I love hindsight. It offers so much and asks so little. It is a wonderful gift and a soothing relaxant after an evening of the ‘now’ can build such tension.
Hindsight has allowed me to utter such a phrase:
What a glorious night of football under the floodlights.
Hindsight, as well as the bundled ‘header’ of Giroud and finish of Özil (the statues behind the goal doing something!!), have allowed me to say such things. For as the majority of the ‘now’ panned out last night inside the stadium, it was a terrifying watch from my peepers, because it felt to me during the time that Bayern were suckering us in. They dominated possession, looked calm and composed on the ball and you could see that they were a team full of confidence, bought about by a flawless start to the season that was as daunting to all assembled Arsenal fans in the pub before the game as we could have imagined.
But runs are there to be broken and hindsight is there to be enjoyed. And I’m enjoying this. I’m enjoying looking back on the game and instead of seeing a Bayern side dominate possession, winning the ball back quickly with the high press and seemingly giving no Arsenal player more than two seconds on the ball, I am seeing an Arsenal side that have analysed their opponents and acted accordingly.
During the match I was frustrated that we weren’t pressing the same way Bayern did. During the match I feared us being overloaded and undone by a moment of magic. During the match I never thought a team that seemed so comfortable could be unpicked.
But we picked. We picked real good, like. For it is in the colder light of a Wednesday day that I can appreciate how Arsenal set up. We set up exactly how we did against Moneychester City at the Etihad: don’t get exposed, don’t get countered and see where the game takes us.
For that to work you need discipline, you need players to play their part and you need performances from a minimum of nine out of the 11 on the pitch. We got that last night.
Cech made a number of grand saves, including one from Lewandowski when through in the second half. Monreal and Bellerin were excellent throughout, with the latter having a massive impact late on by winning the ball before the second goal and the former proving that Arsène is right to keep Gibbs sidelined. Koscienly and Mertseacker were imperious and in front of them Coquelin snapped in to tackles.
Santi made the odd misplaced pass, but his was a difficult task under the Guardiola model of the high press, whilst Özil grew in to the game in the second half and also was a key part in goal number two by beating Neuer – just.
Wide left I thought Alexis had one of those games you’d expect from a player who probably ran back from Chile, i.e. He looked visibly knackered in both halves, whilst Ramsey on the other flank worked his socks off throughout. The only sad point of last night was his clear hamstring injury, which will probably see him out until November at the least, so let’s just hope it’s not more serious than a slight tweak. Wenger said afterwards he was very down and you could understand why. He was having a good game up until that point.
Theo looked lively in points, but the correct decision was made by Le Boss to bring on goalscorer Giroud, who’s header beyond Neuer set us on the way to three points. He’s bagged himself yet another goal and you have to wonder if the injury to Ramsey might see Arsène push Theo wide right and restore the Frenchman.
As soon as he came on, the dynamic of the game changed, as Bayern’s high press to force Cech to play long became an advantage rather than a hindrance. Giroud was an instant handful and both Alaba and Boateng looked troubled. It was the perfect response from Arsenal and saw us look instantly more threatening.
What’s great about it is that it shows we can mix it up. Defensively Bagern had Theo’s number, but the switch to a more direct style with Giroud meant that we caught Bayern with a right hook they weren’t expecting. It’s what we’ve longed from The Arsenal for so long. Now we have it. Options.
So what about this Champions League group then? Well we still have an uphill battle and we should probably not expect anything from Bayern away, but wins against Olympiakos and Zagreb might be enough, assuming the Greeks don’t pick up anything against Bayern when they play them in Germany in two games time. But the margins will be tight. We have to beat Zagreb and Olympiakos to progress.
This team is developing momentum. We’re putting together a decent winning run and we need to continue again against Everton. It’s important that the morale boost of today isn’t lost by complacency in the next game, but with players like Özil, Giroud, Alexis and co all stepping up in each game, it bodes well for hopes that we can challenge domestically. Can we challenge on a European scale? I’m still yet to be convinced. But this was a big result, a big night and the big players showed up. For that we can all be proud.