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Arjen Robben's Audition for Starting Role Goes Horribly as Bayern Fall at Home

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18:  Arjen Robben of Bayern Muenchen attends a training session ahead of their Champions League round of 16 first leg match against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on February 18, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterMarch 13, 2013

Arjen Robben was given a huge chance by Jupp Heynckes on Wednesday night.

The Dutchman—who has spent the large majority of Bayern Munich's season on the sidelines playing second fiddle—had a golden opportunity to impress on what seemed like an easy night of football.

But the Allianz Arena was shocked by a fourth-minute Olivier Giroud finish, and what followed was a demanding home crowd berating their players for underperforming.

This was not the Bayern Munich 70,000 people turned up to watch, nor the Bayern Munich millions tuned in on television to see. While the Bavarian giants did indeed progress (on away goals), the game had sweeping ramifications for one certain individual.

Robben blew it.

Franck Ribery picked up an ankle knock over the weekend in his side's 3-2 win over Fortuna Dusseldorf and, with it likely being a foolish risk to start him against Arsenal, who better to call upon in reserve than a world-class winger?

Heynckes gave Robben the chance he's been waiting for since Thomas Mueller assumed his role at the start of this season, but he couldn't take advantage of it.

Bayern played their traditional 4-2-3-1 formation and Robben, while technically starting on the left flank, drifted around looking for pockets of space.

If he couldn't find an area to exploit, he'd pair up with a full-back and overload a certain area, while remaining ever-eager to find space for a shot.

Die Roten started in a slow, sluggish manner that shocked everyone—even themselves. Without Bastian Schweinsteiger the midfield was lacking something, and Ribery's fresh injection of pace was sitting wrapped up on the sidelines.

Bayern were hugely guilty of underestimating their beleaguered opponents, but soon snapped out of their stupor and turned on the style.

By the final whistle the Bavarian giants had mustered 23 shots, Mueller had struck the post and Lukasz Fabianski had pulled off a stunning save or two.

Robben was responsible for a whopping seven of those shots, but not once did he find the net. One of Fabianski's better saves was against him, but the Dutchman was through on goal and should have scored when one-on-one.

He was always looking to cut inside onto his left foot—as he has done throughout his entire career—and the move was telegraphed; The Arsenal players did what was necessary to see him shoot high and wild on a number of occasions.

None of his five crossing attempts found their man, while his pass-completion percentage stands at just 71.

Was it rust? Was he too desperate to make things happen on the big stage? It's true that Robben's decline started when he missed a crucial penalty against Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League final in May 2012.

How long will it take for him to bounce back? Heynckes stuck with him, and despite obvious temptation did not bring Xherdan Shaqiri on to replace him.

This was the big one, and Robben threw it down the drain.


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