Arsenal may be out of the Champions League, but they have neither the time nor the need to feel sorry for themselves. This might be the end of their European dream, but it is far from the end of their season.
Arsenal performed beyond expectations in the second leg against Bayern Munich, holding the German giants to a 1-1 draw. In isolation, it’s an excellent result. Unfortunately, the first leg had left Arsenal with a nigh-impossible job. The Gunners had lost the first game, 2-0, leaving themselves in a position that only two Champions League teams have ever managed to recover.
The task proved beyond Arsenal, but there were still plenty of positives to take from the game. Foremost among those was the performance of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Deployed in a central midfield role, he was a one man counter-attacking machine, replicating the performance Ross Barkley produced against Arsenal a matter of days ago.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is one of the most in-form players in the Premier League. Between now and May, his contribution will be absolutely vital.
Another bonus for Arsenal was the performance of Lukasz Fabianski. Fabianski has been much maligned during his Arsenal career for a series of high-profile errors. However, in the past 12 month, he has established himself as a capable deputy for Wojciech Szczesny.
Against Bayern, he was magnificent. He had no chance on their goal and produced a series of excellent stops to keep their tally to one. To cap it all, he saved a penalty from Thomas Mueller, springing back up to claw away the rebound.
Fabianski’s continued good form is vital for Arsenal as he is their nominated keeper for the FA Cup. Arsene Wenger has already indicated that he intends to keep faith with Fabianski for the semi-final clash with Wigan, so he’ll have been delighted to see the Pole in such good form.
The big shame for Arsenal was the loss of Mesut Ozil to injury. Arsene Wenger told Goal.com after the game that the injury was “quite bad” and is likely to rule him out of the next few weeks of competitive action. After Ozil’s excellent display against Everton in the FA Cup quarter-final, it’s a tremendous blow to lose him. Wenger will hope he is compensated by the return of a healthy Aaron Ramsey.
Arsenal will hope Ramsey’s availability will enable them to pursue their domestic ambitions with renewed vigour. Beating Bayern was always a long shot, but there is still so much to play for back home. Arsenal are strong favourites to lift the FA Cup and are engrossed in a fascinating climax to the Premier League.
There is no time to sulk. This weekend, the Gunners travel to Tottenham for what should be a thrilling North London derby. Spurs will be desperate to bounce back after the heavy defeat to Chelsea, whereas Arsenal will be keen to reassert their diminishing title credentials.
The Champions League may be out of Arsenal’s reach, but there remains so much to play for.