Bayern Munich 1 – 1 Arsenal
Bayern win 3 – 1 on aggregate
1 – 0 Schweinsteigger (54)
1 – 1 Podolski (57)
Arsenal exited the Champions League with pride restored following a draw in the Allianz Arena. Had it been a domestic match, a point away from home at the league leaders would be well received and so should this result. It ended a disappointing tie, any good work here was undermined in the first leg defeat.
Post-match, Wenger directed his ire toward Arjen Robben whose tumble led to a late penalty. Having warned beforehand that he expected the referee to be mindful of such things, Wenger left nobody of any doubt as to his opinion of the Dutch international. Quite why anyone is surprised that the winger would fall in the area under the slightest of contact is unclear. He had a reputation in the Premier League for such antics and clearly moving to the Bundesliga has not improved that. He might also be disappointed in Laurent Koscielny being caught out by Robben in that sense. One of the points surely highlighted beforehand would have been the slightest touch in the area will see any of the forwards tumble. Perhaps Koscielny felt emboldened by Podolski’s equaliser where Lahm fell under more pressure but Arsenal were allowed to push on for the German to score with a ferocious drive. It is hard to not to feel pleased for Podolski, not just in the goal but scoring at a club where he was not considered a success.
It was surprising that the referee gave the penalty in some respects, given he had pulled Robben back previously for a dive. The failure to show the Bayern winger a yellow card probably meant Robben felt obliged to continue his ploy at any opportunity. Punishment is the only way to make players understand the consequences of their actions and to make them think twice about diving. Lukasz Fabianski made a fine save to give the situation some poetic justice, displaying particularly quick reflexes as Muller’s spot kick span off the Pole’s initial block. If that proves to be his final action in an Arsenal shirt, he cannot ask for a better memory than that.
Arsenal will be disappointed not to have created clearer chances. Having contained Bayern for the first half, there was a vulnerability about their hosts which was never fully exploited. Promising positions were created but all too often the final pass let the side down. And when it was decent enough, support for Giroud was slower than you might expect. Arsène may feel that more urgency could have been shown but when the ball is rushed, possession is frequently ceded. Arsenal were a touch careless in that respect during the first forty-five minutes. A few of the players were out of sorts but the second half saw a marked change, particularly in Podolski whose effort on the left could not be faulted as Bayern sought to see out the game.
When Schweinsteigger scored, it was disappointing in that Arsenal had looked more threatening and it was a poor goal to concede. The German international is not some unknown player who caught them out, he is well-known enough to be marked as a threat in that situation. That no-one tracked him back was sloppy and from ten yards, it would have been criminal to miss. The response from Arsenal were as pleasing at it was quick with Podolski’s goal coming soon after. It was a shame that another couldn’t be conjured shortly afterwards to put the home side under real pressure. Perhaps there was an arrogance on their part which assumed that winning all the time meant they could see the game out comfortably; maybe it is the confidence that winning all the time brings?
Arsène was pleased with the players efforts in the match,
I have to congratulate the players for the heart and the effort they put in tonight. They have been absolutely outstanding on that front. We wanted to come out of that tie tonight qualified and with pride. We did the second part, not the first part.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain certainly emerged with the most credit. His positive running was all too often ended by foul play which was rarely punished by the referee. Rotational it may have been but when the same player is continually blocked unfairly, totting up must bring about a reckoning. The players are professional enough to know what they are doing and if they don’t, tough. Oxlade-Chamberlain’s energy from the centre poses problems and offers solutions for Wenger in the coming weeks. It is an outlet Arsenal can ill-afford to be without although Mesut Özil did not look comfortable on the right. He enjoyed it even less after his hamstring twanged, forcing a half-time substitution and a likely three week absence. That eases Wenger’s selection headaches for a while anyway.
I don’t see how anyone can have any complaints about the performance in all honesty. Going to Munich with a two-goal deficit to retrieve was always a tough task, some of us thought the exit inevitable but as with previous seasons, it was the first leg which left Arsenal on the back foot. Wenger mentioned afterwards that it was unfortunate that Arsenal had met Bayern and Barcelona at their peaks. I understand that this is the case but that is the price you pay when you don’t win your group. The hammering at the San Siro can be ascribed to a bad day at the office, it was a genuinely horrible performance and there is no shame in losing to the European and World Club champions but I feel a sense of regret. A sense that Arsenal have not always done themselves justice over the two legs with poor performances and stupid mistakes punished. Perhaps that is their lot, a place in the last sixteen with the odd foray a bit further. It leaves a feeling that they are better than that but not capable of proving it.
As it is, the manager and players can take a lot from the match and be confident going into a tough run of Premier League fixtures. The run-in begins now.