Bayern Munich vs. Arsenal: 6 Things We Learned
Arsenal put in a valiant effort at the Allianz Arena but were kicked out of the Champions League by Bayern Munich on an aggregate score of 3-1.
Few gave the Gunners a chance to progress before the first leg, and almost all rational followers believed that it was all but over after Bayern left the Emirates Stadium with a 2-0 victory.
Yet Arsenal did not roll over by any stretch of the imagination and should return to London with their heads held high. Here are six things we learned from the match.
Wenger Is Right to Call out Arjen Robben
Arsene Wenger twice criticized Arjen Robben after the game for diving. The manager was right to do so, as the Dutchman had cynically and flagrantly conned the referee multiple times.
Wenger's comments were pointed (via ESPNFC):
Robben did well, he dived well.
Robben is very good at getting the maximum of nothing and he is a great player and as well a very good diver, but it is part of it.
Wenger is not merely a sore loser. Con men like Robben undermine the integrity of the game and need to be shamed. Thankfully, Lukasz Fabianski saved a penalty awarded after one of Robben's dives.
Thomas Vermaelen Excelled
Arsenal's captain deserves to be commended for performing excellently in a position he hates against one of the best and most dangerous right-wingers in the world.
Vermaelen has not played very much, remember, and thus is not fully sharp. Considering this and the fact that he is not a natural left-back, he handled Arjen Robben's threat quite well and effectively marshalled the back line.
He, like Lukasz Fabianski, was probably auditioning for potential buyers. Surely they will take note of this performance.
Wenger Was Burned by His Team Selection
One cannot fault Arsene Wenger for picking the most attack-oriented team possible. In any normal circumstance, one would be conservative against such a daunting opponent, but Arsenal really had nothing to lose.
If they were to lose the tie, it would not really matter by what aggregate margin they did. Arsenal ended up capitulating by the same margin they entered the game with, but it was not for the want of trying by the manager.
The players could have pressed a bit more in the first half, but Wenger still must be commended for throwing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain into the midfield and adding Lukas Podolski on the left wing.
However, doing so left the Gunners vulnerable to counterattacks. Bastian Schweinsteiger expertly capitalized on Arsenal's defensive weakness, effectively ending the tie.
Fabianski Is Better Than a Backup
Whatever team signs Lukasz Fabianski for free this summer will get an absolute steal.
The Pole showed once again that he is so much better than the extremely marginal role to which he has been consigned during the deserved reign of Wojciech Szczesny. A consistent presence in the box and the ability to intervene when needed made him an integral part of the back five.
Fabianski's save of Thomas Muller's penalty in stoppage time was merely icing on the proverbial cake for him, and what sweet icing it was. His initial kick-save was excellent, but the wherewithal and quickness needed to prevent the rebound from being tapped in were incredible.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Continued to Be Crucial
Despite Lukasz Fabianski's domination of his penalty box, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was clearly Arsenal's man of the match.
He is giving Arsene Wenger ample reasons to continue to start him in every game through the end of the season. Once again, he was a thorn in Bayern's side and his driving, combative runs were only stopped by fouls.
He obviously has a future in Arsenal's midfield.
Pep Guardiola Prevented Arsenal from Turning the Tie
Lukas Podolski might have actually injected some life into the tie with his 57th minute goal if Arsenal were not already so tired.
That was exactly what Pep Guardiola tried to effect. Bayern's extraordinary ability to retain possession and keep the ball moving prevented Arsenal from settling down and forced the Gunners to constantly chase the ball.
As a result, Arsenal simply had no energy by the end of the match. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had to be substituted to prevent his legs from turning into gelatin.
That ultimately proved the difference between the two sides. Bayern's ability to perfectly execute Guardiola's game plan allowed them to be utterly dominant.