Match. Picking the turning point in the game is not as easy as you might think. For me, it is the moment that Olivier Giroud’s header glanced against the outside of the post. A two-goal half-time advantage offered the prospect of an uncomfortable second forty-five minutes for the Bayern.
Instead, it turned into a rout and descended into farce.
Laurent Koscielny was rightly punished for a foul on Robert Lewandowski. The red card was the correct. I don’t think Koscielny made any attempt to win the ball and was the wrong side of the Pole to do so, which makes it a straight red under the new rules.
At 1 – 1, the most urgent decision was shore up the defence and close the game out. A 2 – 1 defeat left disgrace on the first leg alone but now, the tie is tarnished. The hard work of the first hour will be forgotten, the aggregate score of 2 – 10 hangs over Arsenal; a pall of ignominy where the club was badly let down by the players. There’s no absolution for Wenger; the blame is not shifted away from him. This is his squad, the way they approach the game is down to him. The habitual collapses, not just now but in season’s past as well, are his responsibility.
Arsène admitted that the players threw in the towel in his post-match interview. After the capitulation in Munich, all the talk from himself about not being properly prepared and from Hector Bellerin at the weekend, it was time for the players to stand up and be counted. You could count their spines as they walked off the pitch alongside Laurent Koscielny.
A big red towel wafted across the pitch as Bayern picked us off with four goals. Picked us off? We handed goals to the Germans, gift-wrapped with a pretty bow and a tag, “Hope you enjoy your trip to London, Love Arsenal xxx”.
Ever Feel Like You’ve Been Cheated
Only Ox escapes censure for lack of effort after the second. I understand the devastation, to go from thinking everything is going well in one minute, only to find its all gone to Hell in a handcart. These are highly paid professional athletes whose value drops with each passing game. The mental strength the élite clubs engender in players is glaringly noticeable by its absence. That is the manager’s responsibility. He talks about it often enough so he is aware of that aspect of the game.
The malaise doesn’t stop at the playing side. The board often throws the manager under the bus but it’s time for Gazidis to stand up and be counted. His are the words you will probably see thrown around this morning, about how we can compete with Bayern. Ivan, you’ve failed; we are further away from Bayern than we have been at any time since they ruled Europe in the mid-70s. Neither you nor the manager is able to deliver at the highest level of football.
We’re hamstrung with Kroenke, the absent owner. It’s his decision not to invest in Arsenal, to focus purely on the bottom line. Did you see the empty stadium at 1 – 2? Did you hear the shock in Hector Bellerin’s voice afterwards at the fans leaving in droves? This is your mess; sort it out or ship out. Preferably the latter.
Flogging A Dead Horse
The reality stared the board in the face last night with the banks of empty seats as the visitors racked up the goals. If that’s us competing, God help us in the future. It’s one of the reasons I dislike the Champions League on a competitive level. We are so off the élite on the pitch, we should be in the Europa League. We’re not improving and the gap is growing. If the club isn’t willing to try to improve, to close the gap, stop worrying about a top four finish. Accept that on a sporting level, we better suit the lesser competition.
Or do something about it. Get a new manager while putting a new structure in place above him. We need an experienced director of football, preferably one who was proud to play for Arsenal and understands what it means to supporters. You don’t; you’re clueless in that respect.
The thing is, this has to be the nadir. As a club, Arsenal has to take on board the humiliation and respond positively. It’s patently obvious that the board is ineffective in managing the manager. 10 – 2 and the contract offer is still on the table? Seriously? Do the board start meetings by singing the communal hymn, “Reality used to be a friend of mine?”
ENOUGH. Show some pride, some backbone. Take action to make Arsenal competitive again domestically while leaving us with a feeling that the players and manager could do no more as we exit the Champions League. Heads are buried in the sand at Highbury House, in the hope that the danger will mysteriously and miraculously pass. Shape up or ship out, gentlemen.
I think that’s what gets me wound up more than anything else. I don’t expect the board to be supporters, there’s no pre-requisite for them to do so. Arsenal needs them to be experienced football men, not carpet salesmen or bankers. There’s a disconnect; have a football board and above them a Holdings board. Let them set the commercial targets but let the football board do their jobs and get a competitive team.
Yet they won’t restructure; football always engenders too much ego amid the money. And it’s accountability, the board don’t do that. Not many other managers would take being thrown under a bus as routinely as Arsène. He’s well-remunerated for the pleasure although I sincerely doubt that there is any joy in the job at the moment.
Nothing is going to change. The numbers discontented by the aimlessness will grow, dissent gets louder but their biggest enemy is apathy. Once fans stop caring, none of them will survive. And maybe that’s how it should be, that’s how this ends. Stan, Ivan and Arsène ride off into the sunset, living happily in Texas; Kroenke’s clearing plenty of space on his ranch for everyone.
But right now, Arsenal need action and no-one at the club has the balls to do what is necessary.