It’s another year that Arsene Wenger won’t get his hands on the Champions League trophy. Last night, Arsenal were defeated 2-0 at home to Bayern Munich in a game which was overshadowed by two interesting decisions.
After Mesut Ozil’s lazy seventh minute penalty was saved, Arsenal’s night turned into a living nightmare. Wojciech Szczęsny’s 37th minute red card (the second of his career) after the Pole had fouled Arjen Robben in the box, led to a Bayern Munich penalty kick. Up stepped David Alaba, but his penalty (which was 10 times better than Ozil’s) crashed against the post and Arsenal went into the break, full of optimism that they could grind out a result against the current Champions League holders.
However, Arsenal were chasing shadows for much of the second half, and since the Gunners had used two substitutes (Kieran Gibbs came off injured) in the first half, Arsenal had one throw of the dice left to try and outsmart their opponents.
But it wasn’t to be, as goals from Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller gave the holders a well deserved 2-0 lead to take back to Germany.
Arsenal looked tired, dejected and fed up by the final whistle, as the red card obviously put a massive dent in Arsenal’s game plan. However, there was a shock before the game that might of affected Arsenal’s plan.
The surprise inclusion of Yaya Sanogo starting ahead of Olivier Giroud AND Lukas Poldolski was a main talking point. The 21-year-old Frenchman had only played three games for Arsenal before the clash with Bayern, with his only start being against Liverpool a few days before. Some might say that with Olivier Giroud’s private life being plastered in the papers, starting Sanogo was a wise move by Wenger. However, after Szczęsny was dismissed, you can obviously tell that by 75 minutes, the youngster was tired to the core after putting a shift in for his team. But, why didn’t Wenger take Sanogo off for Fabiasnki?
Arsenal, who were playing with one striker, should have played defensively by taking off Sanogo when the red card happened. The move would have benefited the Gunners as they didn’t need to attack, which would have frustrated their German counterparts. Taking a 0-0 draw to Bavaria would have been the dream result, as one goal for Arsenal in Germany would swing the entire tie in Arsenal’s favor and could have potentially knocked Bayern out of the competition.
I believe Sanogo had a great opportunity to show Europe what he could do, however, in a game of such magnitude, shouldn’t you have played a striker who has experience in the competition against similar players? Lukas Podolski would have been the perfect striker to play yesterday. He’s tenacious, he knows how the Germans play and he knows his international team mates’ weaknesses. He would have been the ideal striker to start last night, and yet Wenger went for inexperience to try and knock out the current holders of the competition. Of course, you need to experiment, but do that after Sanogo has got a few games under his belt. The more experience he gets, the better he would have coped in a match like last night. Yes, the red card ruined Arsenal’s gameplan completely, but I still believe Wenger should have gone with Podolski instead of Yaya Sanogo.
This result could also derail an Arsenal season full of promise. In the 2007/08, 2009/10 and 2010/11 seasons, the Gunners had promising campaigns, where winning trophies was a massive possibility. Arsenal were winning games against the teams around them convincingly, and looked liked a side that was going to be winning trophies at the end of those seasons. However, one bad result (strangely, all of the games were against Birmingham City) ruined Arsenal’s seasons, as a bad run of form cost Arsenal matches, results and more importantly, first team players.
Wenger has been in the game long enough to know what could happen in the upcoming weeks. Games against Sunderland, Stoke, Tottenham, Manchester City, Everton (twice), Chelsea and Bayern Munich all await the Gunners in the next few weeks, games that can defy Arsenal’s over- expected season.
Arsenal HAVE got the quality in their squad to win the majority of these fixtures and win trophies on paper, but, will their minds and morale be strong enough to end this horrific run of not winning silverware? We’ll soon see, but one thing I guarantee you is that Arsenal fans will not be sitting easily in the next few weeks.