Arsenal came so close, yet so far away from doing the impossible in the Champions League last night.
The Gunners defeated German giants Bayern Munich 2-0 at the Allianz Arena, only to go out of the competition on away goals, after being defeated 3-1 in the first leg at the Emirates Stadium.
Last night’s performance was a far better one than the awful first leg defeat. They showed more heart, skill and grit than the first leg and it was nearly enough to complete a much unexpected comeback.
In yesterday’s article I talked about the lack of organisation in the Arsenal team. It has been glaringly obvious for the last couple of years. However, in Munich the Gunners defence finally looked organised.
They showed far better positioning and looked far more solid as a result. Bayern were not as dynamic going forward last night, but nevertheless the Gunners defence put in a very good shift, ironically without their most highly-rated centre-back Thomas Vermaelen.
The centre-back pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker showed the solidarity that Arsenal has been missing for a long time. I wouldn’t be so naïve as to believe that Arsenal’s defensive problems are over after just one good performance, but it was definitely a good backline display.
Last season the Gunners went out of the Champions League against AC Milan. Arsene Wenger’s side lost the first leg 4-0 in the first leg at the San Siro, only to win the second leg 3-0 at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners gave themselves a mountain to climb again this year and yet again Arsenal fell one goal short of qualifying. There is a fine line between success and failure in football. Arsenal unfortunately are falling just short of that line of required quality at the moment.
I’m not an Arsenal supporter, but I was disappointed by certain players for the Gunners last night, despite the two goal victory. I don’t like singling out players for criticism, but last night Gunners midfielder Mikel Arteta seemed to constantly give the ball away.
In the closing stages of the match Arsenal needed the Spaniard to show all his experience and instead he gave away a couple of silly fouls. He also misplaced a number of passes. In his Everton days he was known for his ability to keep the ball.
Last night though he had an off night and didn’t use the ball to the best of his ability. He wasn’t the only one though the much-maligned Aaron Ramsey didn’t do much to enhance his reputation among Arsenal fans either.
Just like his more experienced central midfield partner he misplaced too many passes in the centre of the field. Ramsey does have time to improve and even though he has been criticised in the past for his performances by Gunners he has the potential to be a decent player.
The performance of the Gunners midfield probably sums up where Arsenal have gone wrong in recent years. The Gunners have had to bring in players who are not good enough (Arteta) or depend on younger players like Ramsey.
I want to take nothing away from Arsenal’s superb result in Munich. It may be a while before Arsenal take part in Europe’s elite competition again.
Wenger’s side will find it really tough to get back into the Champions League for next season. Arch-rivals Tottenham look determined to qualify for the Champions League this season.
Fourth place Chelsea maybe consistent, but the Blues have the quality to go on a winning run. Arsenal are five points behind Chelsea in the Premier League. Arsenal fans will be hoping that the result in Munich gives their team confidence to push on in the league and qualify for the Champions League.
Will Arsenal qualify for the Champions League this season?