Five observations on Arsenal from Bayern Munich defeat

Ten-man Arsenal fell 2-0 to Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie on Wednesday afternoon at the Emirates.

The final result is a far cry from what briefly looked a dream start for the Gunners, Mesut Ozil’s weak penalty saved just eight minutes in to send the chance for an early lead begging.

Wojciech Szszesny would head to the dressing room early and despite David Alaba’s wayward spot-kick, Pep Guardiola’s bunch were able to put two past Lukasz Fabianski to secure the victory.

And so with a mountain to climb for Arsenal ahead of the second leg in Germany on March 11, following are five observations from Wednesday’s defeat in north London.

Arsenal believed in a win

Jack Wilshere caused some worry on Tuesday when he said a scoreless draw would be a positive result for Arsenal, but they didn’t come out looking a side playing for one. The Gunners showed plenty of conviction out the gate, looking to take the game to Bayern and not simply bide their time until an opportunity fortuitously presented itself. And it worked a treat - well, almost - Ozil’s poor penalty attempt failing to give Arsenal something to show for their efforts. Even until Szczesny’s sending off the Gunners looked to have the utmost belief, but were thrust into a difficult scenario from then on that couldn’t be approached the same way.

Koscielny played like a captain

That title of course still belongs to the forgotten Thomas Vermaelen, but Laurent Koscielny was a major reason Arsenal were able to hold out as well as they did whilst a man down. The Frenchman was proactive in pressing Guardiola’s charges on the ball, was immense in one-on-one situations and threw his body in front of an immeasurable amount of Bayern attempts on goal. Of course, he wasn’t able to lead his side to the near impossible - keeping a clean sheet against Die Roten at a numerical disadvantage - yet the commitment to the cause is the type of thing that can galvanise his team-mates, and that’s nothing but positive for Arsenal ahead of the title run-in.

Ozil needs some time on the bench

The German did a brilliant job of winning his ill-fated penalty off of Jerome Boateng, and an equally prolific job of letting Bayern off the hook. From then on, the German appeared to lack focus and struggled to leave his mark, even when Arsenal were still at full strength. The narrative of Ozil having gone off the boil has reached a head, and it seems time for Wenger to at last drop him to the bench. Mentally, the former Real Madrid man looks unsure of himself, whilst physically, fatigue appears to be a problem with 30 starts under his belt this term. Often the line is to allow top players to work their way through a rough patch of form, but a rest may really be what Ozil needs at this point in time.

Wenger got it right with Sanogo and the Ox

All the buzz in the final hour for kick-off surrounded Wenger’s choice to start Sanogo over Olivier Giroud - would the Frenchman live to regret deploying such an inexperienced, albeit promising, striker? Truthfully, he didn’t. Sanogo didn’t see much at all of the ball after Szczesny received his marching orders, but provided the essential pace and creativity that Giroud doesn’t possess in the early going. Putting him out there was a risk, but one that could’ve paid off under different circumstances and with better service. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was crucial in his own right along the same vein - his sheer speed troubled Bayern, revealing him to be a better selection than either Tomas Rosicky or Lukas Podolski.

It could be worse

Surviving 53 minutes of football with 10 men opposite Guardiola’s Bayern whilst conceding twice is no small feat. What stings most for the Gunners, really, is Thomas Muller’s late second - there’s a large gap between 1-0 down on away goals and 2-0 in the same respect - though many other teams would’ve crumbled entirely and seen the tie beyond all doubt. Don’t expect Arsenal to get through - the chance of a repeat of last term’s 2-0 win in Munich is minuscule in reality - but there’s a small window for success. Wenger’s men minimised the damage the best they could, and at least should be able to turn in a valiant fight at the Allianz Arena.

image: © wonker

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