Earlier in the day all the talk was about Wenger resting Cazorla, Mertesacker and Walcott for Swansea on Saturday, thereby ‘giving up’ and allowing the Germans an easy win. The Daily Mail in particular went to town, writing three separate articles criticising him for letting the fans down and getting his priorities wrong. Now I’m no fan of Wenger, but at least wait until you’ve seen his teamsheet before having a pop. The Daily Mail truly is an odious rag.
Thankfully Wenger saw sense and fielded a fairly strong line-up and now all the talk is of how brilliantly we did and what a great performance that was. That’s probably a bit over the top — after all, they had 21 shots to our five and dominated the game — but there was much to be encouraged about.
We defended more diligently for a start. Not once did we allow anyone to spring our offside trap with the embarrassing ease that Lennon and Bale did. The defence sat a little deeper so maybe, just maybe some lessons are being learned.
Good effort boys
We also played with a good spirit and you could see the determination from Cazorla, Walcott and Giroud as they jogged back to the halfway line after our early goal. All the pre-match talk of waving the white flag was proving to be garbage. Similarly I loved our reaction to Koscielny’s goal as four blue shirts descended on Neuer to get the ball off him and restart the game. Get stuck in boys!
However, all this must be balanced with how off-colour Bayern were. They didn’t know how to react to our early goal (the only decent effort we had in the first 75 minutes in truth). They dominated the play but lacked the same determination and concentration in the final third that they showed in the first leg. It was as if they thought they’d scored the goals they needed already and it seemed to affect them mentally.
We didn’t help ourselves with some sloppy passing, particularly in the first half, and we didn’t create much either. In truth it looked only a matter of time before the Germans equalised, but credit is due for keeping them at bay and restricting them to mostly long range efforts. They may have had 21 shots but Fabianski only needed to make two good saves.
Speaking of the Pole, he surprised me by having a solid game. There was one dodgy moment when a low ball whizzed past him and nobody was on hand to tap it in, but he looked more confident than Szczesny. With Fabianski though you know the next howler is just around the corner and even though I’m sure Wenger will pick Szczesny for the Swansea game, hopefully this has given him a kick up the arse.
So it’s failure, but failure of the best kind because we emerge from the game with some credit. Our problems haven’t been solved in 90 minutes and we aren’t suddenly a brilliant team again, but there is at least more hope now than there was after the Spurs defeat.
Can we finish in the top four? I don’t think so because we’ve left ourselves too much to do and the heartbeat of our side (Wilshere) is now injured for who knows how long. Tonight was a strange game and I don’t know how much you can read into it. However, a win against Swansea is imperative to continue the warm glow that seems to have spread amongst the players and fans tonight. I’m still not confident, but we shall see.
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