Is Arsene Wenger right? Will beating Bayern give Arsenal belief to become real winners?
In-depth: It is easy to get carried away after a win over Bayern Munich, but you can’t really blame Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger for allowing himself to dream. A side slick enough to beat the Bundesliga champions should be good enough to challenge for the Premier League and Champions League, but was Tuesday night at the Emirates merely a case of one team getting lucky?
Arsenal were bottom of the Group F table after back-to-back defeats to Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiacos in their opening forgettable matches of the Euro exchanges, but kept their continental ambitions alive after unearthing a stout performance to unseat Pep Guardiola‘s side, boosted by a late flourish that knocked the wind out of the Bavarian visitors. Wenger’s team moved ahead with only 13 minutes left when substitute Olivier Giroud benefited from a rare error by Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer in missing Santi Cazorla‘s free-kick to nod the opening goal.
Mesut Ozil sealed the win in the closing seconds of time added on by nudging the ball over the line after Neuer had made a valiant attempt to keep it out. The fifth official deemed the ball had crossed the line to prompt widespread rejoicing among the home fans.
What did Wenger have to say?
“It can strengthen our belief and strengthen the belief of people of around us, our fans. We won 3-0 againstManchester United, 3-0 against Watford and 2-0 (over Bayern), so it is important we have a good balance between defending well and attacking well. As long as we defend well and score goals then the balance is right. We had an absolute necessity to win the game and we did it in an intense and disciplined way. It was a top-level game between two top-level teams. ”
“Bayern had more possession than us, but we decided to make it tight in our final third and catch them on the break. Overall we have beaten a very strong team and kept a good level focus from the first to the last minute and kept a clean sheet as well.’ We (still) need a result at Bayern. Now let’s focus onEverton (on Saturday).”
Is he right to be so optimistic?
Very much so. Wenger possesses a squad that looks formidable enough to have a real crack at winning their first Premier League title in 12 years and a first European Cup in the club’s history. Questions about their mental fragility and the unpredictable tendency of men such as Mesut Ozil to go missing on such evenings were swept away somewhat by the nature of the win over a visiting side who had arrived in London having set a Bundesliga record of nine straight wins and back-to-back successes from their opening European matches. Arsenal played with a discipline and resoluteness that is not naturally associated with their style of play to halt Bayern’s winning run at 12.
Arsenal impressed as they beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League. – PA Sport
They had only 27 percent of possession compared to Munich’s 73 yet Arsenal managed eight shots to the visiting side’s six. It was classic counter-attacking fare built on an impressive stodge. Bayern were without Arjen Robben, Franck Ribéry, Mehdi Benatia, Sebastian Rode and Holger Badstuber, but this was a unit losing their first match of the season. However you want to dress it up, you can never underestimate any success over a side as starry as Bayern.
But should there also be room for caution?
Wenger, Arsenal – AFP
It is worth adding the caveat that while the imperious Neuer was inexplicably blundering to allow Arsenal to find an opening goal, Petr Cech was producing the level of performance that again made you wonder why he was ever rested for the 3-2 defeat to Olympiacos last month. The London side continue to play follow the leaders in this section. While David Ospina was found wanting against the Greek side, Cech illustrated why he is such a precious figure for Arsenal. Without the Czech goalkeeper, Arsenal would be more or less out of contention with Olympiacos enjoying a 1-0 away win over Dinamo Zagreb to remain three points clear of the Gunners.
As it is, Arsenal are third in the group before visiting Bayern’s Allianz Arena on November 4. They may be without Aaron Ramsey for that trip due to a hamstring strain, but that is for another day. These sorts of results remain slightly infuriating when you think of the 3-1 defeat to Monaco last season and defeats to Dinamo and Olympiacos that barely seem credible when you imagine Arsenal in prime form.
Will Pep Guardiola be overly concerned?
Not really. One swallow does not a summer make, and one defeat will not lead to Bayern Munich’s demise. On another night, Guardiola’s side would have slain Arsenal. They caressed the ball around the Emirates in immaculate fashion, and remain among the heavy favourites to lift the trophy. It was an odd sight to see Bayern Munich wind up with no goals. Robert Lewandowskiand his chums are not used to such barren nights, but it is hardly embarrassing to lose a first match of the season heading towards the end of October. There was no need to criticise. Football gives up such nights now and again.
“Never in my life have I criticised a player for taking decisions if correct or not correct. We did not lose because of Manuel Neuer. This is football and he took a decision in that situation – that is it. I’m so proud of my team. I like to win so I’m not happy but we played with a lot of courage to come here and take the ball off of the Arsenal players.”