It is has now been well over a week since our embarrassing, record breaking Champions League elimination, yet bizarrely, there are still some Arsenal supporters, refusing to accept that the match officials were not responsible for our two successive, second half capitulations against the German giants.
Having heard some of the comments made by Arsene in his recent press conferences, it would appear that these supporters are not alone in their failure to acknowledge where the real culpability lies. The way the loss of Laurent Koscielny, affected the team in both fixtures, provides evidence of the squad not having sufficient central defensive cover and a lack of resilience, when we are up against it.
I have seen some supporters stating that the first half, in both games, shows that we are good enough to compete with Europe’s top sides. However, whilst we were level at half time in the first leg and ahead at the interval in the second, I disagree. For the first thirty minutes or so at the Allianz Arena, we barely touched the ball and were lucky to equalise through Alexis Sanchez before the break.
At no stage during the first leg, did we look on par with Bayern and us being level at half time, was more down to luck than judgment. I would not read too much into our lead after forty-five minutes of the return fixture either. Having won the first game five-one, I believe Bayern were playing well within themselves before Koscielny’s sending off. I would have been more surprised if it was not us, playing at the higher tempo. Unfortunately, being awarded a penalty woke them up.
I compare our players to Bayern’s and ask the question, how many of ours would get in their side? The answer, not many, if any. In all honesty, I am amazed that anyone thinks that we have shown that we can compete with the finest teams in Europe. The truth is that we have struggled to compete with the best in England this season, let alone in Europe. As things stand, we trail the domestic league leaders by an embarrassing sixteen points.
The way we capitulated in both legs, only serves to highlight the fact that our players and manager, have no idea how to react to certain on field situations. Whilst hindsight is a wonderful thing, you did not need to be a rocket scientist to work out that the chances of us overturning a five-one deficit were slim prior to Koscielny’s dismissal. After it, they were non-existent.
Had the team attempted to tighten up at the back and managed to come away from the game with a respectable score line, at least we would have restored a bit of pride. Instead we found ourselves on the end of the heaviest ever, aggregate defeat for an English club in European competition. I am embarrassed by that, Arsene and the players should be too.
Instead of showing that we are good enough to compete with the likes of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona, I believe that we did the opposite. However, it was Leicester’s surprise qualification for the last eight, which has provided the motivation for me to write this article. I was surprised to see so many of our supporters dismissing their achievement by saying “we’d have beaten Sevilla too”. How can anyone be confident in a side that is so inconsistent and defensively naive?
It should also not be forgotten that we were knocked out by an unfancied Monaco in the 2014-15 season. For those of you about to point out that Monaco eliminated Man City this week, I believe they are a far stronger side now, than when we played them. In that season, they finished nine points off the top, this season they will not. If you are interested, they are currently three points points clear.
Despite spending a reported £90m in the summer, we are no better this season. Some would say that we are arguably worse. We lack a top class goalkeeper, with Petr Cech past his best, and it is becoming increasingly evident that Shkodran Mustafi could not cross a road without Koscielny being there to hold his hand. Nacho Monreal appears to be in decline, Alexis Sanchez’s best position is open to debate and we lack a top class defensive shield in midfield.
I think there is a player somewhere in Granit Xhaka but whether Wenger will ever get the best out of him or pair him with the right partner, remains to be seen. Unfortunately, nothing is likely to change until Arsene is replaced and should he stay, I will probably be saying similar things this time next year. At least we have an FA Cup semi-final to look forward to, the day out anyway. I just hope the team turns up…..