Ok, we lost. 2-0 at home. On the face of it, we should be disappointed. Out of the Champions League 1st knock out stages once again before the second leg has been played. However, where as last year and against AC Milan, we had every right to be annoyed and ashamed, this morning Arsenal fans can hold their heads up high.
Before we went down to 10 men, we showed how good we were, matching Bayern Munich all over the pitch. This Bayern Munich side who are favourites for the Champions League. Who beat Barcelona 7-0 last year. Had Mesut Ozil (more on this later) scored his penalty, had the referee (more on this later) been more consistent, it might have been a different result. Unfortunately, that’s football.
Down to 10 men against a world class side is always going to be an uphill struggle. And we did ourselves proud. You only have to look at ‘distance covered’ by all players to see everyone gave 100%.
We can hold our head’s up high, and go into our next 3 games confident that we are not just one of the best teams in England, but one of the best in Europe. Hopefully this defeat leads to a similar negative spiral as we had last year (hi AVB!)
Before I start my rant, Sczcesny was right to be sent off. He bought down his opponent denying him a goal scoring chance. For those saying the rule is wrong, is unfair, if you changed it, you would simply see an increase in keepers run out, charging into the man, knowing that the worst that can happen is giving away a penalty. With the rule as it is, it means that keepers at least have to be controlled and make a valid attempt at getting the ball.
The issue with the referee was inconsistency. Last night (and the Manchester City game) perhaps showed that, despite claims otherwise, European referees are no better than their Premier League counterparts. Why was Boateng not sent for giving away the penalty? He denied a goal scoring opportunity. He then later committed a couple more tackles worthy of a yellow card. Dante seemed untouchable, committing fouls at will, yet no booking. Lets look at some stats:
Arsenal: 8 fouls, 2 yellow cards, 1 red card
Bayern Munich: 16 fouls, 2 yellow cards
To quote Manuel Pellegrini, “The referee decided the game. He was on
Barcelona’s Munich’s side from the beginning until the end. He was not impartial”.
Firstly the criticism. What was that penalty about? For the second time this season, he has taken a lazy penalty and missed. It is now the 3rd penalty in a row he has missed. I do not know his overall record, but 3 in a row is enough for me. Surely we take penalties in training? Surely we can see who the best penalty taker is? Surely that person should be on penalties? The only rational thinking is Ozil scores everyone in training, or (and more likely) he has it in his contract that he should be taking penalties. Yes, Arteta & Giroud were not on the pitch, but after yet another miss, it is time for someone else to step up.
On the other side, he has once again got a lot of criticism for his performance, which is once more very unfair. People called him ‘lazy’ yet he covered the 3rd most amount of ground in the side. His season statistics show he has been one of the best midfielder’s in the Premier League this season. In my opinion, he could do with a bit of a rest.
With Sunderland at home this weekend, the time for a rest is now. With Rosicky, Cazorla, Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain & Wilshere all fit and raring to go, lets give Ozil a rest. I would line up:
Ox Cazorla Podolski
With our next game against Stoke 9 days off, it will give Ozil a chance to re-charge his batteries.
Losing could be good. There could be a silver lining. As I explained yesterday, I would have thrown the Champions League and chucked in the kids from day one. Now we have lost 2-0, we should seriously consider putting out a ‘b’ team in Germany – yes, if you are going, I feel for you, maybe the club should refund all tickets, so you at least get your ticket for free. We have a chance of winning the FA Cup & League. Let’s put our eggs into those baskets and concentrate on those competitions.
Looking at the upcoming fixture’s list, it looks a lot lighter without Champions League football – especially if you ‘remove’ the Munich game from the minds of the 1st team:
Arsenal v Sunderland Sat 22 Feb
Stoke v Arsenal Sat 1 Mar
Arsenal v Everton Sat 8 Mar
Arsenal P-P Swansea
Tottenham v Arsenal Sun 16 Mar
Chelsea v Arsenal Sat 22 Mar
Arsenal v Man City Sat 29 Mar
Everton v Arsenal Sat 5 Apr
Arsenal v West Ham Sat 12 Apr
Hull v Arsenal Sat 19 Apr
Arsenal v Newcastle Sat 26 Apr
Arsenal v West Brom Sat 3 May
Norwich v Arsenal Sun 11 May
Yes, the Spurs, Chelsea, Man City, Everton run of games is difficult, but we can now face them without having the distraction of mid-week football. With the Swansea game required to be re-arranged (plus if we beat Everton, West Ham will be arranged), we will only have 2 mid week games between now and the end of the season. Tiredness should not become an excuse. Losing last night means our focus can fully shift to domestic competitions.
Another solid performance in the fledging career of Sanogo. Yes, he might not have scored (better players have taken longer to score their first goal), but he once more did not look out of place playing up against International class players. Would I play him against Sunderland? No. If Giroud’s head is back in the game, he should be straight back in. But in Sanogo, we have a talented player who’s style could be a useful change coming off the bench. Next season, if we buy a striker, I will be more than happy with the enw striker as first choice, Giroud as second, and Sanogo as 3rd. And with his natural ability, he would be pushing Giroud hard.
For those worried that yet another 1st knock out round defeat is going to dame our coefficient rankings, do not worry, it will not, we will still be seeded for next year. To be top 8, you need, on average, 100,000 coefficient point’s. You usually accrue around 20,000 if you make the knock out stages.
The current ‘live’ update of points puts Arsenal in 6th place. With Manchester United unlikely to qualify, that puts us in 5th. The winners of the competition usually get 35,000. That means only sides who are within 15,000 points of us can finish above us.
Only Porto (knocked out), AC Milan (9th in Serie A), Valencia (not in CL) and Atletico Madrid are within 15,000 points. So realistically, only Madrid can beat us, and they need to win the thing to do so – which is unlikely. Yes, our place could be under pressure in the future with the rise of Dortmund, PSG and Manchester City, but they are at least another season from being near us, and with Manchester United likely to drop out, our place in the top 8 will remain secure, as long as we keep making the knock out stages.
Out of the Champions League, but in with a chance of 2 domestic honours. Back the team. Up the Arsenal.