Why Gibbs injury & Monreal sub was game changer in Bayern defeat

Nacho Monreal Arsenal 1

The left-back had dealt admirably with Philipp Lahm's ventures down the right but his replacement - Nacho Monreal - looked susceptible throughout.

When Kieran Gibbs sat on the turf, clutching at his hamstring, Arsenal fans' hearts skipped a beat.

For Nacho Monreal, for all his hard work and industry, was always likely to be exposed against Bayern Munich, such is his lack of pace.

He has not quite reached Andre Santos levels of unreliability in the left-back berth for the Gunners, but equally Arsene Wenger's side have felt the absence of Gibbs in recent weeks, and his ability to recover.

When Monreal is caught upfield, he struggles to get back but the blot on Gibbs' copybook has always been his injury troubles, which came back to haunt him on Tuesday night. Early indications suggest Gibbs may even be back in time to face Sunderland on Saturday, but it did not help Arsenal in the short term, as Bayern's forward raids became increasingly reliant on their right flank. 

Philipp Lahm, Rafinha, Arjen Robben and others all took it in turns to peel wide and get at poor Monreal, who was targeted as soon as he entered the fray and his loss of concentration - and Robben - at a crucial time ultimately led to Wojciech Szczesny's dismissal for hauling down the Dutchman.

It was a brief lapse but an extremely costly one. Not immediately, with surprise penalty taker David Alaba hitting the post with the resultant spot-kick but it would leave the Gunners a man short for over half of the opening leg for the last-16 tie.

Bayern took full advantage, they piled down the right again and, while Monreal could not be directly blamed for either of the two goals, his positional sense cost his side on both occasions, as the Bavarians stretched play from side to side before breaking the brave resolve of the home side.

The second goal came as a result of Laurent Koscielny's desire to get forward, for instance, but Bayern teamed up on the outnumbered Spaniard to devastating effect.

Of course, Arsenal were punished in the grand manner and there is no assurance Gibbs would have been able to withhold the incessant pressure the visitors put their hosts under before putting the seal on a 2-0 victory.

But the stats do not make impressive reading for the former Malaga man who, from his four attempted tackles, made just one. He also lost his solitary headed duel while his passing accuracy was alarmingly low at just a 56% completion rate from nine passes.

Gibbs, on the other hand, despite his brief stay was far more accomplished. He completed his one tackle, an interception, three clearances and also posted a passing accuracy of 80%.

Monreal should not be solely blamed for his role in defeat but it was amplified to the extent where he became one of the scapegoats. 

On this evidence, Gibbs' return certainly cannot come soon enough.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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