Arsenal were eliminated from the 2013 UEFA Champions League with a bittersweet finish after beating German giants Bayern Munich 2-0 on Wednesday.
Alas, having lost the opening leg 3-1 three weeks back, the two-goal victory was not enough for the Gunners to find their way into the last 16. They fell just one goal short of their elusive prize courtesy of the away-goal rule being enforced on the 3-3 aggregate.
Having said that, the win/loss—however you interpret it—was a positive night for the Londoners, who will certainly take plenty away from the second leg.
Here's some of the top takeaways for Arsenal following their exit.
Arsenal Looked Better Defensively Without Thomas Vermaelen
The surprise return of Kieran Gibbs meant that Arsene Wenger didn't need captain Thomas Vermaelen to play out at left-back to cover for him. Yet in an even bigger surprise, Wenger then dropped the central defender for the pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker to tackle Bayern's attack.
It was a brave move—made even more so by the fact that Vermaelen is the captain and Arsenal's defense has looked shaky all season long, plus the fact that they were coming up against one of the more explosive offenses in world football.
Yet with the Belgian international on the bench, Arsenal looked good defensively. Not perfect, and nowhere near it, but they looked better at the back.
Carl Jenkinson defended brilliantly throughout the match on the right flank, whilst Koscielny showed how strong he can be in the middle of the field. With Mertesacker chiming in to that mix, and Gibbs handling himself okay against the flying Bayern wingers, Wenger would no doubt have felt justified in his decision to leave Vermaelen out of the starting team entirely.
It's not going to stay that way forever, with the captain obviously going to assume his spot at the back, but it certainly does make for an interesting storyline going forward this year. Particularly if Koscielny and Mertesacker both continue to shine.
Arsenal Paid the Price for Lack of Ruthlessness
When they get back to London, expect the Gunners to seriously question what could have been if they were more effective against Bayern Munich. In both matches, the North London club wasted several good opportunities—particularity Olivier Giroud—to grab that elusive goal that would have completely changed the outcome of their Champions League campaign.
They simply were not ruthless enough, and it came back to haunt them here, but you've got to wonder as well whether Wenger and the board have a role to play here also.
When the January transfer window was open, Wenger opted not to bring in a new striker and spend the money to help keep their season alive. He deemed that the squad they had—that was struggling even in the Premier League—was strong enough to mix it with the best in Europe and win.
What Bayern showed in the opening leg was that it wasn't, and that the Gunners had no depth in their squad for the rest of the season. Their lack of bench depth and talent hurt them in the first leg and it certainly hurt them throughout this second leg. You'd definitely go as far to say that with a strong squad, Arsenal would have beaten Bayern Munich on the night and still be alive in the UCL.
Granted, Lukas Podolski and Jack Wilshere were out, and yes, that seriously hurt Arsenal. But the fact that there were no adequate replacements for either player—Tomas Rosicky and Gervinho simply do not count—showed that Wenger has let his team down.
His failure to bring in depth has cost this team a spot in the Champions League quarterfinals, with his lack of ruthlessness ending their European dream.
Whether he will rectify that in the summer transfer window still remains to be seen, but judging by this week, you'd have to say that it's a must. Gervinho, Rosicky, Abou Diaby and Andrey Arshavin simply do not cut it as far as depth in a squad is concerned.
Especially not when you're trying to win the Champions League.
What did you take out of the Gunners' UCL elimination?
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