That we are now out of the Champions League is no surprise. The manner in which we exited, was however surprising. I would hold my hand up and admit that I did not have any expectation that we would we able to win at Munich, let alone managing to level the score. On that note, everyone single Arsenal on the field last night and the small masses of travelling Gooners, should whole-heartedly give each other a standing ovation.
It was no mean feat to be able to beat Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena and to stop them from scoring. No team have done that this season and we deserved a lot of praise for achieving that. Unless we can replay the match with the aggregate score at 0-0, we would never know whether the performance was produced because the pressure was off. Or that we took advantage of the 10 days break and work on our weaknesses.
The clean sheet came at the expense of two member of our defence who were dropped. Lukasz Fabianski and Laurent Koscielny came in for Wojciech Szczesny and Thomas Vermaelen respectively. We did not restrict Bayern to zero chance but it was a controlled performance (bar that Robben run late on) when defending. Arsene Wenger was non-committal about leaving out Vermaelen when asked after the match but it will be harsh if any of this back five do not feature against Swansea.
We got the early goal that Olivier Giroud wanted and he scored it. The goal came from some incisive quick passing where the quickness of our transition play caught Bayern off guard. That was in the 3rd minute of the match and it would take another 83 minutes before we got the second. Leaving it far too late for us to find that magical 3rd goal to take us through to the next round. In part, it was odd for the referee to only add 3 minutes of injury time despite the time spent to restart the match after the 2nd goal.
However, that was only a minor reason why we depart from the competition this season. The major reason being that of our performance in the first 90 minutes of the tie. I don’t want to blame the away goals rule. It has been there so quite a number of seasons and both teams enter the competition knowing full well what it meant. Had we been able to produce this level of performance in the first leg, our name would surely be in the pot for the draw tomorrow.
In a way, the result showed what we should be doing. The players will be reminded that producing the odd good performances will count for naught at the end of the season. We have to maintain our high level of performance in every match, for us to have any chance of achieving success. There are 10 more matches for the team to show that they understand this concept.
While the player would have been deflated to go out this way, they should take plenty of heart from the result. Confidence would have been boosted by just reflecting on this match on its own. Even Gervinho produced a decent cameo when he came on. This could be the big result that Wenger was searching for. A result that could/should be the catalyst for us to kick on and return to the competition next season.
At this juncture, it is a mixture of regret and proud. Best to focus on the latter and use it to salvage our season. Onwards and upwards.