Credit has to Arsene Wenger for the way that he has set up the team over the last 10 games of the season. 8 wins and 2 draws for Arsenal saw us claw our way back from 7 points behind Spurs at the beginning of March to pip them to the last Champions League place by 1 point on the final day of the season.
The 3-1 loss to Bayern Munich and all the way back in February seemed to give Wenger a much needed kick up the ass and reinforced that defensive changes were needed. The result was that Thomas Vermaelen was dropped and Laurent Kos and Per Mertesacker went on to form a much stronger defensive partnership. In fact, Vermaelen has barely made any appearances of note since, other than when Mertesacker was suspended. Aaron Ramsey has also made a fantastic contribution in central midfield in the absence of Wilshere through injury, while bringing Rosicky back into the starting XI was an inspired move that seemed to give the team a big boost.
The game against Newcastle went pretty much according to plan. We needed a win to guarantee 4th place regardless of Spurs’ result against Sunderland and that’s exactly we got. The team was unchanged from that which relegated Wigan last Tuesday, and although Newcastle probably had the better chances early on in the game I always felt that our quality would shine through. The second-half performance was (as usual) much stronger, with Theo Walcott testing Steven Harper from close range at about 50 minutes. Theo then whipped in a nice free-kick a few minutes later which was headed back towards goal by Lukas Podolski and acrobatically thumped into the back of the net by Koscielny.
After that it didn’t really matter what was happening in at White Hart Lane as long as we kept a clean sheet. As great as Bale’s goal was, it was actually completely irrelevant. Walcott hit the post to leave us biting our nails for the last few minutes, but the team defended well and the 3 points were ours. As usual, it sucks to be a Spurs fan and we have our 16th consecutive season of Champions League football.
As I mentioned in the player ratings article we finished this season on more points and with a better goal difference than last year. Podolski, Cazorla, Walcott & Giroud notched 48 league goals between them, meaning that we didn’t miss really the goals scored by Robin van Persie. In some respects it worked out better than last season because we were not so reliant on only one player, but at the same time there were a lot of opportunities that particularly Giroud and Walcott squandered that you feel that a player of RvP’s quality would have scored. The good news is that it looks like we are in a much better financial situation going into the summer than we have been in previous season, so there should be a fair bit of money (- apparently as much as £70 million) to spend on some world-class players. Bring on the summer transfer window.
As you may have seen on our Twitter page, there were 8 changes to the team for our game against Newcastle from team that started the final game of last season against West Brom, which goes to show just how the team has changed in the past year. In my opinion, the changes seem to have been for the best. The team looks more balanced this season and testament to that is the fact that we finished this season on more points and with a better goal difference than last year.
Szczesny 7 – Didn’t actually have very much to do. Although Newcastle broke through our defence a few times in the first half (in particular I remember Gouffran & Ben Arfa making some good runs), their shots were mostly high.
Sagna 6.5 – Worked well defensively and won most headers, but crosses still aren’t great. However, this could be his last game for Arsenal. He only has one year left on his contract and I am prepared to bet that he will move to PSG in the summer. We will definitely miss his physical presence and ariel ability if he does leave after 6 years and 235 appearances.
Mertesacker 7 – Made some great blocks and was pretty solid, especially in the second half as he grew into the game. There were two moments in the first half that he was completely outpaced by Gouffran when he was isolated and caught out by Newcastle’s movement, but Koscienly was covering and otherwise no problems.
Koscielny 9 – MOTM - Koscielny is a defensive BEAST. His tackling was exceptional and there was some excellent technique for the goal (even though it was followed by a very strange celebration!). Interestingly Kos also scored the winning goal against West Brom last season. He was MOTM by far, which is clearly shown by getting 92% of the votes on the Arsenal website. I am sure that we will get lots of offers from him over the summer, but his celebration & the fact that we keep our place in Champions League team for another season is enough to convince me that he will stay.
Gibbs 6.5 - Struggled to deal with the tricky feet of Ben Arfa in the first half, but did his part going forward and improved defensively as the match went on.
Arteta n/a - It was a brave decision to start Arteta if we knew that he was injured, and one which did not really pay off. Mikel struggled to get into the game because of his minor calf problem and was substituted for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after about half an hour.
Ramsey 6.5 - Excellent work rate as usual, but made a few more stray passes in attacking positions than I would have liked in a game where we really needed to keep hold of the ball.
Rosicky 6.5 - Didn’t have many opportunities to work his magic and was barely in the game.
Cazorla 7 - His close control and passing were extremely impressive, but he didn’t create too many openings because Newcastle closed down well.
Walcott 7 - His running was good (both on and off the ball), but he didn’t quite get the goal he probably deserved. He made an excellent run late on and probably should’ve scored but hit the post. Could have had more one-on-ones if the midfield had spotted his movement and fed him through.
Podolski 6 - Not great as a CF because he doesn’t stay in the box. Kept coming deep and doing a good job there, but that wasn’t his role. Without Giroud in the middle we didn’t have a real presence in the box, but at least Podolski got the assist for Koscielny’ goal.
Oxlade-Chamberlain 6.5 – On for Arteta after half an hour and played well in central midfield. Always full of energy and seems to prefer playing in the centre compared to out on the wing.
Giroud/Wilshere n/a – Giroud held up the ball well as we looked to keep possession in the last 10 minutes. Wilshere wasn’t on for long enough to contribute too much to the game.
Despite a very poor performance (especially in the second half), Arsenal managed to grind out the 1-0 result that we needed. It wasn’t pretty to watch, and left us biting our nails until the final whistle, but at least we are still moving in the right direction.
Szczesny – 7 Kept his second clean sheet in a row. Had a lot to do including a good save from Berbatov on 20 minutes and tipping Ruiz’s cross over the bar in the second half.
Sagna – 6 Ok defensively, but another poor offensive performance. Can’t cross and was not helped by Walcott, who seemed to be in hiding.
Mertesacker – 7.5 My MOTM, not only because he scored the goal but because he was an absolute beast at the heart of our defence with some great interceptions and clearances.
Koscielny – 7 Got an assist for Mertesacker with a header across goal and is developing a nice defensive partnership with the BFG.
Monreal – 6 Caught out on a few occasions in the first half by Emanuelson, and resulted to a bit of last-ditch defending. Better in the second half.
Arteta – 6 I am not sure whether the foul that led to Sidwell’s red card had anything to do with it, but Arteta was just lacking that spark that he usually has. Looks tired and maybe needs to be rested, but perhaps the game against United is not the right match for him to miss.
Ramsey – 6.5 Made a few poorly timed tackles and conceded fouls, but got forward well and had a few good opportunities. Needs to learn how to finish. Should have had the ball in the back of the net after a counter-attack in stoppage time.
Cazorla – 5 Some of the worst corner-taking I have seen in a long time sums up a below-par performance from our usually creative/lively Spaniard. One of his least-effective performances for Arsenal since he joined in the summer.
Rosicky – 5 Like the other midfielders, Rosicky was lacking his usual spark and looks like he needs to be rested.
Walcott – 3.5/4 Totally anonymous. Didn’t get into the came and played like as poorly as he did against Everton on Tuesday.
Giroud – 4 Hit the post with a shot on 35 minutes, but otherwise did absolutely nothing. The red card was a bit harsh because he actually slipped on the ball, but I dare say that there are more than a few Gooners who will be glad that he can’t be in the team to face United next weekend.
Wilshere/Podolski - 5.5 Both had little impact for the 20 minutes they were on, but at least looked like they were putting some effort in in an attempt to close out the game. Lukas will probably get a start as our central striker next week in the absence of Giroud.
Vermaelen – N/A Only on for about a minute as we defended a corner.
So the scoreless draw was not really a result that benefits either team, but a result that I think was pretty fair all things considered. Everton played a very physical game and I do not think that it is such a bad point for us when given that was one of the most difficult games in our run-in.
Apart from the United game, we should be looking for secure maximum points from the remaining fixtures (against Wigan, Fulham, Newcastle and QPR).
Szczesny - 7 Sir Chesney was back in the line-up because Lukasz Fabianski missed the game with a rib injury. His positioning was good and he made some good saves/kept a clean sheet. Job done.
Sagna – 6 Defensively solid and dealt well with Mirallas/Anichebe. He was ok going forward except for his crosses, which were really poor.
Mertesacker – 7 Back in the team after missing the Norwich game through suspension. Dealt well with the physical threat of Anichebe relatively well and made some strong tackles.
Koscielny – 7.5 Another great performance from Kos, who is really showing why he deserves to be our first-choice centre-back. His positioning is always great.
Gibbs – 5.5 The polar opposite to Sagna. Really good going forward but defensively a bit poor. He seemed to get into the game a lot more once Podolski came on but really struggled with Anichebe.
Arteta – 7 Another tidy performance from Arteta, who fought an interesting battle with Fellaini in midfield. He linked well with Ramsey and his delivery from set pieces was good.
Ramsey – 8.5 My MOTM by an absolute mile. Aaron is quickly becoming one of my favorite players. He was apparently playing in every position and really looked to drive the team forward. His work rate is incredible; all he needs to add to his game are some goals.
Wilshere – 5 Another poor performance a bit like the one that we saw against Norwich. Looks unfit and probably should not have started. Rosicky anyone?
Walcott – 4.5 Too quiet for my liking. He was almost completely anonymous first-half, but did make a few good runs to make up for it after half time. However, we expect more from Theo. He never really ran at the Everton defence and Leighton Baines had him in his pocket for most of the evening.
Cazorla - 7 The ball is practically glued to his feet as he dances around the midfield, but he was just lacking that final cutting edge that we have seen in so much of recently. Maybe that was because Giroud, Wilshere and Walcott were barely in the game?
Giroud – 5 Held up the ball well, but missed what looked like a sitter and fluffed a few other good opportunities. Needs to be much more clinical in the last few game of the season if he wants to stop Wenger from buying a new first-choice striker in the summer.
Oxlade-Chamberlain - 6.5 On for Wilshere with about 25 minutes remaining and made some good runs straight at the heart of the defence. Maybe worth a start against Fulham instead of Walcott.
Lukas Podolski – 6 On for Walcott but did not have as much of an impact as he did against Norwich on Saturday.
Nacho Monreal – n/a Only on for a few minutes to replace Gibbs. Booked for a deliberate foul to prevent an Everton counter-attack.
Below are my Arsenal player ratings for the game. Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments section below and please remember to like us on Facebook.
For whatever reason, it took until the 80th minute for Arsenal to really hit full throttle and really push for those three vital points. It may have been a slightly controversial penalty, but Norwich should not have had the free kick that led to their goal so I guess we are even.
Arsenal Player Ratings:
Fabianski – 7 Not much he could do to keep out Michael Turner’s header, but made a good save in the dying moments to keep us in the game. Has done quite well in recent weeks as he looks to show why he deserves to keep his place in the team ahead of Szczesny.
Sagna – 6 Had a decent game defensively, and although he did get forward he really needs to work on his crossing if he wants to make more of an attacking contribution. He had one decent cross for Giroud’s header, which hit the bar. Was substituted for Oxlade-Chamberlain with 10 minutes left as we look to push for the win.
Vermaelen – 7 A good performance from our captain, who has spent the last few games on the sidelines. Maybe has to take some of the blame for poor marking for Turner’s goal. Not sure whether he will play on Tuesday against Everton with Mertesacker back from suspension.
Koscielny – 7 Like Vermaelen, his positioning was good and he made some good interceptions, but allowed Turner too much space for the header from the free kick.
Gibbs – 6.5 His crossing was a bit off and he really struggled to deal with the aerial threat of Kamara, but otherwise an ok game.
Arteta – 7 Capped off a cool and composed performance with a well-taken penalty. Take note Adebayor – that’s how you take a penalty! He was, as usual, the best passer of the ball and made more touches than any other player.
Wilshere – 5 Not the performance that we expected from Jack after 6 weeks or so on the sidelines and was quite rightly substituted for Walcott with half an hour remaining. I think that he was just lacking in match fitness and maybe would not have started if Rosicky had been fit.
Ramsey – 8 My MOTM.Aaron has an incredible work rate and is always tracking back when necessary. He made some great tackles and was one of the only players to put in much effort in the first half. I really like him in the midfield alongside Arteta. He has really come into his own while Jack was out.
Gervinho – 5 A typical performance of Gervinho pre-African Cup of Nations. Had the best chance of the game after 29 minutes when he took the ball round the keeper, but his touch was too heavy and the chance was wasted. There were a few other good opportunities which he wasted. Substituted for Podolski with half an hour left.
Cazorla – 7 He didn’t look particularly comfortable on the left-hand-side and kept drifting in towards the middle where he wanted to play. Like Arteta, a nice and tidy performance but nothing spectacular on the Santi Scale.
Giroud – 6.5 Hit the bar with a header from Sagna’s cross in 23rd minute, but was otherwise very anonymous in the first half. Finally came into the game with about 15-20 minutes remaining, won the penalty and scored a few minutes later. I am not sure whether it will be credited as Giroud’s goal or if Sebastian Bassong actually got the last touch. It’s difficult to tell and one for the dubious goals pannel at the end of the season.
Podolski – 7 Hit the bar with a thunderous effort from close range which, on closer inspection, turned out to be a fantastic save from Mark Bunn. Played a nice 1-2 with Oxlade-Chamberlain for the second goal and scored the third to seal the win with a minute remaining.
Walcott – 6.5 Made some great runs in behind the Norwich defence and set up Podolski’s goal.
Oxe – 7 A fantastic assist for Giroud/Bassong’s goal with a great run, a nice 1-2 with Podolski and low whipped cross across the box.
* All of the substitutes played an important part in the win. Credit has to go to Wenger, who clearly realised that something was wrong and made the necessary changes, including taking off Sagna for AOC. I don’t normally agree with all of Wenger’s changes but yesterday they were spot on.
Fabianski – 7 Kept his place in goal ahead of Szczesny and put in another solid performance as he looks to prove why he deserves a new contract.
Sagna 6.5 Didn’t get tight enough when we were defending for our lives in the last 10 minutes, but had an ok game otherwise. His crossing wasn’t great, but he could have grabbed a goal.
Mertesacker 5.5 Was having a good game until he was caught in no-mans land, ball watching, and gave away the penalty. The BFG is suspended for the next 3 games, so I guess Vermaelen will make it back into the team.
Koscielny 7.5 The usual, solid performance that we have been seeing from Kos of late. Fought hard to prove why he deserves to keep his place in the team ahead of Vermaelen.
Monreal – 7.5 Probably his best game so far for Arsenal. Made some good covering runs/interceptions and was solid when we were being battered by the West Brom onslaught.
Arteta – 7 Keeps our midfield ticking and read the game very well. Did not keep the ball as well as I would have liked, but was always in there trying to win it back afterwards.
Ramsey – 7 How did he miss?? The goal was gaping but he just seemed to poke it wide with the wrong foot. Otherwise a good performance. Shows that he is improving every week and picked out Rosicky with a nice square pass to set up the second goal.
Cazorla – 6.5 A quiet game from our Spanish magician, who is beginning to look tired. Showed some brief moments of brilliance, but was not as influential as he could be.
Rosicky – 9 Cleared the ball off the line and then scored 2 goals. I can’t think of anything better. A MOTM performance from a player who always seems to find his form at this time of the season. Had only scored 1 in his last 65 Premier League games (against Spurs), but popped up with 2 when it really mattered.
Gervinho – 7 Slowly beginning to win the fans over again with his 3rd good game in a row. Not sure whether it was a shot or a cross, but it was a nice assist to add to some good performances in recent weeks.
Giroud – 5. Wasn’t even aware he was on the pitch for most of the game. Where was Podolski?? Why can’t Lukas be given a chance as a central striker? Giroud held the ball up well on occasion but did not offer much else. He didn’t make a particular effort to close down or put any pressure on the ball and was very poor offensively.
Vermaelen – 7 Did his defensive duties well when we were under real pressure.
Gibbs/Coquelin– N/A Did not make a huge impact, but were both on to tighten our defence in the dying minutes.
Fabianski 6 - Had little to do. The first shot on target came after some confusion in the box following a corner, and he caught the ball without a problem. Couldn’t do anything about the goal.
Sagna5.5 Didn’t have much to do defensively, apart from that one moment for their goal. Should’ve stopped the cross, or at least given the opponent less space to play that fantastic pass.
Mertesacker 6.5 Not troubled in defence, played with authority as we know he can (despite what the journos say about him!). He was great in the air in both attack and defence.
Koscielny 7 Having had a run of games, he seems to be getting back to his best. Superb last-ditch tackle to deny Pogrebnyak. Wasn’t heavily tested.
Monreal 5.5 Quite strong in attack. Gave Robson-Kanu too much space for the chance when the ball was flashed across the face of goal. Also failed to prevent the goal, but it was a great cross that was difficult to defend.
Arteta 7.5 A confident penalty, but his greatest contribution wasn’t the goal – it was his control of the midfield. He made over 100 passes (via @Orbinho) and was aptly assisted by his midfield partners.
Ramsey 7 Given a freer role than he has had in previous matches and he delivered a fine performance in response. Almost got a goal with a strong shot late in the game, and would’ve been deserved.
Rosicky 6.5 He should’ve shot after an exquisite move late in the match, but played well nonetheless. He wasn’t as creative as usual, but his high pressing game was essential to the regular turnover of possession in our favour.
Cazorla 8.5 Had a fantastic game. He was involved in most of the slick passing moves and grabbed a goal and an assist.
Gervinho 8 As I’ve said for a while – he’s a player with immense talent but struggles when he actually has to think. We all know his finishing is rubbish, but it’s a skill that can be improved upon. He’s got good ball control and dribbling, and is certainly the most unpredictable player in our side. He showed his best and worst traits against Reading, scoring a tap-in and grabbing two assists, whilst missing a host of decent opportunities. Frustrating to watch, but he could be an important player in the run-in.
Giroud 7 Linked up quite well with those behind him, but sometimes should try and run with the ball rather than attempting fancy flicks. His goal was a good finish, after he sprinted the length of the pitch to catch up with Gervinho.
Podolski n/a Didn’t do much! Hope he gets more game-time in the coming weeks.
Gibbs 6 Came on for Monreal when he was injured, but didn’t get involved much in defence or attack.
Oxlade-Chamberlain7 The liveliest of the substitutes, he won a penalty with a superb run and was running around, always trying to get involved.
So Thomas Vermaelen and Wojciech Szczesny were left out for the 2nd game in a week and Arsenal won the game 2-0 (again). Anybody starting to see a pattern develop? Of course, 2 games is not enough to jump to any conclusions, but I am currently much happier with the Koscielny and Mertesacker partnership. Koscielny adds a bit of pace to our defensive game, which complements Mertesacker, who normally has good positioning and spacial awareness. Nacho Monreal was in to replace Kieran Gibbs, with Abou Diaby in for Aaron Ramsey.
Arsenal started the game relatively well, but did not create too much in the first half. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hit the bar twice and can take a lot away from a good performance, but the best chance of the first half probably fell to Michu, who span and then shot just past the far post.
Abou Diaby, however, did not have such a great game. He didn’t really do much defensive work alongside Arteta and his passing was poor. If anything, Diaby looked to be the most jaded of all our players, which is strange because he didn’t play against Bayern Munich in midweek.
Olivier Giroud struggled to really impose himself in the Swansea box, but put in a useful performance nonetheless. Olivier didn’t take many chances himself, but his hold up play was good and he was particularly creative. He grabbed an assist for Monreal’s goal & also played the through-ball to Ramsey in the move which led to Gervinho’s goal. I was not overly impressed with Theo Walcott, whose performance was slightly patchy. However, to be fair to Theo there was not really anybody in the box for him to cross to, with Giroud preferring to come slightly deeper and link with the midfield.
In the end, Ramsey & Gervinho proved to be quite good substitutions. The way we played changed after they came on & they combined nicely for the second goal right at the end of the game. Gervinho also put in a nice performance against Bayern Munich, so hopefully our Ivorian is returning to form at an important point in the season.
With Spurs losing to Fulham at White Hart Lane, the gap is now closed to 4 points with game in hand, and we definitely have an easier run-in. In their next 4 games Spurs play Swansea (a), Everton (h), Chelsea (a), City (h). The Chelsea game is particularly important because we are only 5 points off 3rd place, which is slightly ridiculous given how badly this season has supposedly gone. That said, we still have to play Everton and United at the Emirates. There are a lot of important fixtures coming up over the next month or so; it’s anybody’s guess as to who will finish 3rd, 4th and 5th at the end of the season.
It was one of the more memorable nights in Arsenal’s recent European history and certainly in this relatively disappointing campaign. Both the team and the fans did the club proud with the former putting in a gutsy performance and the latter out-singing the large contingent of local supporters. Although the German side controlled large periods of the game, Arsenal threatened on the counter attack and scored twice despite failing to create too many chances.
Feels like home? Arsenal fans were far louder than the locals, something we are far too familiar with at the Emirates
So how do I reckon the players fared?
Fabianski – 7.5 He’s had a fair bit of stick in the past, but Lukasz was decent after returning from a lengthly spell out the side. For whatever reason, Szczesny was left at home, but I think it’s safe to say that Wojciech’s recent form hasn’t been so good that he is untouchable. Last night Fabianski made a couple of decent stops and seemed pretty confident. His best moment was the one-on-one save from Robben – he waited for the Bayern cheat winger to make the first move, staying on his feet until the shot was taken. Wenger may be unsure of his number 1 keeper at the moment, giving all three players an opportunity for them to make their mark. Arsene said the following: “You are never number one forever and you are not on one game as well.”
Jenkinson – 8 Great performance, reminding us of his early season endeavours. Worked his socks off and forced Robben to drift elsewhere in order to make a mark on the game. His stand-out moment came when he back-peddled against an on-rushing Robben before taking the ball off him and calmly distributing it to an Arsenal player.
Mertesacker – 7.5 Another excellent defensive display. He looked far more at ease with Koscielny by his side than he has alongside Vermaelen in recent weeks. He was dominant in the air, his passing was typically accurate and made a few classy interceptions.
Koscielny – 7.5 He took the captain’s place in the side and vindicated Wenger’s potentially risky decision. He lost the ball once in a dangerous area and immediately won it back with a fabulous sliding tackle. He scored the late goal which gave us hope, but his greatest contribution was his ability to create a calmness in the back four which had been missing for some time.
Gibbs – 7 Not his finest match but a vital cog in the defence. Sometimes backed off for a little too long as Bayern attacked from out wide.
Arteta – 7 His usual understated, hard-working self. He kept possession ticking over when Bayern pressed us high up the field and he produced a performance worthy of a captain until his frustration boiled over late on.
Ramsey – 6.5 He made a few stray passes in the first half but was also involved in the move for the first goal. Not his best game but he harried the opposition midfield and that was essential to preventing Bayern from gaining momentum.
Rosicky – 6.5 Like Ramsey his passing wasn’t perfect, but he was excellent in pressing high up the pitch. Such performances make you wonder why Wilshere and Cazorla haven’t had more rests with such a good replacement.
Cazorla – 6 A quiet game from the talented Spaniard, as Bayern set their sights on closing the space around him. He still used nifty footwork to find some space and was involved in setting up a few counter attacks.
Walcott – 5.5 Despite a fine cross-shot for the opener, he fizzled out of the game. Whether that was due to his poor runs or his teammates not finding his runs, I don’t know. But his replacement was more diligent defensively, cleverer in attack and better at keeping possession. Is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain going to push Theo for a place as the season draws to a close?
Giroud – 6.5 He didn’t have the best game but he scored the first goal and held up the ball well. The problem was that he failed to lay the ball off to a teammate on a regular basis, after having done the hard work of controlling and shielding the ball from the defender.
Oxlade-Chamberlain – 6.5 Excellent cameo as discussed above.
Gervinho – 6.5 Looked dangerous when he came on, perhaps he’s champing at the bit to get some minutes. Fantastic skill when he produced a delicate swivel and poked the ball past the keeper – shame no one got on the end of that.
Overall it was a great evening with every player putting in plenty of effort. If we can continue be so defensively disciplined, with the midfield sitting in front of the back four instead of running around like wild geese, then we may yet make the top 4 in the Premier League.
After our win over Bayern Munich, I felt a blend of conflicting emotions. On the one hand I was happy that the team had gone to Munich and restored some pride with a fantastic 2-0 win at the Allianz Arena. On the other hand, the win counted for nothing. We lost the tie. Champions League over.
Arsenal’s first goal came in only the 3rd minute and gave the away fans just the faintest feeling that something which had seemed so impossible was now achievable. Theo Walcott’s cross was met emphatically by Olivier Giroud, who from then on found it difficult to impose himself in the game.
You felt that ideally we needed another goal before 75-80 minutes in order to have Bayern really worried, but we weren’t able to double our lead until the 86th minute. Laurent Koscielny’s header put us within touching distance of the quarters, but time was not on our side and Bayern made sure that we didn’t get a 3rd.
If we hadn’t played so poorly in the first leg we would probably be in the pot for the quarter/semi-final draw that is taking place this morning, so I guess in that respect we only have ourselves to blame. As Wenger put it in his post-match interview “Qualifying is 180 minutes and in the first 90 we were not at our best”. That said, I can’t help feeling that the away goal rule is stupid. Why is a 2-0 win not has good as a 3-1 win? This requires a much more in-depth analysis to be done on another day. However, I do feel like now is a good time to go on a bit of a rant about our rivals and some of the time-wasting tactics employed towards the end of the game.
After about the 70th minute, the game became very stop/start, with Bayern clearly looking to waste some precious seconds and stop us hitting them on the counter. The referee didn’t exactly help matters by blowing up for every foul and handing out an unnecessary number of yellow cards. Most frustrating of all was that once the board for added time went up Bayern looked to take the ball to the corner, protect it and play for cheap throw-ins. This is not outside the laws of the game, but it does somewhat reduce the game as a spectacle, while also creating increased tension between the fans in the stadium and the players. What I find so outrageous is that it is so blatantly obvious when a player chooses to run straight to the corner to protect the ball rather than being forced into the corner during a normal course of events. Of course, I am writing this from the point of view of a fan who is on the wrong side of the result. I will be the first to admit that when my team is winning all I want is to keep possession.
I was particularly impressed with the defensive performance, especially that of Carl Jenkinson and Lauernt Koscielny, who was started instead of Vermaelen. You look at some of the players in the team who haven’t played that much this season or have been heavily criticised, but they all stepped up on Wednesday night for a well-rounded team performance. You can find our player ratings here.