Incredible Arsenal victory clouded by the puzzling missing link

WOOOOOAAAAHHHHHHHH.

Yeah, that about sums up the mood.

A pragmatic Arsenal saw what was coming their way… a freight train. They had a think about what to do about it, and for once, they didn’t run straight at it in a valiant attempt to derail something way stronger than the sum of its parts. They fought smart, played a compact game and broke at pace when they could.

The game was a delight to watch. Sure, sometimes we were chasing shadows, but look, that was clearly the plan. Sometimes we had to rely on our world class keeper. But overall, I think I’d be quite comfortable saying we totally deserved the 3 points.

I don’t think we just beat Bayern, I think we competed with them and showed that we were more than a match for talent and hunger.

Though I don’t want to bag on anyone after that game, you have to say, if we had a bit more quality up front, we’d have potentially won by a larger number. Theo Walcott found himself in great positions, but his touch, instinct and finishing just weren’t there with a world class badge affixed. Put a Thierry in that game and we’d have been laughing much earlier in the game.

Bayern didn’t play badly, they created chances (10m passes too). They challenged us. But they couldn’t break the back line. Partially due to the formidable Petr Cech, but partly due to towering performance from our defence and our midfield. I thought Coquelin and Santi were absolutely on point all game. Zero space between the lines for Bayern to roam.

I thought that the energy we expended in the first half would cause us to break in the second half. It didn’t, if anything, we came to life in the second half. The intensity increased as we tasted blood.

Bellerin a prime example of this, utilising his blistering pace towards the end to intercept then race on to clip a pass to Ozil who was on hand on the back post to fire just over the line. Big shout out to the 5th ref or whatever you call him for that shout. I thought we’d been awarded that because of technology, not because of the sharp eyes of a spare man (who in fairness is paid to do exactly that).

The first goal was also pretty messy. A teasing cross into the box, a mess from Neuer (not a happy bunny in London for the second time) and an accidental hand of Giroud moment to savour. We joked that if he’d had his eyes open watching the ball he’d have missed!

Arsenal maturely played the game out. Nothing rash. Nothing stupid. Just a calm close out. An exceptional win.

The only disappointing part of the evening was Aaron Ramsey pinging a hamstring. Another issue just as he’s finding a flow. Very disappointing. He’ll never be a great player if he can’t string more than ten games together.

But how about Arsenal? We’re always capable of doing something incredible when it’s either a response to something terrible (losing our first two games) or a response when it doesn’t matter (second leg against Bayern a few seasons back).

It begs the question, where was this focus when we were playing two very average teams? As one friend said… ‘Zagreb players smoke man. They actually smoke’… and we fucked it.

It all comes down to hunger. Wenger teams can do it when it’s exciting. They can do it when the pressure is kind of off. They can do it when they’re dead and buried. But they’re not doing it when it’s expected.

That’s what’s upsetting.

Full credit to the full backs. Hector Bellerin is fast becoming one of my favourite players. He’s electric, good at defending and an absolute terrier. He’s so incredibly fit. Monreal also had a beast of a game despite being targeted as a weak link early on. He was composed, calm and a fighter the whole way through. We gain so much stability and depth with those two. Arguably the most balanced pair full backs in about ten years.

The Petr Cech omission of the first two games will go down as one of the most baffling decisions of Wenger’s last 5 years, and there’s been many. He showed today why we bought him. Exceptional. Even more exceptional when you consider Roma conceded 4 goals. Typical Chezzer type goals. That shrug we’ve seen so many times before.

We did learn once again that Arsene has become more pragmatic. He’s paying close attention to the opposition, he’s scoping out a plan that matches our talent and he’s getting the players to deliver. The big game wins continue because we’re smart and realistic about who we’re up against. Long may that continue.

Our biggest issue seems to be complacency.

Why wasn’t the urgency there in the first two games? What is it that’s missing? Is it just millionaires who aren’t frightened of their kind boss? Is it a complacent environment? Is it too friendly? Not enough bastards in the dressing room?

Who knows. But today should have been about announcing to Europe we have an intention to win the European Cup. Instead, in a perverse way, all it’s done is show that Wenger doesn’t have it right. That his system is still lacking something. Something that’s been lacking for a while.

But hey, a win against Bayern is one to savour. That was mega today. I preferred that to the Barcelona take down because we were more deserving today. Brilliant work from Wenger and the boys.

Onwards and upwards. Everton at the weekend. Another big game, one that you could easily lose if you’re not focused and hungry. Finger crossed.


Originally published at le-grove.co.uk on October 21, 2015.